Progress on TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium Continues After Streak of Bad Weather
The multimillion-dollar expansion will be completed in time for the 2020 season
Texas Christian University (TCU) football has had its fair share of greats since its inception in 1896. The Davey O’Brien Award, given to the best collegiate quarterback in the nation, is the namesake of the institution’s first Heisman Trophy winner. At the NFL level, LaDainian Tomlinson is a Pro Football Hall of Famer and considered one of the greatest halfbacks of all time.
To match the legacy of these individuals and the program, as well as to satisfy the voracious appetite of Horned Frog fans, Amon G. Carter Stadium is continuing a $100 million expansion project whose completion has been impeded by rough weather in the area.
“We managed to get the new videoboard installation done in time for our first game [vs. Arkansas – Pine Bluff on Saturday, Aug. 31] since that was the first priority,” says Drew Dennison, director, video production, TCU. “The new suites that are being installed are not done yet, but, other than the televisions that will be in those suites, all other visible videoboard displays are complete and fully operational.”
The Best for Frog Fans: Upgraded Videoboard Improves Visuals
As with anything in Texas, bigger is always better. In 2012, Amon G. Carter Stadium went through a $164 million rebuild to coincide with the university’s first season in the Big 12 conference. Seven years later, TCU’s latest construction is led by completion of the main videoboard at the north end zone. The 108- x 48-ft. LED display covering 5,500 sq. ft. of vertical space was facilitated by Southpaw Sports & Entertainment (formerly the Live Event portion of Panasonic’s Sports and Entertainment Business Unit). With Southpaw on board, the university underwent a transformation that entailed getting the production crew up to speed and transitioning the style of content that would be used on the videoboard.
“We had to do a mixture of in-house creation for Creatives, a tech company that came in and worked with our [ChyronHego ClickEffects] CrossFire representatives,” says Dennison. “We also hired out-of-house, local artists that were able to develop our display for the videoboard. We moved from physical sponsorship on the old board for six permanent sponsors to a digital platform as a lower third.”
The mechanics of the in-venue show is done onsite in a strip studio above the press boxes inside the stadium. On the west side of the field, the operations room is using ClickEffects CrossFire and Blaze systems for sponsorship graphics and has nearly full visibility of all available LED displays (except the west-side boards, which are directly below it) on game day.
The actual game production is facilitated by an offsite team located in the J.M. Moudy North Visual Arts and Communication Building. Inside the control room, camera replays and switching are connected to the stadium via fiber.
Altering the Philosophy: Installation Prompts New Tradition
At the collegiate level, traditions run deep. As the architectural landscape shifts, though, the in-venue production team adapts customs and philosophies to capitalize on the stadium’s new toys.
“Our game-day production has changed because of [this project],” says Dennison. “The biggest operational change would have to be in the pregame. We implemented an earlier approach to the intro video; it’s no longer calling the team out. Our newest installation was three tunnel cameras: when the intro video completes, we lead our fans into a chant, and we’re able to cut into live tunnel shots that show the team coming out and getting ready in the tunnel. That’s kind of a new tradition we’re trying to build here.”
In addition to in-game execution, preparation for prepackaged content has changed as well. In a more open stadium, constant audio problems prevented videoboard material from being sound-based. Now the creatives on staff can leverage their new audio-friendly confines.
“We would avoid making video content that was narrative or voiceover driven,” Dennison recalls. “[After] our initial testing before our first game, the acoustics are miles better. We’ve had no complaints. In the past, we might’ve heard a few things.”
Inside Reimagined Frog Alley: Getting Crowds To Arrive Earlier
As with many professional venues across the country, organizations have poured money into developing surrounding live-entertainment districts. In the collegiate circuit, that out-of-stadium activity before (and sometimes after) the game has been affectionately known throughout history as the “tailgate.” The Grove at Ole Miss is one legendary locale that attracts fans and their festivities before doors open. Frog Alley, the go-to spot for TCU fans prior to all home games, is still going strong during the current season and will expand towards Amon G. Carter’s east side when construction wraps up to provide even more fun. Starting three hours before kickoff, some of these amenities include food, drinks, live music by the TCU Marching Band, and the opportunity to welcome the team into the stadium.
“Since we are elevating the stadium on the east side, Frog Alley also gets a facelift,” says Dennison. “[The expansion] will create a better game-day experience and [can] also potentially draw revenue and retain more people at the stadium during the pregame.”
Construction Continues: Expansion Injects Atmosphere Sound and Comfort
The new seating area may not be populated until the 2020 season, but the concrete foundation is already paying dividends. Along with the many changes to make attending the game a pleasant experience for all fans, Dennison has noticed an unintended detail that adds to the game-day buzz.
In the older version of the stadium, he points out, the west side featured more levels of seating than the east side. “There weren’t any additional press boxes,” he adds. “This is all just an entire new addition to elevate the stadium on the east side. What has been the already noticeable benefit is acoustically keeping in sound.”
Next year, the stadium’s east side will offer attendees up to 1,000 club seats, 48 loge boxes, 22 luxury suites, and two private clubs. In addition, a 100-ft. balcony will allow attendees to look at Frog Alley from above and provide stunning views of the entire campus and downtown Fort Worth.
As for the blazing Texas sun, the stadium’s increased height will come in handy for day games.
“[Fans will] have their suite behind them but will also have outdoor seating,” Dennison explains. “There is an overhang that comes out over some seats. Once everything is completed come next season, it’s going to provide some shade [during] those 11:00-2:00 games.”
Fear the Frog: A Formidable Place To Play in 2020
Traveling on the road is difficult in any sport, but, especially in college football, the rowdiness of fans on each campus plays a unique role as the team’s 12th man. As the venue continues to take shape and attendees become acclimated to their new environment, Dennison and company attribute the home-field advantage to the enclosed nature of the building.
“With the new [larger] videoboard and the addition [of premium seating] on the east side, Amon G. Carter Stadium is going towards a more enclosed and daunting atmosphere,” he says. “All of that elevates the sound and the atmosphere and will make a better experience for when recruits come [to home games].”
The Horned Frogs welcome the University of Texas Longhorns into Amon G. Carter Stadium for their next home game, on Saturday, Oct. 26.