Amid all the talk of the potential demolition of the Frank Erwin Center as part of the long-term transformation of the plots of land abutting the I-35 frontage road to the east, 15th Street to the south, and pushing all the way north to the south end of Mike Meyers Stadium, the overlooked facet in the whole discussion is that Phase 3 of the Dell Medical School also includes expansion of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Currently the sixth-largest stadium in the country with a seating capacity of just over 100,000 after the north end zone project was completed in time for the 2009 season, DKR is still one of the crown jewels of college football, but there has been talk in recent years of further expansion -- and the Regents just approved $62 million in improvements that will benefit the women's volleyball team and include more athletic offices -- though never anything as concrete as the Dell Medical School plan makes the expansion appear.
Phase 3 of plans for the Dell Medical School (UT release)
Newton athlete Kevin Shorter told me on Friday that Texas had informed him of the plans to expand the stadium, an important recruiting pitch at this time because of the scheduled renovations to Kyle Field that will push capacity past 102,000 and, therefore, past the Longhorns.
Kyle Field Redevelopment Project Overview (via AggieAthletics)
While the odds are high that the Aggies will see this as an attempt by the Longhorns to keep up with their improvements, and though the decision by Texas doesn't exist in a complete vacuum, the further expansion of DKR is probably more correctly viewed as the continued execution of a long-term plan that has been in place for some time -- after all, those bleachers in the south end zone have always had a rather unfinished feel to them and after the 2009 expansion, it seemed like only a matter of time until the south end of the stadium received the same treatment.
If Texas really wanted to increase the capacity of DKR just to pass the renovated Kyle Field, they could possibly do it just by re-working the bleachers in the current south end zone to seat 1,500 more fans (50% more than currently occupy that area).
In any case, the north end zone expansion included the addition of roughly 15,000 seats, so an enclosed south end zone would probably add roughly the same amount, to move seating capacity well past the renovated Kyle Field, for whatever that is worth.
There are several other considerations that go into this equation as well.
First of all, while the above rather rough graphic shows little in terms of how the south end zone will eventually look, it does exist in the current footprint of the Moncrief-Neuhaus athletic center that houses the football offices. The school would either have to build a new facility elsewhere or integrate it into the south end zone, the latter of which seems more likely.
Secondly, the rough graphic also does not depict the Godzillatron, the 7,000+ square foot video board that has become one of the defining features of the stadium since it was installed in 2006. With the enclosure of the south end zone, the placement of the board becomes more problematic, as the south end zone currently represents the most viable space for it, a calculation that the south end zone expansion would alter, but not completely change.
It's one of the several technical issues that will work itself out as the Dell Medical School project moves along in its various phases. At the end of it all, it seems that Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will emerge with a finished look and capacity that could reach 115,000, though the timetable for construction is not yet clear.