COLUMBIA -- The University of South Carolina Board of Trustees issued Phase II approval for a renovation to Williams-Brice Stadium, school officials announced Monday.
With Phase II Board of Trustees approval, the South Carolina Athletics Department will continue the state approval process with a target for completion before the 2020 football season.
Phase I approval was given on Sept. 19, 2018.
The $22.5 million project would improve the gameday experience of more than 20,000 fans, providing access to climate-controlled areas for over 8,000 patrons. Additionally, it will enhance the gameday recruiting experience for prospective Gamecock student-athletes. Most of the renovated areas became available with the football program's move to the Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center.
"We are really proud of this project. Continuing to make improvements to our football gameday experience has been something we remain passionate about. We have to provide an experience that makes our fans proud and keeps them coming back," Athletic Director Ray Tanner said. "Over the years, we've continued to make operational improvements to the stadium while tackling some huge projects like Gamecock Park and Springs-Brooks Plaza, or the Spurrier Indoor and the Long Center. This project makes so many areas of our stadium better and should really help our fans enjoy their Saturdays in the fall for years to come."
According to a USC press release, the project illustrates a commitment to facility enhancement for Gamecock football, renovating space on the first floor of the Crews Building to host recruits and their families on gamedays. Additionally, Gamecock recruits may note that taking the field on gameday during 2001 will also become significantly improved. Football student-athletes will now take the field via a glass corridor framed by the new "2001 Club," which replicates the experience the Dallas Cowboys have famously developed at AT&T Stadium where fans watch players take the field from mere feet away. Regarding these changes, Coach Will Muschamp said, "After one spring in the Long Center, we can already tell that we've got something very special there. You add that facility to what this project does for recruiting on gameday, and we are lightyears ahead of where we were just three years ago when I started."
While the timing of this process is supported by the move of the football program to the Long Center, the current plan remains very mindful of the opportunity for continued improvement to the stadium beyond 2020. "A large part of why this project looks the way it does is because Coach Tanner pushed the design team to make sure that anything we do in 2020 will be a sustainable investment," explained Chief Operating Officer, Kevin O'Connell. "If we want to add suites to the east side or a new concourse for the upper deck down the road, this project allows us to entertain those projects without the risk of coming back in and ripping out the work we've just done."
Unlike the premium seats currently in Williams-Brice whose ticket price includes access to a gourmet catered meal, this project looks to improve the experience for current ticket purchasers at price points aimed at retaining the current season ticket base in these areas. "The loge boxes and the 2001 Club area, those will be really nice new areas. With our demand for premium seating, we are excited about those opportunities," remarked Senior Associate Athletics Director for Development Steve Eigenbrot. "However, the rest of the areas we are addressing have season ticket holders that we want to see stay in their same sections to enjoy the upgrades. We are going to offer some pricing accommodations to current ticket holders to facilitate that and ultimately, we hope to provide our fans with tremendous improvements that makes their gameday a lot more enjoyable."
With a target completion prior to the 2020 season, the athletics department anticipates the football season ticket renewal deadline will be moved to earlier in the spring of 2020. This move will facilitate a plan to work with any impacted donors that want to move their seats, developing an early seat selection window and other accommodations for impacted groups. Additionally, the department plans to roll out further details for the project including pricing and giving requirements prior to the start of seat selection for the 2019 season, which begins on May 20, 2019.
"In order to compete these days, you've got to keep investing in your football stadium," added Tanner. The environment in our state doesn't currently allow us to dump hundreds of millions into this project, so we've worked hard on maximizing what we can do within those restrictions to keep getting better. This project improves our ADA compliance, relieves stress in some really crowded concourse areas and it gets thousands of people into air-conditioned club space that'll enhance their time in our stadium. If you can do all that, and help our football program, it's a great project."
• "2001 Club": Nestled beneath approximately 33 new 4-person loge boxes and an observation deck, this luxury two-level air-conditioned club space will accommodate not only loge patrons, but also roughly 300 more passes that will provide the purchaser access to spectacular views of the Gamecocks entering the field to Space Odyssey 2001. These loge boxes will be sold in sets of four and will provide wonderful views of the field and videoboard from the southwest corner.
• West Side, 100 Level: Improvements to the 100 level call for the development of an over 9,000 square foot air-conditioned club area positioned behind sections 101-105. This ideally located space on the west side will provide all ticket holders on the 100 level a comfortable place to catch up on the scores of the day and offers spectacular west-facing views of Gamecock Park and the new Long Family Football Operations Center. With these changes, the 100 level concourse will become restricted to only those patrons with tickets on this level, similar to the current 200 level executive club seats.
• East Side, 400 Level: The renovation of this level will bring on line a massive 21,000+ square foot enclosed space stretching from ramp to ramp located on the existing club level, one flight below the east upper concourse. East club level patrons will have exclusive access to new concession and restroom amenities via two new portals connecting them directly from their seats to this enclosed club space. This newly enclosed concourse will service the approximately 3,000 patrons on the 400 level, greatly relieving congestion on the existing east upper concourse. Furthermore, this part of the project will also bring online new seats for all east club ticket holders, loge box seating along the top and bottom of the club area and improved ADA seating opportunities on the 400 level.
• South Lower: Gamecock fans seated in Sections 11-13, located in the south end of the stadium's lower bowl, will have exclusive access to a totally renovated concourse, as well as indoor club spaces within the footprint of the first and second floor of the Crews Building. Access to this renovated concourse, which will feature new restroom spaces and concession stands, will be restricted to only those patrons in these three sections. These patrons will be able to move freely between the concourse, air-conditioned areas within the Crews Building and the south seating bowl. Additionally, new men's and women's restrooms, and a concessions stand will be added to the southeast corner of the stadium to service those fans sitting in Sections 14-16.