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Vanderbilt will play the 2023 college football season on a field directly adjacent to a construction site. Its renovation is nowhere near finished.
The Commodores are not the first team to undergo a significant overhaul to its stadium during the season. It’s not that uncommon and this was always the plan.
That doesn’t make the current situation any less jarring visually.
Construction will not be finished on the stadium and its surrounding facilities until 2024. It will be one of the better looking football stadiums in the SEC when it is completed.
The $300 million investment will also see upgrades to the practice facilities for both the football and basketball teams. Changes to the current football set-up will include:
- 100,000-square-foot indoor practice facility.
- Premium seating and loge boxes.
- Video board and stadium acoustics system.
- Dining facility five times greater in size.
- Stadium concourse doubled in size.
Vanderbilt released renderings when the project was first announced back in 2021.
It is going to look great when it is done but there is still a long way to go. More than a year of construction is still in the future, which makes things complicated.
The Commodores have played most of their preseason scrimmages at an off-site field. They returned to FirstBank Stadium for the first time in nine months on Saturday in preparation for the season because only recently did the renovations progress to a point that the field is playable.
Here is how the south end zone looked in the middle of July:
Here is how the north end zone looked in the middle of July:
Although things have come along over the last month or so, it still looks… incomplete. Because it is.
Vanderbilt’s football field is playable.
Here is the most recent look at both end zones from the weekend:
View from up top pic.twitter.com/4oPp8npuwI— Robbie Weinstein (@rwweinstein) August 13, 2023
Here is how it looks from the field:
Vanderbilt released an aerial view on Saturday as well. The field is cleared to play. There are seats.
That’s about it!
The Commodores kicked around the idea of playing at an alternate location. They are committed to playing at their home field.
Head coach Clark Lea joked that the jackhammer blasting away outside of his office is inconvenient, but he has learned to celebrate it as a sign of progress. It is his home that the fanbase will take the same attitude.
Playing at FirstBank Stadium was an important piece of the equation for his players. Lea did not want to cause any disruption to his athletes and sees it as a chance to showcase the future.
It was really important for us if at all feasible, to compete in our venues while we’re under construction. I think number one, for all the projects that we’re doing, I’m trying not to displace our student-athletes. So we’re trying to be really mindful of their day-to-day process.
And as they move between spaces, of course it’s disruptive because we’re choosing to be aggressive with the construction but I really wanted them to play at home if at all possible. And I also like the idea of, during games, being able to literally see the the construction coming to life.— Clark Lea
Avoiding disruption was a major key, and the team will be forced to use a temporary locker room setup— though it could be nicer than the previous outdated facility. More than likely, the football team will share a locker room with another Vanderbilt program. Other than that, it’s just an eyesore.