BRIGHTENING UP THE PLACE
Large-scale renovations begin for A&M's football facility
by Homer Jacobs
12th Man Magazine
Just outside the Bright Football Complex, massive cranes shoot to the sky and steelwork engulfs the redeveloping Kyle Field. It’s construction chaos on an unprecedented level in collegiate athletics.
But the renovations aren’t restricted to the stadium itself, as the Bright Complex is undergoing a large-scale re-do of its own.
Despite being opened in 2003, the Bright Complex is showing its age. But more important, the football building is being gutted so it can appeal to college football’s youth.
“If you look at this facility, the space is great for the most part,” said Justin Moore, A&M’s associate athletic director for football. “But the branding and feel of the facility make it look like a lawyer’s office. It looks like it’s geared toward a coaching staff. When in reality it should be geared toward players. It should be geared toward a 16- to 20-year-old male.”
- Justin Moore, Assoc. AD/Football
As part of the 12th Man Foundation’s “Next Step” capital campaign, $16.8 million in renovations are planned for the facility, which will be refurbished in two phases during the football off-seasons of 2014 and 2015. Demolition of the old locker room and training areas began in early March, and the goal is to have the first floor completely renovated in time for the start of fall camp.
Included in the renovations will be the build-out of a brand new locker room, the addition of training pools, eye-catching graphics and branding opportunities, as well as a makeover of the Hagner Auditorium. New lighting, carpeting and décor for the meeting rooms will give Bright a head-turning modern look that is so vital in today’s world of football recruiting and student-athlete well-being.
“We looked at all of what people consider the top football facilities in the country,” Moore said. “We looked at Oregon, Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma State. We wanted to pick and choose what we felt like were the best elements and what fit our program. We didn’t want to make it so modern and so contemporary that it wasn’t comfortable. The players have to live in it.
“I think we did a really good job of making it really cool and youthful. I think people will really be impressed with the look, but at the same time our current players will really like it and get a lot out of it.”
The Bright Complex has already undergone one major renovation when the Lohman Center opened last summer, adding a grand entrance and lobby to the front of the building. But its decade-old carpeting and dark hallways emitted a stale, stodgy feel. It was long on practicality and short on pizzazz.
Thanks to lead gifts from Monty and Becky Davis and Frosty and Rhonda Gilliam, as well as a $500,000 donation from head coach Kevin Sumlin, the Next Step campaign should kick A&M’s football facilities to the top of the sport.
“The Next Step campaign and specifically the renovations to the Bright Complex are important steps in the evolution of Texas A&M athletics and our football program,” said Travis Dabney, the 12th Man Foundation’s Senior Vice President of Major Giving Programs. “Over the years, we have spoken to keeping up with the leaders in athletic facilities. When completed, the Next Step campaign will set the standard that others will chase.”
And even more impressive is the fast track for completion of the renovations, made possible by the always-passionate A&M fan base. The football program originally was raising money for graphic upgrades through its annual kickoff fundraiser in the Zone Club each August.
But when the massive funding for the redevelopment of Kyle Field began to flow in, attention toward a large-scale renovation of the Bright Complex intensified.
“The 12th Man Foundation came to us and said we might be able to help you sooner than we think, so we put together a plan,” Moore added. “It’s gone really fast and that’s what has been both rewarding and challenging. We’ve been working on it non-stop.
“We’re just fortunate to be able to do all these renovations and do them at such a high level. The 12th Man Foundation and former students have been phenomenal with their support.”
- Justin Moore
Kevin Hurley, A&M’s associate athletic director for facilities, says the quick timeline for the two phases of renovations was also enabled with the naming of Vaughn Construction as the firm in charge. After all, Vaughn’s construction trailers and staff sit just yards away from the Bright Complex already, as part of the joint effort with Manhattan Construction on the redevelopment of Kyle Field.
“The fences are already up, so why not?” Hurley said. “Other people who are in my position are saying, ‘Are you kidding me? You’re trying to do all this between two football seasons?’ People just can’t put all that together.”
Indeed, the construction occurring in and around Kyle Field is stunning to the casual observer and alluring to the bright-eyed recruit. By the start of the 2015 season, a redeveloped Kyle Field will seat 102,500 fans in the nation’s premier college football facility. Rounding out the entire football spread will be a state-of-the-art strength and conditioning facility (Davis Center), a new dining facility (R.C. Slocum Nutrition Center) and a renovated Bright Football Complex…all within a tight spiral of each other.
“For the recruits to be able to walk in and see the Kyle Field video is great, but then to walk out and see cranes…this is real,” Moore said. “And recently we’ve been showing them renderings of this building, and we’ve received as good if not the best response from this because it’s where they spend all their time. This is where they live. The stadium is going to be phenomenal and awesome, but our guys only spend maybe 15 days a year in there. They live this everyday, so this is more important for the current team.
“When people come here and see Kyle Field…to add this (renovation) on top of it is extremely impressive. When we get everything completed, there will be no question that we will have the nicest football facilities in the country. When you talk about the stadium, the Bright Complex, the weight room and the nutrition center, I don’t think you can argue against it.”
The second phase of the renovation will begin after the 2014 season, as the third floor of the Bright Complex will be refurbished. Included in the plans are the additions of office space to keep pace with the increased sizes of coaching staffs in today’s college football world.
But before all the renovations are complete, inconvenience for Aggie football is everywhere. While the work continues in the locker room, the team is dressing in the offensive and defensive meeting rooms. And as construction unfolds around the clock on the south end zone expansion of Kyle Field, all occupants of the Bright Football Complex must vacate the facility for several days during the month of April.
The coaches will utilize temporary office space in the north end zone suites for 11 days in April, while student-athletes will turn the Zone Club into a makeshift academic center for much of the rest of the spring semester.
“There are so many positives that it out-weighs the inconvenience,” Moore said. “(The construction) is already unbelievable, but it’s not even close to how it’s going to be when it’s all finished. This is going to be awesome.”
For those interested in making a gift to the Next Step campaign, please call Travis Dabney at 979-260-7579 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.