Texas officials break ground on South End Zone expansion project

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

When Tom Herman became Texas’ head coach in 2016, it seemed as though little had changed from the last time Herman was on the Forty Acres two decades ago.

Herman worked as a graduate assistant under then-head coach Mack Brown in 1999 and 2000, but was greeted by almost the same facility he worked in when he walked back into the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center just 2 1/2 years ago.

“When I walked in … the same wallpaper was on the walls,” Herman said. “The same carpet was on the floors, lot of the same pictures still hanging on the walls. When (athletic director) Chris (Del Conte) came in, he said we need the best, and it’s not right now.”

But in two years, the largest stadium in the Big 12 Conference will have a neat addition. On Saturday, Herman and several Texas officials and donors gathered in the Moncrief Center to break ground on the stadium’s South End Zone project, adding in additional seating, luxury suites and a new jumbotron. Construction is set to start next week.

For many Texas officials, Saturday was almost a decade in the making. It wasn’t until athletic director Chris Del Conte arrived at Texas in 2017 that concrete plans were laid out.

 

“It’s been contemplated for a number of years since the stadium master plan was done over 10 years ago,” director of capital planning and construction Jim Shackleford said. “But it came to reality last year when we hired an architect in the summer of last year and began design work.”

The project comes with a price tag of $175 million, out of which $125 million has already been raised in a span of seven months. A lot of that can be credited to Texas’ recent of success, including a win in the Sugar Bowl — the team’s first New Year’s Six bowl win in 10 years. 

With construction set to take two years, the Longhorns will go through two football seasons while the project is underway, but it won’t be Texas’ first rodeo. The school went through the same process in 2008 when the northern end zone expansion project was completed.

“Work will continue,” Shackleford said. “We won’t be building anything on game day(s), but during the week leading up to and after a game, we’ll be
doing work.”

Apart from fan experience and upgraded facilities, Herman, Del Conte and his staff also had to think about one more thing — the players on the field. A changing college football landscape has put facilities front and center in the recruiting process.

With schools like Texas A&M, USC and Alabama all upgrading their athletic facilities, Texas felt it needed to do the same to compete for some of the nation’s top high school players.

“16 and 17-year old football players like shiny new things,” Herman said. “They’ve been training their whole lives to get to a point where they play at a place like Texas. When you come here you do want the very best, (and) it is a big recruiting tool for us.”

And at a time where Texas’ football program looks to be turning the corner, this expansion means a lot more than just glitz and glamour.

“It’s just exciting for our football players, for our coaches and really for the University of Texas,” Del Conte said. “It just means volumes to the Longhorn nation that (fans and donors) said, ‘Yes, we support you.’”