Jon Mark Beilue:

May 30, 2019

'A Memorable Experience'

Buffalo Stadium set to take football fans into a new era

By JON MARK BEILUE

Between 150 and 180 are in hardhats almost daily on the northern edge of the West Texas A&M University campus, getting ever closer to finishing an ambitious, but what WT athletics director Michael McBroom believes is an attainable goal this fall.

“I want our fans to feel like they’ve been part of a memorable, exciting experience unlike anything they’ve ever experienced at a WT football game,” he said. “I want them to feel like they’re part of the action, part of the team, part of the community.”

In just more than three months, WT will play its first football game on campus in more than 60 years. On the edge of Russell Long Boulevard, the centerpiece of the University’s athletic complex is quietly taking shape for the football opener on Sept. 7 against Azusa Pacific.

It’s the $40 million, 8,500-seat Buffalo Stadium.

“It’s going to be a jewel,” said Dr. Walter Wendler, WT president.

In March 2016, WT students approved increasing student fees to pay for $32 million of the $40 million project. Private funding financed the rest.

Since 1959, the Buffs have called Kimbrough Memorial Stadium home. There’s a uniqueness to Kimbrough, a 20,000-seat stadium dug almost into a mini-mesa. But the stadium, which WT sold to the Canyon ISD in 2017, had few amenities and remodels over the decades.

And it had another thing working against it. The stadium was two miles north of Canyon. At least three WT presidents longed to correct that, to have a modern upscale gathering place on campus for thousands in the fall.

“From my standpoint, I can look down and seeing dorms, academic buildings and other facilities along Russell Long Boulevard,” said Wendler earlier this month while in the stadium, “and in the heart of this, five to seven times a year, we can bring in 8,000 to 10,000 people on a Saturday to see what we hope is excellent football in an excellent new stadium and see a university that works together to serve the people of the Texas Panhandle.”

Buffalo Stadium

8,500 capacity for an intimate feel

Buffalo Stadium will have club seating, suites, a 37-feet high video board, 240 yards of ribbon video board, a Legends Plaza, two locker rooms for 85 players each, grass berms beyond the end zones, concessions and restrooms in the stadium’s four corners and scaled-downed seating strategically placed at 8,500 permanents seats.

“The capacity is a sweet spot for the fans,” McBroom said. “We have it at this size to create an environment to win football games, but it’s also like going to a restaurant. No one wants to go when it’s half-empty.”

Certainly, it doesn’t have the capacity of Kimbrough, but attendance in recent years has often been about 25 percent of that. Early renderings had the seating of Buffalo Stadium at about 12,500.

But University planners studied a number of factors. They looked at lower Division I, as well as Division II and III stadiums and schools in a similar population base. They looked at previous attendance, total enrollment and population within a 30-mile radius.

“We plugged in a lot of different numbers, and came up with a number between 8,000 and 9,000,” McBroom said. “We have the capacity with berm seating to go above that number, and should we have the need to expand in the future, the stadium is built to do that.”

The goal is to create a capacity crowd, an intimidating feel, an intimacy where the crowd is a factor in games.

“We definitely want our fans to feel like they’re part of the game,” he said. “We want fans to hear the hits, and to scream so loud that when our guy intercepts a pass, it pushes him on and makes him run faster.

“You’ll be a part of that. It’s very deliberate in what we’ve done with the seating. If you’re in the stadium, you’re a part of the team. You’re almost on top of the field.”

There’s approximately 5,000 general admission seats on the double-deck east side. The west side is a mixture of 128 seats in the seven suites, 396 club seats, 1,100 reserved chair seats, and the balance of around 2,000 seats is general admission. There also are 200 loge seats around the stadium.

“Our architects have told us that these suites will be closer to the action than any in college football,” McBroom said.

Buffalo Stadium

Perks for donors

Within the three-story press/suite boxes, there’s a coaches area with more room than the Buffs have coaches, and a video production room that will be manned by about a dozen students and two staffers for replays, in-game presentations, scoreboard, music and the like.

“That’s the room I’m most excited about,” McBroom said. “That’s the brains of the whole operation. The things that can be done are fascinating to me. They will really do some cutting edge stuff.”

Directly behind the suites is a 4,000-square foot area that could be used year around. It will fit as many as 150 for a seated meal. For games, Aramark Catering will provide food and beverage for suite and club ticket holders.

“For premium seat holders, they haven’t known the club experience at our games where they can walk into a place that’s very nice, food and beverages are there for you, and you can come and go as you wish,” McBroom said.

“It’s not incredibly fancy because that’s not how we’re wired, but it will be a nicer experience for our boosters who helped to get us where we are.”

While the focus is on the modern, there’s a long-absent tribute to the past with the Legends Plaza that will be on the north end along a concourse between the grass berm of the end zone and the locker rooms.

There will be monuments and other engraved markers to recognize past championship teams, All-American players and past Hall of Champions inductees.

“We have not done as good a job in football as we have in other venues in recognizing the past,” McBroom said. “It was a conscious decision on our part to do that.

“We want a former player to take his grandson to a game and say, ‘There I am,’ or fans to look at games of a conference championship season and say they were at that one. It’s important to them and it’s important to us.”

Much of the local attention of new stadiums has been in downtown Amarillo and the construction of Hodgetown, the baseball venue of the AA minor league Amarillo Sod Poodles that opened in April.

But by July, McBroom said the venue will look like a football stadium, and by August, with the countdown to the start of the fall semester and football season, anticipation will build.

“Because of Michael McBroom’s efforts,” Wendler said, “we’ll have the best athletic facilities in the Lone Star Conference.”

For more information about Buffalo Stadium, view Buffalo Stadium: This and That.

 Do you know of a student, faculty member, project, an alumnus or any other story idea for “WT: The Heart and Soul of the Texas Panhandle?” If so, email Jon Mark Beilue at jbeilue@wtamu.edu.

—WTAMU—


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