Grambling State University Director of Athletics Paul Bryant announced the first major renovations and upgrades to the Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium in decades, including a total football field turf overhaul and a high-tech digital scoreboard.
The project, with an estimated cost of $1.5 million to $2 million, is scheduled to start as early as next week. The aggressive construction timeline calls for a mid-August completion, just before the first game against Tulane University in New Orleans on Sept. 2 and the first home game at Robinson Memorial Stadium on Sept. 9.
“I haven’t been here long, but I’ve heard loud and clear from our alumni, students and all kinds of GSU fans and stakeholders that this is long overdue,” said Bryant, who arrived in January. “There’s no time like the present, and it’s time to make this happen.”
In addition to the stadium upgrades, Bryant said the school is adding a fourth home game, something fans have discussed for years. Rather than play the Red River Classic in Shreveport this fall, the Texas Southern University football matchup will be played at home on Oct. 28. TSU has a big fan base, with a 2016 regular home attendance of 5,371 and away attendance averaging 8,665. Bryant said that game will now be the GSU homecoming game. The GSU-TSU game will be Homecoming 2018
The 19,600-seat stadium opened in 1983, replacing the old Grambling Stadium, which was located not far from the university’s baseball field. The stadium replaced a huge peach orchard, and contractors dug a lot of dirt to make the sloping landscape accommodate the football field that head football coach Eddie Robinson wanted. Often called “The Hole” because the entrances sit high above the field with seats in between, Grambling State fans have enjoyed G-Man football home games at the stadium for decades. In recent years, fans have clamored for upgrades.
“In 1983 when the stadium opened it was the only one of it’s kind,” said GSU President Rick Gallot. “Now, in 2017, it’s the only one of its kind – and our championship football team deserves a championship stadium.”
Gallot said Bryant and his athletics team brought the stadium upgrade ideas to him and he told the AD he would have to find a way to pay for the project. Bryant discussed options with Marc Newman, the school’s institutional advancement vice president, and David Aubrey, chairman of the Grambling University Foundation, and they hatched the idea to seek foundation support to finance the project. The board approved the concept just a few days ago.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the strong endorsement of Aubrey and the foundation board,” added Bryant. “We have a partnership and a vision that all Grambling State University sports are important, and this is a piece of pursuing championship-level athletics programs.”
Bryant noted that the school’s soccer and softball fields are being renovated.
“President Gallot has the type of athletics vision that brought me here, and he’s allowing me to lead Grambling State to match the huge brand the school has internationally,” said Bryant. “Thanks to the board and the president, we are going to make these things happen.”
Head football coach Broderick Fobbs said he is excited about the stadium upgrades, and he’s especially happy for his coaches and players. “This is huge for this team. This team has been through some tough times and they have stayed focused and brought home a national championship last year,” he said. “This says a lot about how this administration views football and all of athletics, and we can’t wait to play on a state-of-the-art football field with a state-of-the-art scoreboard. Our guys are going to love it.”
Bryant said the company handling the turf overhaul and installation is Hellas Construction Inc., a nationally recognized leader in sports turf. Hellas has designed and installed turf for professional, college and high school sports groups, including the Dallas Cowboys, the Jacksonville Jaguars and several Texas high school teams. A new digital scoreboard will be installed by NEVCO of Greenville, Illinois, sign installment will be done by Shreveport Neon Signs and the new sound system will be handled by Gulf Coast Sound.
Aubrey said the foundation decided to support the upgrades with a significant investment because they believe in the leadership of Gallot and Bryant, and they see opportunities to seek additional support with field and scoreboard sponsorships as well as increased attendance. “This is a lot of money, but sometimes it takes spending money to bring the type of money you need to make a program successful,” said Aubrey. “Gallot says he’s supporting the athletics program with a holistic approach, and we believe that’s what it’s going to take to make the athletic program, and the school, successful.”
Newman said businesses and corporate sponsors can expect to hear about some tremendous sponsorship opportunities associated with the project in the coming weeks. “We’re looking for partners who want to invest in something great, and we’re doing great things at Grambling State University,” he said. “This whole thing has been moving quickly, and that’s really exciting. I like the speed with which we’ve been moving to make things happen. We want to be sure existing and new partners have a chance to join us as the construction gets underway.”