Presumably, given the economic principles associated with sports stadiums and luxury suites and box seats, it makes all the fiscal sense in the world for Texas Tech University to upgrade Jones AT&T Stadium. And those $185 million in renovations that were originally announced in 2014 are continuing this summer at the fabled stadium.
The latest phase of the project, which includes adding 56 loge boxes and a game-day stadium club section in the North end zone, should be completed in time for the start of the 2016 season.
But the stadium, and the traditionalists who flock there every autumn, are paying a heavy price for progress in a far more sentimental way.
The grassy area emblazoned with a giant red Double-T on a white background that sat for decades inside the north end zone area had to be removed recently in order to accommodate the renovation project.
Imagine, if you will, Fenway Park adding another deck of Monster Seats and obliterating the view of the Citgo Sign. Or the folks in Cleveland putting in luxury boxes where the DogPound used to reside?
The loss of the iconic Double-T is hitting the Red Raider community hard.
“When I was a kid growing up, my parents would drop me off in that grass area,” Texas Tech senior associate athletic director Robert Giovannetti told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal last week, “So I spent every game in that grass area [around the Double-T]. So I would like to have some of that if I could, but I don’t know where it is.”
The Double-T will be replaced when the renovations are complete, only it will be smaller and fashioned from artificial turf, rather than natural grass. It was announced back in February that the “upgrade” would be necessary, because plans for the loge boxes, which will contain four seats and a television monitor, among other amenities, would extend down from the new stadium club to within three feet of the Double-T’s original location.
“I would’ve loved to have seen if we could have kept it somehow, some way,” Giovannetti said. “But they said it was just so old, it just couldn’t be relocated. It had to either stay or come out.”
How significant is the Double-T in Lubbock? And how deeply felt is its removal. The Avalanche-Journal published an editorial in its Saturday edition lamenting the loss of the Double-T in the name of progress. The editorial also points out that the loss of the Double-T is one half of a nostalgia double-whammy. On the stadium’s south side, a $48 million Sports Performance Center for football and track is being constructed, and that has led to the removal of the South end zone’s “Double T” scoreboard, which had been in place, and was considered a fan favorite, since 1978.
The Performance Center, which will be named for Ed Whitacre Jr., the former chairman of the Tech Board of Regents, CEO of General Motors and chairman emeritus of AT&T, is scheduled to open in August, 2017.
“The big thing (now) is filling in the hole left behind for the Athletic Training Center and trying to get the foundation level,” associate AD for facilities and event management Mike Ryan told the Avalance-Journal. “That’s still ongoing the majority of the past three months.”
The basketball teams will also see renovations for the 2016-17 season: United Supermarkets Arena is getting a $2.5 million video and audio system, including a new scoreboard, video board, sound system and boards in the four corners of the arena.
But none of it can fill the holes left in the hearts of the Double-T faithful.
“People may not like all the changes at Tech’s stadium, but in the long run we believe they are in Tech’s best interest,” the AJ’s editorial concluded. “Will the old north end zone Double T and the Double T scoreboard be missed? Sure they will. But the fact that they will remain in some fashion will allow Tech fans and alumni to cling to some precious memories and traditions.
“So, to borrow from the Tech school song: “Strive for honor evermore, long live the Double T.”
Rendering of south end zone courtesy of Texas Tech athletics.
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