When Texas A&M announced its move to the SEC in 2011, university President R. Bowen Loftin called it a "100-year decision." A move by the A&M Board of Regents Wednesday may mean Kyle Field is around about as long.
In a quick vote after a much longer presentation, the board authorized Populous to begin work on a massive two-phase renovation of the A&M football stadium at an estimated cost of $450 million.
When completed in time for the 2015 stadium, A&M officials said, the new Kyle Field will be able to seat in excess of 102,000 people. That will make Kyle not only the largest stadium in the state of Texas, but the largest in the Southeastern Conference.
According to A&M, the first noticeable signs of construction will begin in August, when G. Rollie White Coliseum and the Read Building are demolished. The first phase of work on the stadium itself will begin after the completion of the 2013 season, when the first deck of the east side of Kyle will be demolished and rebuilt and construction of the new south end zone will begin.
The second phase, which will begin after the 2014 season, will include the demolition and rebuilding of the entire west side of Kyle Field, as well as the completion of south end zone facilities.
As part of the process, A&M said, Kyle Field itself will be lowered and the seats will be brought closer to the field -- but plans have been made to allow Corps March-in to continue.
Funding will come from donations and seat licenses through the 12th Man Foundation, student fees/ ticket revenue and a preferred facilities access agreement between the Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau and Texas A&M. During a brief press conference after the renovation was approved, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said bonds will also be taken out to help finance the project.
"It'll pay for itself," he said.
Sharp said the renovated Kyle Field will be "the most magnificent football venue anywhere on this planet."
"Kyle Field is a megaphone to the world, like it or not," he said. "This megaphone will the loudest on the planet."
Sharp rebutted the idea that the money could be better spent elsewhere, saying an investment in a high-profile athletic endeavor will help the entire university.
"If you don't think it's easier to recruit professors after seeing Johnny Manziel and seeing A&M's reputation around the world go up, you don't know much about public relations," he said.
Loftin said the newly renovated Kyle Field will allow A&M to put its best foot forward in front of an increasingly large audience.
"This will allow us to highlight the history, traditions, quality and core values of Texas A&M. And now, we have a worldwide audience," he said.
When asked whether he had concerns about filling the renovated stadium, Loftin said he believed it could be done.
"We have a couple of things working on our favor ... We have a very different mix than other universities do. We have 31,000 students attending games, and that's very unusual," he said. "The Twelfth Man Foundation will have to look at pricing models ... and make those things rational for normal fans who want to be here."
When asked if the seating capacity was intentionally set to surpass Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Sharp scoffed.
"We don't worry about others," he replied. "We do our own thing."