The University of North Texas announced last Thursday that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board had approved their request to build a new football stadium in Denton. Groundbreaking is to occur later this month, with construction scheduled to be completed in time for the 2011 season. The new stadium will be located on the other side of Interstate 35E from Fouts Field and will seat about 30,000.
This is a great step forward for the struggling Mean Green football program. 57-year-old Fouts Field was old and lacking in amenities and its sightlines weren't great. Denton ISD's new stadium on the north side of Loop 288 put it to shame, and it's hard to recruit high school students that are used to better facilities than the ones your school is offering.
The University of Houston is in the same boat. As much as I love Robertson Stadium, the fact is that it is even older than Fouts Field - it was built in 1940 - and is simply substandard in terms of amenities such as locker rooms, press boxes, restrooms, concession areas, luxury suites and the like. It really needs to be upgraded, or even replaced. To that end, the University has just put out a Request for Qualifications (see .pdf here) for a feasibility study to renovate or even replace Robertson Stadium. Several options are going to be considered, including the possible construction of a new stadium on the intermural fields at the corner of Cullen and I-45 (a prospect that is appealing to me) or on the other side of Brays Bayou from campus in MacGregor Park. Any new stadium would have to have a capacity of 40,000 fans, up from Robertson's current capacity of about 32,000.
The RFQ comes as no surprise, as new Athletics Director Mack Rhoades has experience building new stadia from his time at Akron and was brought to Houston precisely for this reason. What is a bit of a surprise is the speed at which the University of Houston wants the study completed; the RFQ closes on November 23rd and the study could begin as soon as early January 2010. Clearly, the University of Houston administration wants to move forward with these facilities upgrades as soon as possible.