Memorial Stadium is getting a major facelift.
During their Thursday night meeting, Big Spring Independent School District trustees voted to set aside $825,000 in reserve funds to purchase and install artificial turf for the stadium.
But a new playing field is only the first of several upgrades planned for the 60-year-old stadium. In the near future, school district officials plan to replace the stadium's restrooms and concession stands and significantly upgrade its field house and press boxes.
Memorial Stadium was constructed in the early 1950s. It is technically the property of Howard College, but is leased to BSISD.
BSISD Superintendent Steven Saldivar said upgrades at Memorial were not only needed, but critically overdue.
“We can't do it all at once, but we can do it in phases,” Saldivar said. “In Phase One, we'll go ahead and put in artificial turf for next year … In Phase Two, we'll get prices for the restrooms and all the other upgrades we need to do.”
Past studies have shown that the cost of artificial turf vs. maintaining a grass field is basically a wash for the life of the new field. And district officials were quick to point out that an artificial field at Memorial Stadium would save the community a significant amount of water over the next several years.
Another factor to be considered, they said, was how an up-to-date stadium could be a drawing card for the community.
“We could attract a number of playoff games there,” Athletic Director Philip Ritchey said. “We have a stadium capacity of 10,000 and we're right on the intersection of Interstate 20 and Highway 87. We'd be a natural playoff site for teams from the Panhandle to the Metroplex. Over time, that would be quite a benefit to the community.”
“We could get some of the games that now go to Colorado City or Sweetwater, if we had turf and nice facilities,” Saldivar added.
Then, there's the simple pride factor to be considered, he added.
“When we play a team at Memorial, a lot of times, the only thing they see of our town is the stadium, and they leave Big Spring with a bad idea of what we are,” Saldivar said. “For me, (the stadium in its current condition) is not really having pride in what and who we are.”
Assistant Superintendent Danny Ferrell said artificial turf will cost the district around $800,000 to purchase and install. Preliminary estimates for replacing restrooms and concession stands vary between $400,000 and $600,000 and will be firmed up in the near future, he added.
Renovation of the field house and press boxes would be done by district personnel, drastically reducing out-of-pocket costs, Ferrell said. Those renovations include new plumbing, drop ceilings, paint and heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades.
All money for stadium projects would come from reserve funds.
New restrooms and concession stands would address most of the accessibility issues facing Memorial Stadium. To correct other Americans With Disability Acts concerns, Saldivar said officials will soon formulate a master plan for further updating the facility.