In October 2015, the West Texas A&M University Student Senate passed a bill calling for a student body vote on the construction and funding of a new football stadium on the WTAMU campus.
The current stadium design calls for 12,000 permanent seats. This number was determined by a combination of figures: average attendance over the last 10 years, student body enrollment, students living on-campus, students living off-campus and total alumni living within 30 miles as well as the overall population of the Amarillo Metropolitan Statistical Area. A 12,000 seat stadium will help ensure that the University achieves an average of 90 percent seating capacity for 90 percent of the games on campus. This design also allows for future seating expansion if needed.
After reviewing the proposed site as well as stadiums around the country, it was decided that the best design for WT's stadium is a horseshoe seating configuration with the open end on the south. Concessions and restrooms will be scattered throughout the stadium, and a large high-definition scoreboard will be positioned in the south end zone. The WT football team (along with Thunder) will enter through a tunnel on the northwest side, directly from the team's existing locker room in the Bain Athletic Center. The locker room for the visiting team will be located underneath the north stands. The main press box, located on the west side, will offer ample space for multiple broadcast teams, as well as a limited number of suites. The east side entrance will house a spirit shop on game days and will include additional space for future needs. The proposed stadium design also will allow for future expansion from 16,000 to 22,000 seats if needed.
The proposal is to take the current soccer/track field, north of Jarrett Hall and east of the Bain Athletic Center and renovate around the current field already in place. Soccer/track would be relocated to the area just north of the current football practice fields.
The new stadium will be the home of Buff football each fall. Other proposed uses include outdoor commencement ceremonies each May (one commencement instead of three), outdoor concerts, Buff Branding activities and midnight pep rallies. The University also would like to host local high school regular-season and playoff games, UIL marching band competitions and other major events that would have a positive impact on campus and the Canyon community.
Current plans include television-quality lighting, high-definition scoreboard and superior sound, which are critical to the fan experience. Ribbon-board LED screens will surround part of the stadium at field level. The press box will house production and provide two television booths (one for student broadcasts), four radio booths (one for student broadcasts) and a production room to coordinate video, audio and graphics. Technology will be utilized to create an exciting game day environment for the student body as well as to create real-world learning opportunities for students in the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities. Finally, permanent fireworks stations will be incorporated into various areas of the stadium, including the scoreboard, so pyrotechnic displays can be used to mark such celebratory moments as touchdowns, commencement and homecoming events.
An on-campus football stadium will provide 23 percent more parking than what is available at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium. The state parking code dictates that approximately 2,000 available parking spaces will be needed for an on-campus football stadium. Weekend parking surveys indicate more than 3,000 vacant, paved parking spaces are available on campus during game days. By comparison, Kimbrough has only 1,800 paved parking spaces.
Parking on game days will be handled the same as it is at other universities with on-campus football stadiums. Students who live off-campus as well as faculty, staff and season-ticket holders will be assigned specific parking lots on game day. Other parking lots will be designated as open parking lots for visitors. The University shuttle service will operate on games days to assist fans parking at the First United Bank Center.
Future Parking Plans
Future plans call for a new parking lot to be built north of the new Agriculture Science complex. This lot could provide 400 available spaces on game days. Additional parking north of Russell Long Boulevard will become available as the Physical Plant, Meat Lab and Nursing eventually move to new locations on campus. Plus, the Randall County Justice Center has a 400-vehicle lot that could be accessed for overflow parking on game days.
Current parking vacancies can more than adequately accommodate stadium traffic on game days. In fact, current parking on-campus is much better than that found at Kimbrough. Future plans for new lots will create additional parking for weekday commuters, students and game-day traffic.
An on-campus stadium means the entire campus will be open for tailgating and activities before each game. The most popular areas will be the Grand Lawn at Buffalo Sports Park, which sits just east of the proposed stadium, as well as the tree-lined pedestrian walkway that stretches from Buff Hall to Cornette Library. Colleges and departments may choose to host events adjacent to their buildings for their alumni. For example, the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities can hold an alumni party outside the Fine Arts Complex, while the School of Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics can do the same thing on the other side of campus.
To enhance tailgating on the Grand Lawn, Student Senate representatives have requested a large video screen be placed on the outside of the stadium facing the Grand Lawn. This will allow television broadcasts of ESPN Game Day, big national games of the week, etc. for Buff fans tailgating in advance of the WT game. This unique idea has been incorporated into the conceptual design and will be part of the new stadium. The Grand Lawn also will be ideal for live bands to play during tailgate parties.
An on-campus football stadium truly transforms campus life on the day of games with multiple social activities available for students, alumni and fans as the excitement builds toward kick-off.
Formal planning and design has already commenced. The new soccer and track facility will be constructed first in the area north of the football practice fields. Once this facility is completed (estimated spring 2017), the track and soccer teams will relocate so construction can begin on the football stadium in spring 2017. Construction will take approximately 12 months. The football team will play the first game in the new stadium in the fall of 2018. Soccer and track will not be displaced during their competitive seasons. Soccer will play fall 2016 in their current facility and move to the new field for fall 2017.
No official traditions will be impacted. A new stadium creates an opportunity to start new traditions, while acknowledging the past. If you look closely at the rendering of south entrance to the stadium, you will see a placeholder for a buffalo statue. The buffalo will be located at the south entrance, which will be the main student entrance into the stadium. A new tradition could be that every student entering the stadium must touch the buffalo statue to bring good luck to the team.
Other new traditions that have been mentioned involve the marching band and the football team. The marching band and Herdsmen could start a processional through campus to celebrate the arrival of Thunder to the stadium.
All full-time students will continue to be admitted free to all athletics events, and that will continue for as long as students pay an intercollegiate athletic fee. Ticket prices for other events, such as concerts, will be determined by specific event organizers.