By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Now that Auburn University's Board of Trustees has approved the stadium renovation project, the work begins for Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs.
"We have to keep pushing," Jacob said. "I really appreciate the president and trustees approving our proposal so we can move forward."
Scheduled to be completed before the 2018 football season, the project will create a new recruiting lounge and football locker room in the southwest corner of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"We're going to have a great area to recruit our prospective student-athletes for all sports," Jacobs said. "I want to be able to tell a story inside that room."
The recruiting area will feature Auburn's three Heisman trophies, two national championship trophies and apparel from Under Armour.
"We want to be able to sign the right kind of person who understands what Auburn is," Jacobs said. "We're all about family. We have a certain culture here, so they'll have a great experience when they walk away from Auburn with their degree in hand and a championship ring on their finger, and they'll say -- like 90% of our graduates say today -- `I'd do it all over again.' That's the kind of environment we want to create."
Fresh off signing a recruiting class that ranks in the top 10 for the fifth straight year, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn applauded the approval.
"I'm excited for our football program as this project will be a tremendous enhancement for our football players and very beneficial in recruiting," Malzahn said. "I appreciate our leadership's commitment to the future of Auburn football and really look forward to these renovations to Jordan-Hare Stadium."
Above the new structure will be two floors of club level seating, featuring video monitors, catering, heating and air conditioning.
"Everything is student-athlete centered," Jacobs said. "What can we do to give them a better experience? One way you do that is by having a full stadium. This is one step in making sure that our fans continue to come to our games by providing them an amenity they don't currently have."
Because the new project is a stand-alone structure, Jacobs says construction will be able to take place throughout the 2017 season.
A new press box will sit atop the club levels in the southwest corner, potentially allowing more premium seating where the current press box resides at midfield.
"We plan to take that back to the Board as soon as we look at our pro forma and know that this will work, and we expect it to," Jacobs said. "Because that is some great seating right there on the 50-yard line and the Auburn fans need to take advantage of those."
Jacobs hopes to present the press box renovation project to the Board of Trustees later this year. Pending approval, construction would begin after the 2017 season.
"The plan would be, at the start of the 2018 season, to have this new facility in the southwest corner with the press box relocated, and a new premium seating area for our fans where our current press box is," Jacobs said.
Auburn initially considered including the recruiting and locker room upgrades as part of a larger north end zone renovation, but Jacobs says the potential return on investment diminished its feasibility.
"When we looked at the north end zone, the pro forma would not support some of these structures that are non revenue-producing, such as a new locker room and recruiting lounge, so we pulled those out and we said, `Let's just build it in the south as a stand-alone building," he said.
"That's how this came about. We want to make sure we do things right. Not necessarily the biggest, we just want it to be the best.
"We know that after going through this study for the last couple years, when we build this facility in the south end, it will be the best there is in the Southeastern Conference."
Jacobs says key donors have already pledged $10 million of the $28 million cost.
"We're going to ask the Auburn Family to support this financially," Jacobs said. "They've always answered the call when we've presented a project that benefits our student-athletes and the culture and reputation of Auburn. This will be no different. We're going to demonstrate to them why they should and what the reward is for that."
Naming opportunities are available for the recruiting lounge, locker room, club levels and press box.
"My focus is on the student-athletes," Jacobs said. "I want them to have the best facilities. We believe that having great facilities adds to a better experience for our student-athletes and it creates higher expectations.
"When we have winning facilities, it creates a mindset that our student-athletes, our coaches and the Auburn Family know that we expect to win."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer