AUBURN | The Auburn University Board of Trustees recently approved a $14 million project aimed at building the largest scoreboard in college football.
The athletic department hopes that's just the first step toward a series of improvements and expansions at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Administrators already have received preliminary plans from international architecture firm HOK, which was asked to design a massive overhaul in the north end zone. Though Auburn has allocated significant resources during the past decade toward improvements to the south end of Jordan-Hare -- the locker room and recruiting areas were revamped just recently -- there is no additional area in that area to expand.
The north end, however, is much more spacious.
The university currently is considering the addition of a north-end deck, which would create a new concourse and new club-level seating. HOK's plans provide Auburn a few options in terms of cost-versus-amenities scenarios.
The basic plan is to create three separate levels -- bench seating close to the field, lower club level and upper club level -- along with the possibility of a rooftop terrace area atop the structure. The university also will have the option of removing some bench seats at field level to create a "field club" area similar to what Mississippi State built last year.
Mississippi State's field club area is configued much like a baseball dugout.
The plans also call for a completely re-built home locker room to cover a large portion of the bottom floor and an adjacent recruiting area in the northwest corner. The club level, above the locker room, could include a spacious meeting area that could serve as a banquet facility of sorts.
The project won't be cheap. Low-end estimates begin around $70 million with that number rising north of $120 million if the field-club seating becomes a reality and the aluminum bench seating is upgraded to chair-back seating. The re-worked end zone would hold approximately 9,500 patrons in all, which means it wouldn't yield a meaningful rise in stadium capacity.
Jordan-Hare Stadium's current listed capacity is 87,451.
Also worth noting is that the press center provisionally would be moved to the third level of the new structure, which means the old press center -- which spans from 20-yard line to 20-yard line along the west side -- could be re-purposed for additional club seating.
The university has commissioned a feasibility study to determine if ample demand for additional club seating exists. The project likely would be funded by a bond issue and debt payments may not make financial sense if club-seating demand isn't considered robust.
The project could begin as early as December with a planned completion date prior to the 2017 season.