Coastal Carolina University has selected an architecture firm for its football stadium expansion project, the decision-makers have decided what they want an enhanced Brooks Stadium to entail and look like, but there still remains one significant unknown before plans can move to the next stage.
Until the architects come back with an estimated cost that the university can take to Columbia for further approval, the school won’t know for sure exactly what will or won’t be possible.
But CCU President David DeCenzo hopes to have those answers shortly after the new year from the recently selected Stubbs Muldrow Herin Architects, who will consult with Heery International, and he says he is eager to begin construction as soon as possible.
Dollars are going to drive it. We pretty much know what a maximum amount is, and what we’re going to do is look at what we have to do – clearly, that’s number of seats – and, obviously, we want it aesthetically pleasing.
CCU President David DeCenzo
“Dollars are going to drive it,” DeCenzo said. “We pretty much know what a maximum amount is, and what we’re going to do is look at what we have to do – clearly, that’s number of seats – and, obviously, we want it aesthetically pleasing. Then depending on what that costs, [we’ll know] how much potential extra money there might be and what we could add and what those costs will ultimately reveal to us.”
The impetus for the expansion of Brooks Stadium, which currently seats 9,214, is a result of Coastal Carolina’s announcement in September that it will join the Sun Belt Conference effective July 1, making the jump from the NCAA’s second-tiered Football Championship Subdivision to the top-tiered Football Bowl Subdivision.
FBS-level football programs are required to maintain an average attendance of 15,000, and DeCenzo has said the Chanticleers will expand the stadium to more than 20,000 seats.
The desired plans are to complete a seating bowl on the end of the field by Adkins Field House, filling in the presently open corners; add a second tier of seating to the S.C. 544 side of the stadium, ideally with a building containing hospitality suites; add additional second-tier seating on the other side; potentially construct a boardwalk connecting the open end of the stadium by the scoreboard; and add brick plazas, new gates, concession areas and the necessary extra restrooms.
That last part will be one of the substantial costs of the project as the university must adhere to the latest building codes that, according to DeCenzo, require a toilet for every 100 seats.
“So [when] you’re adding 10,000 seats you’ve got a good bit of plumbing that has to go in. That all has to be factored in,” he said. “... So that’s going to be a very costly addition, which we knew would be part of it.
“So when you take all those factors into play, what are we going to be reasonably able to do? Obviously the goal is to get us to that 20,000-plus seats. I’d love to have a matching facility on the west end similar to what we have on the east side with the suites. But that’s all yet to be seen. We don’t know yet until the costs are in. In the major wish list, I would love to replicate the building structure. ... Once we know what that will cost us with the addition of bathrooms, the concessions, that kind of stuff, what then do we have in terms of some extra funds that could be spent, if any?”
Stubbs Muldrow Herin, the architecture firm, is based out of Mount Pleasant. According to its website, its previous sports projects have included the Family Circle Tennis Center and the Charleston Battery’s MUSC Health Stadium, both in Daniel Island.
Meanwhile, Heery International, which will consult on the project, is a 500-person architectural, engineering, interior design, program management and construction management firm that has completed 29 college football projects in the last 15 years and more than 270 sports projects in the last 53 years, according to information provided by Coastal Carolina. The firm has recently completed projects for, or is currently working with six Sun Belt Conference schools.
DeCenzo said the programming committee was set to begin meeting with the architects on Thursday and that a proposed design should be available for review by the CCU Board of Trustees potentially after the first of the year or no later than the regularly scheduled February board meeting.
They’ll come back with, ‘Here are the designs.’ We’ve asked them to give us everything, but price it so, ‘If we took this away, now what will the costs be?’ So we’ll see where the costs come in.
CCU President David DeCenzo
“They’ll come back with, ‘Here are the designs.’ We’ve asked them to give us everything, but price it so, ‘If we took this away, now what will the costs be?’ So we’ll see where the costs come in,” DeCenzo said. “[We] then go back to Columbia for phase two approval. Just picking a number, let’s say the architects say, ‘OK, this can be done for $20 million.’ We will then go back to Columbia to get approval to spend that amount of money. We will then put it out to bid and you get your true cost. Someone may say, ‘I can build it for $19 million.’ Somebody else might say, ‘It’s going to cost $24 million.’ But usually the architects are pretty good with current costs.”
The school originally estimated the renovations will cost between $19 million and $25 million, but DeCenzo didn’t want to put a number on that work until architects have developed their plans. During an October Board of Trustees meeting officials said they’d prefer to wait until estimates from architects come back before pinning the stadium to any specific budget.
And speaking last week, DeCenzo reiterated that those numbers are simply “absolute guesses” until the school hears back from the architects.
“We’re continuing to look for donors, but again, with our bonding capability and the excess bonding capability, we have the money to do it,” DeCenzo said. “That’s why I and several others would love to see a building with suites on the west side. That’s really where you’re going to have your best opportunity with donors, selling suites.”
This coming spring is the earliest that any physical work could begin on the stadium.
While the rest of Coastal Carolina’s athletic programs will begin competing as full-fledged Sun Belt members in 2016-17, the football program must go through a mandatory two-year transition period required of schools moving from the FCS to the FBS. The Chants won’t be eligible for the FCS playoffs next season while playing a similar schedule as in past years, in 2017 they’ll start playing a Sun Belt schedule but won’t be eligible for any bowl games and in 2018 they will be fully eligible for the postseason.
“As soon as we can start, clearly we’re going to begin,” DeCenzo said. “Can they work through [next] season on stuff that is not going to adversely affect the playing field? That will be stuff behind on the west side. The actual putting in of seats should simply be bolting things down, so if you can get the infrastructure all done by the summer and next season then the idea is as soon as [next] season is over you can start bringing in the bolts.
“So whatever we can do to minimize disruption, we’re going to do, but we’ve got to start adding the seats as quickly as possible. ... The sooner we get the seats up, the better we’re going to be.”