Veterans Memorial Stadium is getting “bowled in.”
After nearly six years of rumors and planning, the Troy University Athletics Department announced Thursday morning its official plans to build a new facility and scoreboard just behind the north end zone of the football stadium.
The structure will be over 67,000 square feet in size, and will provide new features for athletes, coaches and fans.
According to Troy Athletics, construction will begin this month following the Trojans’ final home game against Arkansas State, and a completion date has been set for Spring 2018.
According to Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain, the project will have a $24 million price tag. McClain also said that construction is able to start thanks to a monetary start up donation from the Board of Trustees.
“Five million of that ($24 million) was a kick start to the project,” he said. “Many years ago, the Board of Trustees and the institution committed $5 million to this plan.”
The rest of the money to pay for the structure will come from external fundraising through revenue streams of the athletic department, according to McClain.
For the athletes, the four-story structure will include “a new locker room, strength and conditioning center, training facility, nutritional ‘fueling station’, mud room with cool down lunge pool and team lounge,” according to an official Troy Athletics pamphlet.
The pamphlet also detailed plans for 402 new club seats behind the end zone that will have exclusive parking and concession privileges. The structure will be built just 30 feet behind the end zone, a distance intended to enhance the fans’ impact on the game.
The most notable addition, however, will be a 3,150 square-foot video board that will be positioned above the club seats and in full view of everyone in the stadium.
Broadcasting Director and voice of Troy athletics Barry McKnight made the announcement in front of fans and media at a press conference in the stadium tower.
“This reminds me of our early days in the Sun Belt and the success that we had getting here,” McKnight said after the press conference. “I love the work I do, win or lose, but this reminds me of what it’s like to win and to be a part of something big. That for me is the best part.”
Making the announcement alongside McKnight were McClain, second-year football head coach Neal Brown, Board of Trustees member Lamar Higgins and Chancellor Jack Hawkins. Each spoke on the details and anticipation surrounding the new plans.
“For us, this north end zone project is absolutely critical,” Brown said about the stadium and how it will affect the football program. “We want to get that New Year’s Day (bowl game) bid. For that to happen, this has to happen.
“We want to be in the discussion among the top Group of Five programs and this facility is critical to that.”
Brown and the football program are well on their way to a bowl game. The Trojans have a 7-1 overall record, including an undefeated 4-0 resume in Sun Belt Conference play.
According to McClain, this announcement has been a long time coming, but the race is far from over.
“For the past 15 months, we’ve been laser-focused to try and get this done,” he said. “We’ve had a sense of urgency.”
According to McClain, the new addition, while enhancing the environment for fans and athletes, will also help in the push to make Troy a more desirable destination for recruits.
“Over the course of the 10 years since when we moved to the Sun Belt until now, our peer institutions have added facilities,” he said. “For that reason, this is really important… Just from a recruiting standpoint, as we compete for recruits with those institutions, this is going to be huge for us.”
For former 24-season Troy football head coach Larry Blakeney, after whom Troy’s football field is named, the news was especially encouraging after all that the university has done to help grow the program.
“This is something that is really rewarding,” he said. “It’s such an awesome step forward for the program and the university and the city of Troy. Troy University is special to me, and special to a lot of people.
“All credit goes to Dr. Hawkins and the Board of Trustees, Neal, and especially Jeremy McClain. (McClain) is good. I hope we can keep him for a long time. I’m really proud of Troy. My little part in this was the early stages, but these guys are taking it to the next level.”