/Tunnel vision: the Vet’s new look and how it will affect students, athletes

Tunnel vision: the Vet’s new look and how it will affect students, athletes

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Michael Shipma

Sports Editor

As students return to campus for the fall semester, they’ll notice a looming shadow of steel and brick standing tall at the north end of Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“The Vet,” as it is fondly called by Troy alumni and fans, is getting some work done, and students should know how it is going to affect their daily routine.

The $24 million project has completely and permanently blocked off the road that formerly connected George Wallace Drive and the parking lot west of the football stadium. While this has been the case for the past several months since construction began in November 2016, the construction has also shut down the parking lot to the northeast of the stadium.

This lot is adjacent to the football practice fields that double as intramural fields during the school year. Until construction is complete, students can expect to not be able to park there.

For some commuters, this could prove to be especially inconvenient, given the amount of construction on campus that has already cut down the number of available spaces.

According to Athletic Director Jeremy McClain, the depleted parking situation is likely to remain as is until the end of the academic year.

Part of the wait is due to rain that has delayed construction, but McClain commended Whaley Construction on making up for lost time and working around Mother Nature.

“We faced a lot of rain early in the summer that slowed us down and slowed the crews down over the past month or so,” he said. “Our target is May 2018, and I still think we’re on target to hit that.”

As for the game day experience, McClain wants to reassure students and fans who attending games that the project will have a minimal effect on what fans can do and where they can go. Construction areas are blocked off, which will keep the ordinary fan from straying off the beaten path.

For the players, though, things are a little different.

As of now, McClain said that the football program has yet to decide how the teams will run out onto the field come Sept. 9’s home opener against Alabama State. With construction equipment all over the north end of the field, it will be interesting to see how that pregame tradition plays out.

One option is to run out of what will be the tunnel that is located exactly where the team has run onto the field in prior seasons.

It’s a new experience for Troy coaches and players alike, and adds an extra level of excitement before running onto the field.

According to McClain, that was by design.

“Whaley construction has done an excellent job,” he said. “The plan really was to clean up that front area, have it paved, even bricked so that activity on game day wouldn’t be as impacted.”

Also, construction is fairly close to the back of the north end zone. Any facility manager can tell you that objects close to the field can pose a huge risk, especially in football, where players’ momentum can take them well outside the field of play.

There is a fence separating construction from the field, and despite the distance, McClain reassured that no flying bodies would come close to the construction.

“We have a plan there to make sure we’ve got plenty of space” he said. “Before every game, we’ll take safety precautions to make sure equipment is out of the way, and we’ll have a safety fence in place behind the end zone. That fence won’t be any closer than the brick wall at the other end.”

The only flying objects that are expected to come close to the construction is any extra points or field goals booted through the north end zone’s goalposts, but McClain said that the department will most likely set up a net to keep any footballs from ending up back there.

While it isn’t finished yet, fans can look and see the progress that has been made towards an exciting goal for Troy football.