Tarleton State University’s ‘jaw-dropping’ renovation project
In October of 2018, Tarleton State University — located in Stephenville, Texas — began work on a $24.6 million renovation and west-side expansion of the school’s Memorial Stadium.
Approved by the A&M System Board of Regents in 2016, the project also saw a $2.4 million donation from longtime Texas entrepreneur and Tarleton alum Mike A. Myers. This donation was dedicated specifically to the west-side expansion named the Lonn Reisman Athletic Center, in honor of one of the winningest basketball coaches in the state of Texas.“We had needed to upgrade for some time now,” said Tarleton senior associate athletic director Troy Jones. “And with us making the move to Division I, one of the key things we needed to do was upgrade some of our facilities.”
Originally boasting a seating capacity of roughly 7,000 fans, the new renovations and expansions would not only increase the stadium’s seating capacity by around 3,500 seats (to 10,500 total) — it was also focused on improving the fans’ in-stadium experience.
A $1.2 million high-definition video board, measuring 66 feet by 22 feet, was installed in the south end-zone — improving the in-game experience for fans by allowing the school to show in-game updates, highlights, and sponsorship advertising.
“The million-dollar video board really helps the facility,” Jones said. “From a fan aspect with the video board and the new sound system, fan engagement was a big part of it as well. We take care of the fans because they take care of us.”
Among some of the other improvements and renovations within Memorial Stadium: the school moved forward with improving the press box, suites, entrances, and ticket offices, as well as enhancing concession facilities, adding premium seats with chair backs, and upgrading the track and field surfaces.
Jones notes that not only have the improvements been an asset for fan engagement — they’ve also helped the school when it comes to recruiting.
“When you walk a student-athlete into (the stadium) and them getting to know that they’re going to play (their career) there … it’s a great recruiting tool, and that helps us,” Jones said. “We’re fixing to do some renovations on our football locker room and other facilities, too … that’s going to help as well.”
Community & Completion
Upon completion of the project, Jones said revealing the finished product to coaches and student-athletes was “jaw-dropping.”
“To tell you the truth, I’ve given I don’t know how many tours,” Jones said. “It’s really a state-of-the-art facility … ‘it’s jaw-dropping,’ is what we’ve had a lot of people come in and tell us, as an FCS facility. I walk through it every day and I’m still like ‘wow.’”
But Tarleton didn’t just complete the stadium renovations for stadium use; the school also hopes to host future high school playoff games and community events — something they have done in the past. With the improvements and increased seating capacity, they’ll hopefully be able to do it more often.
“Before our stadium would seat right about 7,000, and now we’re right at 10,500,” Jones said. “So, with the bigger schools and the addition of the video board that we’ve added, we’ve had a lot more calls for playoff games.”
Jones also said that non-football related community events will be held more often, as the upgrades allow for different types of events in other areas of the stadium.
“In the stadium, we have a club suite that seats about 150 people,” Jones said. “People have had wedding rehearsal dinners up there, we’ve had town organization meetings and hosted dinners with recruits up there … people in the community are using our facility.”
“This is a great day to be a Texan!” former Tarleton president F. Dominic Dottavio said at the 2019 reopening of the stadium in a press release on the university’s website. “This momentous celebration is a reminder of the important role Memorial Stadium plays in the life of the university and the Stephenville community. It will change the landscape of Texan football and track-and-field programs for decades to come.”
Jones admits that while certain, smaller changes or adjustments were made from the original designs along the way, the university is thrilled with the overall renovations and upgrades.
“Some of the stuff that we did, we put in some change orders to do some different things that we wanted along the way,” Jones said. “We did do some things that weren’t in the original plan … but the way we went and looked at other facilities, and designed it the way we wanted it — we’re tickled pink with the way it turned out.”
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“Today we fall in love with Memorial Stadium all over again,” A&M University System chancellor John Sharp said in the release at the stadium’s reopening. “This is as good as it gets. It’s well done. It’s classy. It fits who Tarleton is as a university and as a founding member of the A&M System.”
And for athletic directors and athletic administrators looking to improve their outstanding athletic facilities, Jones says being original — while also taking inspiration from other schools’ projects — is key.
“Go and look at other facilities and design what best fits your program,” Jones said. “But don’t just design one you see somewhere else … we traveled and looked at different facilities, and took bits and pieces and then created our own, unique thing that best fit (the school).”