Full Circle: How Collegiate End Zone Renovations Have Come of Age
by Sherri Privitera
It doesn’t take a Hall of Fame coach to know the end zone is the literal measurement of success for a college football program. Visit it more often than your opponent on a week-to-week basis and championships tend to follow.
Collegiate athletic departments across the United States have also honed in on the potential of the space that lies just beyond the pylons. End zone expansions are the latest trend in Division I collegiate football stadium design – and our design team doesn’t see the movement ending anytime soon. The proven revenue and performance benefits are simply too powerful to ignore.
On top of creating a more intimidating game day atmosphere, end zone projects realize the potential for unique seating and premium spaces along with integrating new team spaces that benefit more than just football student-athletes. Each university considering an end zone renovation has a wealth of options unique to its culture and footprint.
We’ve been fortunate to work on a number of end zone projects for premiere college football programs in recent years. Here’s an inside look at how the latest took shape and help take their respective programs to the next level:
University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Populous’ most recent end zone renovation, the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, opened to rave reviews last September.
The $160-million renovation closed in the south end zone of the stadium, resulting in a 360-degree experience for the first time in the Palace on the Prairie’s nearly 100-year history. New suites, loge boxes and club seats increased the stadium’s capacity to roughly 84,000 seats, while a canopy offers shade and amplifies crowd noise on the field.
In addition to impacting the fan experience, the renovations carved out and created space behind the seating bowl for the football team and other OU programs to meet, train and recover year-round. Locating all of these spaces, which officially open the fall semester of 2017, within one building maximizes student-athletes’ time and creates a more efficient athletics environment.
Kansas State University’s Bill Snyder Family Stadium
K-State’s north end zone expansion opened in 2015, with the new fully-enclosed seating bowl dialing up the gameday atmosphere and making “The Bill,” as Wildcats fans lovingly call their football home, an even more intimidating venue for opponents.
In the northeast corner sits the new home of the K-State Marching Band, a specially-designed area that dramatically increases the visibility and sound projection of the award-winning group. Across the end zone lies the new Wabash Landing, a leasable terrace catering to large groups and offering them the chance to experience the team running on and off the field. With a new massive video board serving as the backdrop to each corner, they’re truly places to be seen.
The $70-million renovation also attached the new Vanier Football Complex to the stadium. Inside, state-of-the-art facilities include coaches’ offices with incredible views of the field, a centrally-located locker room, a massive strength and conditioning center, sports medicine and hydrotherapy spaces and, most importantly, the new Academic Learning Center that supports K-State student-athletes in all 14 sports.
“All the kids we have gotten in here we have pretty much all gotten commitments from,” K-State Director of Football Recruiting Taylor Braet told The Kansas City Star. “They come in and tweet out all the photos of the new facility, then about a week later you get a commitment.”
The entire project was delivered ahead of schedule, under budget and provides K-State with a facility that is already producing results on and off the field.
University of Colorado’s Champions Center
The University of Colorado Champions Center’s north end zone renovation opened in the fall of 2015, with the $143-million project registering as the largest in the history of Folsom Field. New ledge seating, loge boxes and a dedicated club create an experience unique to the rest of the stadium.
The Champions Center expansion provides fans and student-athletes alike with amenities and resources second to none in the PAC-12. The project added 300,000 square feet of football training and athletic administration, complete with a 27,000-square-foot sports science and sports performance institute. Open to the public and created in partnership with Boulder Community Health, the sports performance center includes MRI equipment, anti-gravity treadmills and on-site doctor offices.
“It was important to us that the facility serve more than just our student athletes or one sports program,” Colorado Athletic Director Rick George recently remarked. “We’re creating a completely interconnected environment, combining athletics, academics and staff offices, to provide a shared home – and a shared sense of pride in our community.”
On any given day, you’ll find elite Division I student-athletes and the general public sharing the space with the same goal in mind: self-improvement.
Looking toward the future, we’re hard at work with clients delivering several other Division I end zone renovations. In 2018, the University of Arkansas will debut a newly-expanded north end zone at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the byproduct of a Populous-led athletics master plan. Another Populous-led master plan with Purdue University will close in the south end zone of Ross-Ade Stadium and in the same process integrate it with the campus for year-round use. And last but not least, Populous and the University of Tennessee recently completed a feasibility study for enhancements to historic Neyland Stadium.
As you can see, end zone renovations can not only close in a seating bowl but open up possibilities for universities to grow well into the future. Each project takes shape around a unique sense of place and purpose on campus, but they have common goals. They impact the gameday experience in every aspect including enhanced atmosphere, unique amenities and a reinvigorated connection to campus.
Considering expanding your facilities? Send us a note about the challenges you’re facing and learn how the Populous approach can help.
Sherri Privitera has more than two decades of experience designing collegiate sports experiences for more than 50 universities across the United States. She currently works on a variety of projects including Purdue University’s Football Performance Complex. Her award-winning work includes leading the design of the $266-million McLane Stadium at Baylor University, which led to her being recognized as a 2015 Sports Business Journal Game Changer.