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Chris Del Conte discusses facility improvements at Texas

A new recruiting lounge at the football stadium and plans for a new indoor football practice facility highlight the upgrades.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Texas Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Following the construction of the Moody Center, a new practice facility for basketball and volleyball, and the completion of the south end zone project at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, among others, the major capital projects undertaken by Texas Longhorns athletics director Chris Del Conte are now complete.

But during Del Conte’s annual Town Hall meeting on Monday, the Texas athletics director discussed a few remaining projects, including a new indoor football practice facility to replace the Bubble, a recruiting lounge at the football stadium, and plans to install artificial surfaces at the football and baseball stadiums.

Texas is in the process of bidding out the new 10,000-square foot recruiting lounge on the south side of the stadium, including backlighting the Longhorn logo on the outside of the south end zone.

In addition to “re-branding” the inside of DKR, Texas will also start the project of adding LED lighting to the stadium similar to schools like Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.

“The idea is that the whole stadium can go dark, we’ll have orange lights, and they can do a lot of things that are interactive within the stadium,” Del Conte said.

Del Conte pointed out that for the LED lighting to truly have an effect on the gameday experience, Texas needs to play more night games, which he expects to happen following the move to the SEC.

On an increasingly crowded campus, the school is also looking for the right location for the indoor practice facility and accompanying fields.

“One of the things we’re in the process [of doing] right now is identifying the proper place for the indoor facility, along with fields, so we have great plans in place for that,” Del Conte said. “We’re just looking to see where it fits on our campus, the right proximity from in terms of football training every single day.”

The Frank Denius Fields are less than a half mile from DKR, but the process of loading the busses to and from the practice facility add 45 minutes of wasted time every day the Longhorns practice there, worsening an already demanding schedule for football players.

So Del Conte and the athletics department have to ensure that the new practice facility is located closer to the football stadium. Del Conte expects to announce that location in the next several months.

Once the Longhorns have the new practice facility built and can limit practice time at the stadium, the school will replace the FieldTurf surface at DKR with natural grass for the first time since 2009, a priority for both Del Conte and Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian.

A lingering project is replacing the main video board at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, delayed because of supply-chain issues caused by the pandemic.

“You can see the new scoreboard we’ll have going forward and it will be greatly expanded,” Del Conte said. “Part of that, as Drew Martin and his team kept coming back and saying, we need to expand this and make sure we get all the information we can on one scoreboard. And then we’ll look at the other scoreboard as auxiliary video.”

Del Conte also plans to install a natural grass surface at the Disch, but wants to keep the current FieldTurf for several more years since it was a significant investment to install in 2016, the year before Del Conte was hired from TCU.

“When you convert from FieldTurf to grass would cost us about three, three and a half, four million dollars to do so because that whole infrastructure has nothing underneath and we have to put all the irrigation, do all the things we need to do in the shadow,” Del Conte said. “Believe it or not at Disch-Falk it’s pretty pronounced on the infield, so we have to figure out how to grow grass and have grow lamps — they’re doing all the sun studies that we need to have done. We’ll have to we’ll have to invest a lot, but the idea of moving to grass on all of our venues, we will get there sooner than later.”

Expanding seating at the Disch is also possibility in coming years. Public roads bordering the outfield on two sides dictate that the only room for added seating is down the third-base line, where Texas installed temporary bleachers for the postseason last year.