If they build it bigger, Aggies — lots of them — will come

Posted Tuesday, May. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Kyle Field by the numbers $450 Cost in millions of the renovation project 82,589 Current capacity at Kyle Field 102,500 Capacity at Kyle Field after renovations are completed in 2015 100,119 Capacity of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium 3rdRank of stadium size after completion, behind Michigan’s 109,901 and Penn State’s 106,572 87,014 Aggies’ average home attendance in 2012 90,079 Largest crowd, vs. No. 8 Nebraska on Nov. 20, 2010

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lebreton The size! The spunk! The sheer Aggie-ness of it all!

The announced $450 million renovation of Texas A&M’s Kyle Field resonated throughout college football last week like another Johnny Manziel dash for a touchdown.

More seats. More Aggies. Broader entry plazas. More luxury suites. An Aggie Museum. Did I say more Aggies?

The new Kyle Field will seat 102,500, making it not only the largest stadium in the Southeastern Conference — no trivial claim — but also the biggest in Texas.

Yep, bigger than Cowboys Stadium even when the Arlington fire marshal isn’t looking.

And bigger, likely not coincidentally, than a certain other state school’s football stadium, which seats a mere 100,119.

How dare those Aggies, the burnt orange loyalists of UT are saying.

Next thing you know, they’ll be playing ball on their own TV network.

Oops.

Contrary to popular belief, however, the renovated Kyle Field will not be The House That Johnny Football Built. He simply will be driving the bulldozer at the groundbreaking.

The expansion of Aggie World has been in the minds, hearts and checkbooks of former students and the 12th Man Foundation for several years, according to A&M athletic director Eric Hyman.

Hyman, who presided over the TCU football renaissance before moving to South Carolina, joined the Texas A&M staff in June of last year.

“I’ve come in, sort of, at the 11th hour,” Hyman said Tuesday. “There was a lot of discussion and due diligence done prior to my coming here.

“And before Johnny Manziel.”

Hyman is quick to credit Sam Torn, a Houston businessman and one-time Aggie Yell Leader, who co-chaired the stadium’s redevelopment committee.

The design plans are striking. Broad plazas honoring Aggies heroes and traditions. Matching canopies to provide a roof over the heads of the most heavily invested Aggies.

Why so many seats, though?

Hyman said that that same question prompted “healthy discussions” among the A&M staff and stadium planners.

“It’s like what Wayne Gretzky used to say — ‘I don’t skate to where the puck is, but to where the puck is going to be,’” Hyman said. “This renovation is not about where Texas A&M is right now, but where A&M is going.

“The people that have been here over a period of time wanted the university to look at its student body, its growth, its future. It was in the best long-term interests of Texas A&M to build a stadium of this size.”

In the SEC, A&M’s new conference home, if you build it, they probably will come.

As Longhorns fans seem to forget, even in its leaner seasons Texas A&M has managed to rank in the nation’s top 20 in annual football attendance. The Aggies were 10th in average home crowds in 2011 and 11th (87,014 per game) in 2012.

But with Manziel and the SEC brand, the Aggies are trending. Just watch the newly announced SEC Network sweep the state’s dish and cable systems (more games, more teams, more interested subscribers). And if the Aggies can’t fill all of the planned additional 19,911 seats, there are RVs waiting in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge and Fayetteville who will.

A curious fact of SEC life, foreign to Texans and their school loyalties, is that there is no facilities arms race in that league. News of A&M’s expansion reportedly produced only shrugs in Knoxville, Tenn., where the Volunteers’ Neyland Stadium (102,455) will soon be replaced as the conference’s largest.

Comparing sizes doesn’t matter. The real currency, the SEC schools know, is money — preferably football money.

If they build it, Aggies — and lots of others— will come.

As history tells us, Kyle Field was named in honor of Edwin Jackson Kyle, a former A&M dean of agriculture and head of the school’s athletic council. He donated a 400-by-400-foot plot of land on the southern edge of campus that had previously been assigned to him for horticultural experiments.

Soon it will be brimming with Aggie lettuce.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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