Stadium News: Renovations, New Builds, Conference Realignment

Keep up-to-date with for all college football stadium and Division-I realignment news. All news is from a football perspective, with each school handling realignment from different angles for different sports.

Stadium renovations

Falcon Stadium (Air Force)

The largest stadium renovation in the history of the Air Force Academy has been in place for a couple years, beginning in early 2020. The $180M project has already replaced two scoreboards, added ribbon scoreboards, and many other small improvements.

The next phase– and the largest by far– will begin soon, according to a few tweets from AFA’s coaching staff. Upgrades to the press box, stands, away sideline, and a new heritage plaza will be added to the 60-year-old venue. This phase will cost $70M and may take up to 18 months to complete, being targeted to finish ahead of the 2024 season.

Check out the entire phased plan here.

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Gerald J. Ford Stadium (SMU)

A $50 million donation from alumnus Garry Weber kickstarted a $100M renovation project to Gerald J. Ford Stadium. SMU announced the expansion plans on Jan. 21, 2022. The south end zone– which is currently an open grassy hill– will be expanded on and closed in. Per the report, the stadium’s 32,000 capacity will be expanded.

The end zone complex will feature a three-tiered setup with luxury boxes on the third tier. Since 2013, SMU has dedicated over $250M to athletic facilities. You can find the report here.

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Williams Stadium (Liberty)

Liberty announced renovation plans to Williams Stadium that they say will be ready in time for the 2022 season. Included are new chairbacks on the west side of the stadium and bench back seating on the east side (currently all bleachers).

They’re also going to upgrade the south end zone to “cabanas… above a newly graded berm.” The cabanas will come with a TV, fan, heater, and fully serviced. You can find the full release here.

Liberty hosts in-state rival Virginia Tech and BYU this coming football season. Athletic Director Ian McCaw said, “the 2022 football season will be the most anticipated in Liberty history.”

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Neyland Stadium (Tennessee)

Neyland Stadium is undergoing a $70M renovation project aimed to add upgraded box seating and a second scoreboard. With that other scoreboard comes a standing room deck. These projects are expected to be finished in time for the 2022 football season, according to Tennessee Athletic Director Danny White.

White is in his first year as UT’s athletic director and the project was inherited by him. You can find 247 Sports’ full report on the renovation project here. Construction began in January.

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JSU Stadium (Jacksonville State)

Plans were approved on July 20 to go forward with an $80M renovation to the Jacksonville State campus, centered around JSU Stadium. The plans include new housing and a food court for student athletes around the stadium (see below).

A new press box, suites, and team offices are also in the plans. The presser quotes Greg Seitz, Jacksonville State director of athletics: “This addition will allow us to build upon one of the best game day experiences in FCS football with a redesigned seating area to include new premium seating.”

Seitz mentioned FCS football since this was before the announcement that JSU would be moving up to Conference USA. You can find the full announcement here.

The planned finish date for this renovation is before the 2023 season kicks off. Notably, the Gamecocks are scheduled to join the FBS ranks on July 1, 2023.

Camp Randall Stadium (Wisconsin)

Construction began on the south end zone at Camp Randall Stadium in early December 2021– the first major renovation to the stadium since 2005. The $77 million renovation will add luxury box options, a premiere club, and a social area overlooking the field.

Roughly 6,000 existing seats will be torn out and replaced with 2,300 premium seating options, bringing the capacity down by about 3,700 seats.

Other renovations included in this project include a new playing surface and updates to the existing press box. For full details on the features, check out Wisconsin’s press release from October 2021.

The plan was announced back in October 2019 and the renovation will be completed in time for the 2022 football season. You can find complete details and keep up with the renovation here.

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Vanderbilt Stadium (Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt announced its largest stadium renovation in 40 years. The renovation to both end zones was originally announced in March, but renderings were revealed on November 12.

With the renovation comes new locker rooms in both end zones, a completely revamped look to the current horseshoe, and new seating options for fans. Among the new seating options are 28 luxury boxes designed to give fans a “closer feel” to the game.

The plan is to break ground on the renovation in the fall of 2022 with the completion date TBD.

The football stadium is just part of the athletics facilities revamp and complete details can be found here.

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Reser Stadium (Oregon State)

“Completing Reser Stadium” is a $153-million renovation of Oregon State’s Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon. The renovation consists of a revamped student welcome center and a brand-new wellness clinic. Per the team’s website, the goal is to turn Reser Stadium into a “year-round” facility for all of the Beavers’ athletic teams.

Construction began following the 2021 football season and will be complete in time for the 2023 football season.

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College Football realignment

New Sun Belt members to join earlier than expected

According to Shane Mettlen (DNRonline), Old Dominion, Southern Miss, and Marshall will join the Sun Belt in 2022 instead of the initial July 1, 2023 date.

MAC will not seek expansion

NOVEMBER 10 — Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said the conference will remain at 12 members and will not seek expansion. It was previously reported that Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky were teams of interest to the MAC. Instead, they will remain in Conference-USA.

C-USA adds four schools

NOVEMBER 3 — Conference USA, who recently lost nine of its current members to future conferences, extended invitations to Liberty, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State, and Sam Houston State. Liberty and New Mexico State are currently independent while Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State are in the FCS.

The member schools accepted the invitation and will join the conference on July 1, 2023.

Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee likely to join MAC

NOVEMBER 1 — According to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, Mid-American Conference (MAC) executives are looking to expanding their 12-team league. He cites both Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee as potential targets.

Action Network’s Brett McMurphy states that the two schools are “likely” to join the MAC. The move is expected to happen in time for the 2023 football season, per McMurphy. However, concerns surround the media rights pie that’s already slim in the MAC.

Should WKU and MTSU depart C-USA, that would leave the conference with three surviving members: UTEP, Louisiana Tech, and FIU.

Sun Belt to add four schools

OCTOBER 26 — Four schools announced they would be joining the Sun Belt Conference in time for the 2023 football season: Southern Miss (currently Conference USA), James Madison (FCS), Marshall (C-USA), and Old Dominion (C-USA).

The additions would bring the Sun Belt up to 14 members. None of the current ten members have been extended invitations to move to other conferences.

James Madison will be the 131st member of the FBS ranks and their stadium, Bridgeforth Stadium, has ranked among the elite FCS facilities for years. Its 24,877 capacity ranks higher than 12 current FBS venues.

This movement would be the earliest of the current major realignment in college football, happening, “no later than July 1, 2023” (Sun Belt Conference).

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American to add six new members

OCTOBER 21 — Six weeks after three current American Athletic Conference (AAC) members announced they would be departing for the Big 12 Conference, the AAC announced the addition of six new members. It’s the largest transition of schools so far among the mass realignment.

Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA announced they would be joining the AAC with their date of membership not yet announced.

The additions would bring the conference up to 14 members. Current members that– as of October 21, 2021– intend to stay with the conference include: SMU, East Carolina, Tulsa, Navy, South Florida, Temple, Memphis, and Tulane. All of the joining members are from Conference-USA.

The earliest that any of these teams could join the AAC is for the 2024 football season. According to ESPN, an earlier buyout date could be negotiated before July 1, 2024, though it is unlikely that it happens more than the end of the 2023-24 academic year (May, ’24). Currently, no buyout options are reported.

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Big 12 counters Oklahoma, Texas departures with major Go5 additions

SEPTEMBER 10 — In response to the bombshell announcement that Texas and Oklahoma would be departing the in favor of the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12 voted to add four new member schools. Those schools include: BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and Central Florida (UCF).

BYU is currently independent, but Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF are currently members of the American Athletic Conference. Of the four members, two of them have been featured in New Year’s Six bowl games (UCF and Cincinnati) in the past four seasons.

Since the inception of the College Football Playoff, three of the schools with the exception of BYU have appeared in at least one New Year’s Six bowl games; with UCF appearing in two.

Barring a costly $10 million buyout, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF won’t join the Big 12 until 2024. BYU is currently independent, but has marquee 2022 football matchups against Oregon, Arkansas, Notre Dame, and Baylor. Therefore, their most likely transition year is 2023.

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Texas, Oklahoma to depart Big 12 for SEC

JULY 30 — Texas and Oklahoma– two of the staple programs of the Big 12 Conference– announced their intended departure for the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Though the first of the announced shakeups to current conference alignment, the schools are reported to be seeking a July 1, 2025 move date. Currently, Texas and Oklahoma have media deals with the Big 12 through June 30, 2025. A buyout to nullify that contract would cost a ludicrous $160 million combined.

Rumors suggest the Longhorn Network could pay the sky-high buyout, though that just remains a rumor (Chip Brown, Texas insider for 247Sports). Should that buyout have validity, the rumored target is for the 2022 football season.

As quickly as the announcement happened, the buyout could come to fruition as quickly.

The remaining eight Big 12 members intend to stay together and recruit from the outside.


Stadiums in development

Snapdragon Stadium (San Diego State)

Before its 2020 demolition, Qualcomm Stadium was home to San Diego State (SDSU) football for 50 seasons (1969-2019). The Aztecs temporarily moved to Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles, 117 miles from their campus.

Luckily, a new stadium is on the way for SDSU: Aztec Stadium, which is projected to open for the start of the 2022 football season. It will have a capacity of 35,000, seventh-most in the Mountain West Conference and reportedly cost $310 million to build.

Snapdragon Stadium is one of two stadiums currently under construction for FBS schools. It will be the Aztecs’ first home stadium not shared by a professional team. The new stadium will be on the former plot of Qualcomm Stadium, five miles west of the SDSU campus.

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New Aloha Stadium (Hawaii)

Details on New Aloha Stadium are scant, but it is projected to open for the 2023 football season. Hawaii is a recurring Week 0 participant, but it is not clear if the stadium would be ready in time for an early season start or not.

New Aloha Stadium will have a seating capacity of 35,000, equivalent to Aztec Stadium and tied for seventh-largest in the Mountain West Conference.

The stadium will be a part of the proposed New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District, which carries a $400 million price tag. Local lawmakers approved the budget in June, 2021.

The current 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium– former location of the NFL’s Pro Bowl– is vacant and scheduled for a late-2022 demolition. The Rainbow Warriors are currently playing at a converted high school complex, Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex.

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American Athletic Conference (AAC) headquarters (Irving, TX)

The AAC completed its headquarters move from Providence, Rhode Island, to Irving, Texas– a suburb in the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex– in July, 2020.

The new HQ is within a mile of both Conference USA and Big 12 Conference Headquarters. All three conference HQs are within a short drive of DFW Airport.