Passers-by will see that ground has broken at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, signaling a new addition at Cal Poly’s on-campus stadium.
The project Mustangs football fans have really been pining after for years is still a ways away, but the current makeover could be a sign that planning efforts are focusing.
Currently under construction, the south end zone of Spanos Stadium is being fitted with permanent rows of seating that will replace a set of temporary aluminum bleachers the school had been renting since at least the mid-1990s.
So far, the news has not been trumpeted from the hilltops. Like last offseason’s effort to repaint the aging east side of the stadium green, work quietly began this winter with modest changes in store.
Seating capacity will jump by 345 seats. With it come more handicapped seating and wheelchair accessibility, and soon, work will begin to allow broadcasters to run cables across the field through an underground tunnel.
Somewhere on the horizon, Mustangs athletic director Don Oberhelman would like to modernize the east side of the stadium, which was passed over when renovation of the west side was completed in 2006.
“Our dream is we’ve got to get the east side fixed, and we know that,” Oberhelman said, “and that’s a much bigger project to take on.”
Time is right for the smaller current project, Oberhelman said, “and hopefully, the next summer or the following summer, we’ll be able to renovate the other side. That’s going to have to be privately funded once we get to that level.”
To date, the project in the south end zone has been funded by the university, which is responsible for repair and maintenance of the stadium, Cal Poly Vice President of Facilities Mark Hunter said.
It’s part of a movement over the past few years aimed at providing greater accessibility. Next, Hunter plans to provide wheelchair access to the east side of the stadium, which features most of the student seating for football games.
Construction of the permanent bleachers in the south end zone cost less than $600,000, Hunter said, and in addition to the appeal of a higher-quality finish than the temporary aluminum seating, the project also allows the department to cut rental fees, which averaged around $25,000 a year, according to associate athletic director Phil Webb.
It also shows that Cal Poly is narrowing some of its options for stadium expansion. Locking in a design for the south end zone means that area will likely go forward without any grandiose additions.
“When the economy was better,” Hunter said, “the idea was to build a parking structure down there and tying it into some sort of building on the southern end of the stadium.”
While the stadium is also home to commencement ceremonies, the athletic programs would also like locker rooms and other facilities to accompany the final renovation.
Now the focus shifts squarely to the east side of the stadium, where Oberhelman said the department has been exploring designs and estimates but is not ready to announce anything yet.
“We need a comprehensive and strategic campaign to renovate the east side. The end zone was fine before, and it’s going to be better now than what it was, but our focus has got to be on the east side, and versus 10s of thousands, that’s going to be millions to get that done.
“That’s going to be hopefully part of our overall university campaign. It’s certainly going to be a big part of what we need to do as an athletic department.”