TUSCALOOSA — If R.C. Slocum could see Bryant-Denny Stadium now, there’s no telling what he would say.
He was truly speechless in 1994 when he visited the home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Texas A&M’s head football coach was too polite to insult a longtime friend.
“When I first got out of coaching, he called me and wanted to bring a couple of donors and an architect to look at our facilities,” said Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore, then an associate athletic director.
“He told me, ‘Mal, we’re going to Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Florida State and Alabama.’ I said, ‘We’ll be glad to show you around.’ ”
In addition to other facilities, Slocum saw the stadium, which at the time had one upper deck and seated 70,123.
Borrowing ideas from elsewhere, Texas A&M went on a building spree. It was one of the schools Moore and others from Alabama visited roughly seven years later when they set out to examine model facilities.
“I told him we were getting ready to do a $100 million enhancement to our facilities,” Moore said. “And this is what he said. ‘Man, I’m glad to hear that, Mal. . . . I’ll never forget when we came through there . . . how disappointed we all were.’
“That said more to me than anything. Like a slap in the face.”
Now, above and beyond that $100 million enhancement, a third Bryant-Denny expansion in the past dozen years is nearly complete.
The last big crane was scheduled to come down Saturday. By the end of July, 17 months of work will end on the $65 million South End Zone project.
As dust literally begins to settle on Paul W. Bryant Drive, there’s a new site and a new sight to behold on Alabama’s campus. What once was a modest home became a mansion, and now it’s a castle that could become the envy of the college football world.
“Everything in college athletics is an arms race,” said Thad Turnipseed, who has overseen the construction as Alabama’s director of athletic facilities. “We’ll put ours up against anybody’s.”
With a previous seating capacity of 92,138, Bryant-Denny Stadium was the nation’s eighth-largest college football stadium. The expansion brings the seating capacity to more than 101,000.