Tarleton State University moves "ever forward, ever onward" on Saturday, Sept. 23, with a special pregame event to kick off its $26.4 million renovation and expansion of Memorial Stadium.
When voice professor H.A. Schmidt penned the lyrics to the school's fight song - "On Ye Tarleton" - in 1920, he had no idea they'd be sung at such a momentous celebration.
They will. By Texan fans who come to Stephenville for Family Weekend.
Part of Tarleton's centennial celebration as founding member of The Texas A&M University System, the event begins at 6:40 p.m.inside the stadium just before the Purple and White takes on West Texas A&M at 7.
President F. Dominic Dottavio, A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, special guests and Tarleton officials will unveil a giant rendering of the completed project, followed by brief fireworks.
"The renovation and expansion of Memorial Stadium is a nod to Tarleton's rich past and a powerful statement about its future," Sharp said. "It is not simply a better place to play football or run track. This is a testament to the university's ongoing commitment to provide the best possible student experiences inside and outside the classroom."
When work is completed, the stadium will boast an improved press box, suites, entrances and ticket booths as well as premium seats with chair backs and enhanced concession facilities. Overall stadium seating increases to more than 9,000, and west side stands will be converted for home fans. State-of-the-art CoolPlay turf was installed this summer and track-and-field surfaces will get updates as part of the renovation.
"This project reflects the continuing increase in the quality and number of programs, facilities and students at Tarleton in recent years," Dottavio said of next weekend's event. "This is another milestone in our centennial celebration as a member of the A&M System and a reminder of the important role Memorial Stadium has played in the history of the university and the life of the Stephenville community."
The Texas A&M System Board of Regents authorized $24 million in September 2015 for the project, and longtime Texas entrepreneur Mike A. Myers-a Tarleton Distinguished Alumnus-gave $2.4 million this past spring. Other Texan fans are following his lead, with additional donations earmarked for special features to enhance the fan experience.
As a result of Myers' gift, Memorial Stadium's west side will be named for Tarleton Athletic Director Lonn Reisman, credited with creating one of the strongest sports programs in the NCAA. Since moving from NAIA ranks to NCAA Division II in 1994, Tarleton consistently has placed in the top 25 polls and qualified for national playoffs in every sport.
"The renovation and expansion of Memorial Stadium comes at a time of unprecedented growth for our university," Reisman said. "It will be a great benefit to our football and track-and-field programs as well as to the Stephenville community and all of Erath County. People have been looking forward to this for the 30 years that I've been here. Now it is a reality. I couldn't be happier."
Built in the 1940s as a tribute to the 179 Tarleton faculty, staff and students who died in World War II, Memorial Stadium opened in 1951. A major reconstruction took place in 1977, when current features were added. Seating was expanded in 1989, the concession stand remodeled, the field house built and track-and-field facilities renovated.
The project should be completed for the first kickoff in 2018. Construction is not expected to significantly impact games this season for the Texans or the Stephenville High School Yellow Jackets.