San Antonio Independent School District renovates Alamo Stadium.
With a $35 million budget and an 18-month construction period, San Antonio Independent School District and Joeris General Contractors, Ltd./Hunt Construction Group joint venture are completing an extensive renovation that will preserve the best of what the community remembers about the storied Alamo Stadium and make the facility stand out among high school sports venues.
The project includes a major overhaul to the district’s eight traditional high schools’ sports hub: Alamo Stadium and a gymnasium, the Alamo Convocation Center. Aside from a new HVAC at the gymnasium, the facilities have not undergone updates since they were opened in the 1940s.
“As you can imagine, we had some major issues with those facilities,” says Kamal ElHabr, associate superintendent for facility services at the 55,000-student district.
For the stadium, demolition and reconstruction will replace wornout turf and create new seating to incorporate the high schools’ colors and add a $700,000 video scoreboard, a new track and field and a new pressbox. The facilities will also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the convocation center, the contractor has built new locker rooms, athletic office spaces and food service and concession areas. The contractor also replaced the gym roof and refinished existing wood bleachers, and crews gutted and replaced plumbing, electrical, HVAC and similar infrastructural systems at both facilities.
The first steps in the renovation included demolition work plus restoration and cleaning of the stadium's trademark limestone. The stadium, built by Works Progress Administration workers in an old limestone quarry pit in 1939, is nicknamed the “Rockpile” and known for its limestone facing and panoramic views of downtown San Antonio and Fort Sam Houston.
“The limestone was a lot of work,” ElHabr says. “We had to not only clean all that stone and retuck the joints, but also, some of the walls were leaning, so there was structural work and stabilization. That will help it last another 70 or 80 years, I hope.”
Crews used all of the existing limestone and added more.
“When you look around, you can’t tell the old from the new,” ElHabr says. “They have done a really good job.”
The concept of incorporating the best of the former aesthetic runs through all the work ─ something that was especially important for administrators tackling a renovation at a stadium that is on local, state and national historical registers.
“It took a lot of input from the community and historic groups, as far as preserving the original look,” ElHabr says. “It is coming together well, and I think people who were worried will look and say, ‘They didn’t change a lot.’ What they will notice is that the brand new field will have beautiful, high quality turf. They will see the coloring of the seating. We used all the colors of the high schools. For the first time, we will have separated locker facilities for students to go from the field to the locker facilities without mixing with the public. You will see that the egg-shape of the stadium is now complete. It is really coming together.”
Seating will be decreased slightly, from about 23,000 to about 20,000 to make way for a wider field for soccer but improved lighting will make for clearer viewing. A new video scoreboard will run replays of football action as well as commercials and district announcements.
“The scoreboard is going to be the feature,” ElHabr says. “When people come, after they say ‘wow’ to the outside, they will say ‘wow’ again inside. It is really going to be state of the art in high school sports.”
Contractors are working closely with the Texas Historic Commission, says Carl McClenan, senior project manager with Joeris. They also took extra steps to ensure that historic features, such as a ceramic mosaic tile mural below the old pressbox, were not damaged. Surprises arose, too, he says. Crews discovered an underground drainage cistern during field demolition and then used the cistern and pathways as part of the final field drainage system. Logistics posed some challenges, especially because the stadium offered only one access point, but they were able to work around that and used a crane to lift a drilling rig over the stadium wall to drill piers for the new press box.
Being able to work on a project so important to the community has been worth the extra effort, McClenan says.
“Being a San Antonio-based contractor that has been building in San Antonio for 47 years, Joeris is deeply involved and connected to the community,” he says. “Having the opportunity to participate in a lead role for a project that has so much meaning and history to the community is very rewarding to Joeris and we are thankful that the district and the community entrusted us.”
The students and the community are eager to see the stadium's rededication and enjoy the new Friday night lights, ElHabr says.
“This project is close to the heart of so many people in the city,” he says. “For a high school to have up to a 20,000 seat stadium, it is impressive. It is a source of pride. A lot of people either played here or watched their kids. Everybody has a story. We are really looking forward to giving it back and watching everyone enjoy it.”