It was still before dawn Thursday when ROTC students could be heard counting out their exercises in unison on the infield at the Texas Christian University track. On the grass off the parking lot that serves the track, baseball stadium and tennis courts, high school runners did lunges in the near-dark.But the construction workers who for so many weeks trekked down the hill to Amon G. Carter Stadium were no longer so abundant. The dust and noise of summer had cleared, replaced by a transformed football palace.The "TCU Horned Frogs" was lit atop the video board overlooking the north end zone. Grounds crewmen were blowing leaves from the sidewalks, and preparations had started for the unveiling leading to Saturday night's football season opener against Grambling State University.The modernization of 82-year-old Carter Stadium took 21 months and temporarily displaced the Armed Forces Bowl to Dallas. But the renovations have produced an impressively different place.On the west side of the stadium, a welcoming facade in buff brick has replaced the stark concrete pillars of old. The metal arms that for months stretched skyward as if anticipating something huge now cradle an upper deck that can compete with the best of nosebleed sections.The six donors who got the project rolling by each donating $15 million are appropriately honored with a display outside the west stands.The east side has been converted to arched entryways with decorative gates and clear markings in TCU colors. A new pedestrian-friendly plaza, with clean lines and attractive landscaping, looks much more inviting to a Frog Alley crowd than the unadorned sidewalk and street that were there before.A $164 million facelift sure can make you look pretty.There are new posh suites, 25 of them, for big benefactors. Significantly for the average fan, the 45,000 seats come with upgraded restrooms and concessions.It's noteworthy that TCU was able to raise enough money to redo both sides of the stadium, instead of putting off the east grandstands for a few years. You can tell the architectural work was done by HKS, the firm that also designed Cowboys Stadium, American Airlines Center and adjacent Victory Plaza, and the spiffy new College Park Center at the University of Texas at Arlington.Oh, and about the football: 20th-ranked TCU has a new spot in the Big 12 Conference this season, but Saturday's game is nonconference. Grambling, in northern Louisiana, plays in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.Still, the challenge is on. Gary Patterson could become TCU's winningest football coach with a victory Saturday. Grambling coach Doug Williams already is in the record books: He quarterbacked the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl XXII championship in 1988 and was that game's Most Valuable Player.
The Grambling State University band is scheduled to play at 12:30 p.m. Saturday as part of a National Literacy Month kickoff rally at east Fort Worth's Cobb Park, between Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway and Glen Garden Drive.