Rendering courtesy of the City of San Antonio.
Alamodome renovations. Rendering courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

With its 25th anniversary only three years away, the Alamodome is now set for a 21st century major makeover after City Council approved a $43.5 million improvements package Thursday to complement the expanded Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and the redevelopment of Hemisfair Park.

The improvements to the near-Eastside domed stadium will include a more inviting and shaded North Plaza, dramatically widened mezzanine concourses on the east and west sides, high-definition and wireless technology, and a new level of field flexibility for multiple sports and convention events.

The $43.5 million cost of the project came in significantly lower than the $50 million figure projected last year by city officials. That breaks down to $41 million in improvements contracted to Turner Construction Company, $1.2 million in outside project management by Project Control of Texas, and $1.3 million in additional costs by the City’s Transportation & Capital Improvements Department.

Marmon Mok, which did original design work on the ‘Dome, is working with Kansas City-based Populous on the design work, the same firm that designed new site specifications for the NCAA for both the Final Four and the College Football Playoff.

The new Alamodome basketball configuration, up to NCAA standards. Rendering courtesy of the City of San Antonio.
The new Alamodome basketball configuration, up to NCAA standards. Rendering courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

The work must be completed before San Antonio hosts the 2018 Final Four and what are expected to be a host of events tied to the city’s 300th birthday that year. Mike Sawaya, executive director of the City’s Convention & Sports Facilities, said Thursday the work would be completed by November 2016 in time for the Notre Dame-Army regular season football game that will be played here.

“Crews can work all week long and at night in between weekend events, so the work will be done on an expedited basis,” Sawaya said.

A video animation commissioned by the City that shows future improvements to the Alamodome, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and Hemisfair Park helped convince the Final Four Selection Committee to award the 2018 Final Four to San Antonio. Sawaya said site selection committee members with College Football Playoff ruled out San Antonio as a future site for the Jan. 9, 2017 championship game, which will be played in Tampa, because they feared the work would not be completed in time.

“We feel good now, we feel confident that we are going to be very competitive in seeking the College Football Playoff championship for 2018, 2019, or 2020,” Sawaya said Thursday. “Design work can now begin next week.”

The work goes well beyond a cosmetic facelift. The Alamodome’s improved Concourse, the new North Plaza and an expanded loading dock will account for $24 million of the total expense. The current Concourse is 20 feet wide, while contemporary sports facilities are built with 55 foot wide concourses to accommodate greater placemaking. Crews will construct new 20-foot wide exterior flooring on the east and west sides of the ‘Dome and then remove the original wall and enclose the expanded, 40-foot wide Concourses with new exteriors that are mostly glass.

Among the other aspects of the work:

  • Creation of a 24,000 square foot multiple-purpose room on the North Plaza.
  • Renovation of locker rooms, concession areas and bathrooms.
  • Purchase of additional court lights, and IT upgrades to include scoreboards, ribbon boards and an associated digital control room.
  • Expanding the south end loading dock for satellite trucks and media work areas.

The city hosted the Men’s Final Four three times (1998, 2004, 2008) and the Women’s Final Four twice (2002, 2010), as well as multiple regionals and quarterfinals. The Alamodome seats 65,000 people and can be expanded to hold 72,000 for special events.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report, is now a freelance journalist.