In addition to a number of other capital projects that include a possible new on-campus events center for Texas Longhorns basketball, the University of Texas Athletics Master Plan released on Thursday also provides some details for planned development of the south end zone at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and improvements to the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletics Center and practice fields.
University of Texas Athletics Master Plan
The renovation recommendations come two years after former athletic director Steve Patterson commissioned a feasibility study on south end zone expansion by PriceWaterhouseCoopers as the Longhorns seek to achieve a "superior gameday experience."
Beyond renovating the south end zone, the current plan doesn't mention anything about expanding capacity much beyond the 4,525 bleacher seats under the Godzillatron that are currently earmarked for students. The seating housed the Longhorns band for years and fans complained about the placement until new athletic director Mike Perrin announced a move back to the northeast corner of the stadium next to the actual student section.
Since Texas has been struggling to sell out games in recent years, it doesn't make sense to add a significant number of seats, but adding 1,500 more seats would allow DRK to once again surpass the renovated Kyle Fields in terms of overall capacity. Renovations would also provide more permanent seating, as the bleachers under the Godzillatron weren't exactly planned and engineered with a lot of foresight.
Based on the Master Plan, the main addition will be "premium seating with suites, loge places, and club places," In fact, the south end zone is the only part of the field that doesn't feature such lucrative seating, so the south end zone expansion will either feature those spaces in a way that the rest of the stadium does not or will merely occupy the premium seating band on the other three sides.
Even if the premium seating is the only addition in terms of overall capacity, it's possible that those areas could increase seating by somewhere around that magic number of 1,500.
The plan also seeks to "improve customer experience" and add a more permanent Longhorn Network game-day space. One that would presumably include better placement for sound-deadening purposes so the band playing in the background doesn't dominate broadcasts.
Other stadium improvements include renovated concourses, new signage and direction maps, an upgraded sound system, technology improvements focused on wi-fi, video, and credit card processing, a lower plaza office for Gate 25, a new elevator, renovated Terrace Club pods, and a new sound system and video wall for the Touchdown Club.
And while previous renderings did not seem to include the Godzillatron, the latest illustration does still appear to include the mammoth video board. However, a three-quarter view of the facilities shows what looks like a much more modest video board that sits above the rebuilt south end zone.
University of Texas Master Plan
To have a video board of that size, Texas would need to fully devote it to video, unlike the Godzillatron, which features large and intrusive sponsorships that are a major source of complaint by fans.
The Moncfied-Neuhaus Ahtletics Complex will also receive a major update as other schools surpass the Longhorns in the facilities arms race. The locker room will receive an update and expansion and the coaches and support staff will receive new offices. There will be a new player development suite, as well as new sports medicine, hydotherapy, and exam rooms. The weight room and staff and player lounges will get facelifts, as will storage.
A new media relations room is in the plans, too, in addition to a video editing suite and an expanded equipment room.
In the original Dell Medical School plans, it looked like the football practice facility would move, but now it appears that "The Bubble" and Denius Fields will receive major upgrades instead. The Bubble will give way to a more permanent indoor facility, while the school will add two full outdoor practice fields, camera towers at the upper fields, and renovate the natural grass fields.
All in all, the new-look DKR may not match the shine and glitz of the new Kyle Field, but the planned improvements should accomplish the goal of improving the gameday experience and ensuring that the Longhorns close the widening gap in facilities compared to in-state rivals that have all made large and successful investments in recent years.