Football has always been a huge part of my life, but not being a native Texan, understanding the way Texas folks talk about and view football is a whole new ball game.
Nowhere (that I’ve found) are football and their accompanying traditions more prevalent than at Texas A&M University, with traditions dating back as far as 1904.
Over the past two years, A&M has worked with Populous, a group of expert architects and designers to create a brand new Kyle Field with the goal of updating the stadium (i.e. WiFi signals) while maintaining each and every piece of tradition in its purest form. Needless to say, this was not an easy task for anyone, but the newly designed stadium is one to be seen, no matter which team you root for.
The first thing I learned about A&M football (other than don’t miss out on tailgating!) is to get to the game early. It’s not like a lot of college games where fans start to trickle in right at kickoff – they get there early. And they stand the entire time. Texas A&M puts on just as much of a whole-hearted performance before kickoff as they do during the entire sixty-minutes of play on the field. It’s a production and one not to be missed.
Kyle Field is now the largest stadium in the SEC with a seating capacity of 102,733 (it formerly held 92,000) and the fourth largest stadium in the country. Needless to say, maneuvering around the massive sports mecca for a new fan can be difficult.
The complete transformation of Kyle Field was one that cost $485 million and took 18 months to complete, noting that throughout all the major changes the team didn’t miss a single game – one of Coach Sumlin’s requests.
One of my favorite upgrades to the stadium is the amount of women’s restrooms was increased by 300%. If you’ve ever had to wait in a long line at a game and miss out on the action, you know how impressive this aspect of the new design is.
Design purposes from the folks at Populous were not only to make the stadium more symmetrical, but to make it louder – another request of Sumlin. Throughout the entire process, Sumlin played an integral role asking that fans be closer (the field was dropped seven feet to bring the student section closer) and louder to the action, which is why canopies were added to both the east and west side. The canopies provided much needed shade, but they also helped keep the chants and yells into the stadium – another big tradition at the school.
The new fiber-based WiFi network is one of the best in the sport’s world – professional football teams have already visited the field to test the functionality and capabilities. “At the end of the day, enhancing the game day experience is what it’s all about,” Jason Cook, Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs at Texas A&M said. While they encourage fans to post photos and videos of their experiences at Kyle Field, it’ll never compare. “You cannot get the Aggie experience through your television – you can’t feel the Aggie yells or get the experience of the 12th Man,” Cook says.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the newly redesigned stadium is their decision making process. When the project first arouse (the stadium was severely outdated), the question was really rebuild vs. renovate? A&M officials said what drove the decision to renovate rather than starting from scratch were the rabid and passionate fans. Before the project even began, the design team interviewed more than 300 people – current and former A&M students – asking what they wanted in their stadium. This speaks volumes for the A&M and 12th Man brand the school has created for more than a century. Giving voices to the ones who will be filling those seats (and luxury suites) for years is what made this one of the biggest stadium overhaul projects in history.
Pro tip: depending on where you parked or how you arrived to Kyle Field, a pedi-cab is a great option to take you closer to an area that had cabs (since none could be found right at the stadium). The Texas heat can be brutal, especially after a long game, so hail a pedi-cab to take you back to Northgate where it’s easier to get transportation.
The New Kyle Field by the Numbers:
SUITES: 12 Founders Suites, 24 Legacy Suites, 38 Prime Suites, 20 East Side Suites, 1 President’s Suite, 1 Chancellor’s Suite, 1 Board of Regents Suite
RESTROOMS: Kyle Field has 12 family restrooms and 48 men’s and women’s restrooms located throughout the concourse
STUDENT SEATING: 31,000 total reserved spots for students
BUILDING HEIGHT: 182’ at highest point
VIDEO BOARD: Three high-definition video boards in stadium as well as three video boards in Hall of Champions create an immersive, advanced experience, with a total viewing area of 12, 300 SF
TOTAL GROSS SQUARE FOOTAGE: 1,325,150 SF
Jayme Lamm is a sports, travel, and fitness writer based in Houston whose work has appeared in ESPN, CBS, Sports on Earth, Women’s Health and many others. She spends most of her time covering sporting events for The Blonde Side.