Division I-A renovations to begin soon

Record crowds in Detroit, sold out signs posted in the Swamp and over 70,000 in attendance in Atlanta.

And Rattler football aims to keep those big crowds coming with a pending $40 million renovation of Bragg Memorial Stadium.

“We are already playing in front of record crowds and winning! It feels good!” said interim athletic director J.R.E Lee III. “Nobody can bring people to a stadium like the Rattlers.”

His hopes now are to bring the record crowds home.

Seating expansion and construction is expected to begin once the 2003 football season ends. The addition of 15,000 seats in the north and south end zones will bring the stadium’s capacity to 40,000. This is 30,000 more seats than the original stadium built in 1957 had.

“The only thing about getting this new stadium is that I hope we can fill it up,” said Candice Morris, 18, a junior pharmacy student from Houston.

The Rattlers are expecting to open their 2005 season with the stadium completed but there should be no worries if it is not finished because the construction should not interfere with the team’s play.

“We don’t have a contractor yet,” said Director of Facilities and Travel Braun Cartwright. “We are waiting for the in-house approval and once that occurs we can go outside and get a contractor to start making the construction schedule.”

In the plans for the upcoming renovations are among other things, 32 luxury boxes, new coaches’ offices, a state of the art press box and new locker rooms.

Those features will be part of a multi-level fixture behind the western side of the stadium. Also included are meeting rooms and an academic center.

The buildings are not the only things being upgraded. The field will be completely dug up and redone with new sod and a much improved drainage system. New lighting will be installed to better assist with televised broadcasting.

An electronic system to be located at most concession stands is also a possibility for the stadium’s facelift. This system would allow fans to see the game while not watching the actual field action.

“We have talked about having that upgrade for the stadium to allow us to shoot in-house feed,” said Cartwright. “A new scoreboard with a videotron is already in the plans, it just all depends on what architect we get.”

Urban Broadcasting Company will serve as Rattler’s ESPN and show on the videotron and possible concession stand televisions. It will be airing eight football games per season along with providing $1.7 million each year in contract dollars to the university athletic department.

“This exposure will bring better football competition to Bragg and create new heights in regards to teams visiting FAMU.” Lee said. “It will bring an increase in university student enrollment, increase spending in the area and give coaches the ability recruit better athletes. The experience of a new stadium can’t be put into words. It creates a pride within us.

“I’m so excited I can’t sleep at night.”

Dominique Drake can be reached at ddidis1@aol.com. Ra Teagle can be reached at ra2fl@hotmail.com.