When Warren Moore and his family donated $60,000 to a Texas A&M University scholarship fund in 1985, they were promised some of the best seats at Kyle Field.
So for nearly three decades the family has sat in eight seats on the stadium’s west side — second deck, Section 209, Row 25, Seats 1 to 8 — cheering on the Aggies, in good times and in bad.
But now the Moores are among the Aggie fans suing the university because they feel they’re getting gigged in a “reseating” program created by the $450 million renovation of Kyle Field.
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Following the lead of other fans, including two former presidents of the Houston A&M Club who sued this year, Moore filed a lawsuit against the 12th Man Foundation in Tarrant County last week, accusing the university of breach of contract and misrepresentation.
With the reseating program underway, they’ve also asked state District Judge Mark Pittman to set their eight seats aside when they are opened for reassignment March 16. The family would have to pledge to spend $360,000 to keep the seats over the next 15 years, court records show.
Skip Wagner, president of the 12th Man Foundation, a nonprofit fundraising organization that is overseeing reseating, could not be reached for comment.
Jay Jackson, the Houston attorney representing Moore’s family and others against the university and the foundation, declined to comment beyond what was in the court documents.
Seeing red, not maroon
Texas A&M announced in 2013 that it would give the stadium a face-lift, boosting seating capacity from about 82,500 to 102,500, making it the biggest stadium not only in Texas but also in the Southeastern Conference.
Plans include more chair-back seating and additional luxury suites, mezzanine-level seats, boxes and premium seating with club areas. Construction has begun, and the 2015 home schedule is set to be played at Kyle Field.
“Why does Kyle Field need to be renovated?” a website proclaims. “Because Texas A&M deserves the finest collegiate facilities and the goal to build the greatest venue in the history of college football.”
In the $450 million project, 27 percent of the money will come from gifts designated for Kyle Field and 17 percent will be paid for by students and 5 percent by local governmental agencies.
But over half the money is being raised through annual seat licenses, triggering a massive reseating that has families like the Moores seeing not maroon but red.
Moore, who lives in Caldwell, southwest of College Station, filed his lawsuit in Tarrant County because he lived in Roanoke in 1985 when he made his donation in return for the tickets.
Moore said that when he contributed $60,000, the deal was that the Moores’ designated seat assignments “would never change for their lifetimes.” They were also supposed to get eight tickets in an “endowed seating area” for away games, court records show.
The right to park in the “best available parking at home football games” — at no additional charge — was also part of the package, court documents say.
‘Priority point program’
But by 2006, things started to change. The foundation announced a “priority point program” that assigned members one point for each $25 they contributed. The foundation would then allocate benefits for priority seating at basketball and baseball games, among other things.
In recent years, the foundation also used the point program to rank who would get the best parking spots, according to an affidavit from Moore.
But in 2013, after the wildly successful season the team had with quarterback Johnny Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, the university announced the Kyle Field renovation.
The Moores received letters stating that if they “wished to have any chance” to obtain seats that had now become the Prime West Legacy Club, they would have to pay a $15,000-per-seat capital campaign “gift,” good only for the next 15 years, Moore’s affidavit says.
Starting in 2015, they would also be asked to contribute $2,000 a year for each seat over the next 15 years, adding $240,000 to the bill, for a grand total of $360,000 over the next 15 years, Moore said.
And even with those payments, the family would get seats only somewhere in that section because their current ranking would have them picking seats long after everyone else. The seats may not even be together.
The Moores were also not happy that when the Aggies play Arkansas in the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, it’s considered a neutral site and the foundation doesn’t have to provide tickets.
The foundation has repaid 20 to 30 donors who objected to the new program, and two areas on the stadium’s west side have been set aside for them, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“The remainder have chosen to be supportive of the foundation and are going through the process and understand the investment we’re making in Kyle Field and how this will benefit everybody,” Wagner told the Chronicle.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Max B. Baker, 817-390-7714