You are not logged in. Login
Baylor University Stadium Makes a Campus Connection

Aerial view rendering of McLane Stadium which will be located across the Brazos River from the remainder of Baylor University's campus
McLane Stadium will be located on land adjacent to Interstate 35 and across the Brazos River from the remainder of Baylor University's campus. Bridges will connect the stadium to the campus and a nearby tailgating area. Baylor University

McLane Stadium’s horseshoe shape will tie in visually with the rest of the Baylor University campus across the Brazos River, in Waco, Texas. Pedestrian bridges will provide the physical connection.

March 4, 2014—Baylor University’s football team has played at a stadium located several miles away from its Waco, Texas, campus since 1950. Over the years, that stadium has become increasingly difficult to access and exceedingly outdated in comparison to other collegiate football stadiums. Now the university is constructing an on-campus football stadium with a horseshoe-shaped design and adjoining pedestrian bridges that will engage students and visitors alike and elevate the fan experience.

The new stadium will be known as McLane Stadium in honor of Baylor alumnus, regent, and benefactor Drayton McLane, Jr. McLane conceived the idea to construct the stadium and recommended that the university hire Populous, an architecture firm headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, to design the project. McLane had worked with Populous in the 1990s on Minute Maid Park, the home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, when he owned that team. Following a meeting with representatives of Populous, university administrators agreed to hire the firm, which then retained the Los Angeles office of Buro Happold, a global engineering firm headquartered in Bath, United Kingdom, as the structural engineer for the project.

The $260-million stadium will have 42,500 permanent seats and the capacity for 45,000 spectators when standing room is considered. (Baylor is one of few universities that continues to allow students to stand along the sidelines.) The seats will be arranged throughout the seating bowl’s three decks, and a press box and suites will rise over the bowl’s west side. The stadium will also have concessions and other amenities. An alumni center will extend from the southeast side of the seating bowl—although that portion of the project will be constructed after the stadium is completed and funding for the center is secured. “We went through a process with university administrators to understand their vision for the stadium,” says Sherri Privitera, RA, LEED-AP, a principal of Populous. “Their desire was to ensure that the stadium was designed specifically for Baylor University’s campus and culture and to create an environment that their students and fans could enjoy for decades to come.” 

Freestanding brick walls, measuring approximately 65 ft tall, 50 ft long, and 3 ft wide, will be positioned at different angles around the stadium

Freestanding brick walls, measuring approximately 65 ft tall, 50 ft
long, and 3 ft wide, will be positioned at different angles around
the stadium. An alumni center will eventually extend from the
stadium’s southeastern side. Baylor University

The stadium is being constructed on a 93-acre site directly adjacent to Interstate 35 and the Brazos River. There, it will become the university’s new “front door,” visible to the 43 million vehicles that travel the interstate each year. The stadium’s orientation on the site and its horseshoe geometry were determined by the desire to tie the stadium to the rest of the campus, located on the other side of the river. “We wanted the stadium to have an open end in order to have a view back to campus,” Privitera explains. “That visual connection across the river was important.” To further link it to the campus, the stadium will have a red brick facade and white colonnade-like perimeter columns, architectural features found on many other campus buildings.

Like most of Texas, the stadium’s site features expansive clay. While the clay could have posed a significant challenge, bedrock located 40 to 50 ft below the foundation made the design less arduous. The stadium will be founded on approximately 1,000 augered cast-in-place concrete piles, each measuring 24 in. in diameter and bearing on bedrock; each will have the ability to carry to carry roughly 500 kips. “The bedrock actually allowed us enough capacity [so that] the strength of the piles was dictated by the concrete instead of just the allowable bearing,” says Andrew Fisher, P.E., S.E., an associate principal of Buro Happold and the engineer of record on the project.

The stadium’s concourses will be framed in concrete using the pan joist system—a one-way tensioned beam-and-slab system formed using ready-made steel pans. Even though the system is labor intensive and typically works best on structures with rectilinear or square layouts, it is commonly used throughout Texas and therefore is less expensive to construct than other systems, Fisher says. To ensure that the system works with the stadium’s radial layout, the team developed a technique that allowed it to switch out the pan forms on the basis of the different beam widths that were needed to match the structure’s concrete masonry unit (CMU) walls. “If a CMU wall moved or shifted, we would just swap out the pan forms to shift the beam over,” Fisher says. “It gave us a lot of flexibility in the layout to accommodate changes and different loadings.”

Freestanding brick walls—the architects refer to them as “serrated”—will surround the exterior of the stadium. Each of these 38 walls will measure approximately 65 ft tall, 50 ft long, and 3 ft wide and will be positioned at a different angle around the building. Gaps between the walls will afford views out of the stadium and allow wind to penetrate the structure, Privitera says. But achieving the walls’ configuration is difficult. “Every one of those walls has a unique condition to it because of the way it intersects with the building and intersects the framing,” says Fisher, whose firm used building information modeling on the project. “Each one required a different structural solution—whether it was cantilevered CMU, or cantilevered steel, or steel columns, or cantilevered concrete columns, or concrete frame, or metal studs.”

Construction of the stadium began in fall 2012 and completion is anticipated in time for the 2014 football season

Construction of the stadium began in fall 2012 and completion is
anticipated in time for the 2014 football season, which begins in
late August. Baylor University

Five rectilinear-shaped portals will puncture the serrated walls to form openings along the stadium’s concourses. The portals will change dimensions as they curve around the structure—each measuring as much as 30 ft tall and 70 ft wide and cantilevering between 12 and 15 ft past the face of the serrated walls. The architecture dictates that front edge of each portal will be 18 in. deep—a depth that requires an unusual engineering solution, Fisher says. “The architects were trying to achieve a certain visual depth for this concrete, so 18 inches was the magic number,” he explains. “The way we actually achieved it is [that] we filled the slab below the portals with Styrofoam. That way we get all of the strength of the concrete section without all of the weight of concrete.”

A 140,000 sq ft canopy will cover much of the seating bowl to shade spectators from the blazing Texas sun. The canopy’s front edge will be polytetrafluoroethylene fabric, while the remainder will be 4 in. thick metal deck. The metal deck will wrap around the canopy to fully enclose its trusses, which will cantilever as much as 90 ft. Each of the trusses will be supported by two columns—one at the stadium’s outer edge and another at the back of the upper seating bowl. The columns at the stadium’s outer edge will be steel pipes and will prevent the canopy from overturning. Measuring 42 in. diameter and 100 ft tall, those columns will span freely from the back of the canopy to the ground, forming a row of colonnade-like columns along stadium’s outer edge.

Concrete-filled steel pipe columns at the back of the upper seating bowl will provide the canopy’s lateral support. Measuring approximately 30 in. diameter and 30 ft tall, those columns will be free of bracing elements, so the canopy will appear to levitate over the seating bowl. But connecting those columns to the back of the upper bowl is challenging because the connections involve many different elements, including the steel pipes and the concrete that fills them, Fisher says. He adds that the connections are made more complex because all of the drainage pipes will be embedded in the columns to give the canopy a streamlined appearance. “You’ve got these large-diameter drain pipes going right down the center of the columns all the way to the ground,” Fisher says. “So, structurally, it’s complicated when you go to make connections the concrete columns below.”

Two pedestrian bridges will be constructed across the Brazos River as part of the project. The primary crossing will be a 775 ft long and 35 ft wide double-curved box girder bridge. That bridge type was selected because the Texas Department of Transportation uses it frequently, and therefore it is less expensive to construct that other types, Fisher says. To give the bridge more pizzazz than a standard box girder bridge, the team added Y-shaped column piers in place of traditional bents. Each of the four in-water Y columns will be founded on two 5 ft diameter drilled shafts, descending approximately 40 ft to bedrock. “The main bridge is the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Pedestrian Bridge, and it is the main form of access [from campus] for pedestrians on game day,” Privitera says. “We anticipate approximately thirty thousand patrons will park on campus or in the city of Waco and walk across the bridge to the stadium.”

A roughly 100 ft long and 12 ft wide prefabricated structure, the second bridge will traverse a river inlet to connect the stadium with a tailgating area to the east.

Construction of the stadium began in fall 2012 and is approximately 60 percent complete. Baylor’s former stadium in Waco closed in December 2013 in anticipation of the new stadium’s completion in time for the start of the 2014 football season at the end of August. At that time, Baylor University will finally have a football stadium that offers contemporary amenities, integrates directly with the university, and is easily accessible to its students, alumni, and Waco residents. “I look at this as an iconic home for the university,” Fisher says. “It will be a place where students can go on a weekly basis and make great memories.”



Add Comment

Text Only 2000 character limit


NCEES advertisement