The University of Texas (UT) at Austin opened its 2021 Texas Longhorns football season by debuting its new - approximately $175-million, 240,000 sq. ft. - south end zone expansion that not only fully encloses the Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium for the first time in the 97-year history of the previously horseshoe-shaped sports arena but includes a team logo carved into the new seating bowl.
Designed by Kansas City, Kan.- headquartered Populous , the project’s game-day enhancing amenities include two new seven-story entry towers, terraces with concession areas, a new broadcasting stage, premium seating in tower suites, three clubs, corner student patio seating adjacent to the Longhorn Network Game Show and new football coaches’ offices.
“The new space will provide an electric atmosphere for fans, a new home for football coaches’ offices and an opportunity to broadcast the Longhorn brand to millions,” according to an architect’s statement.
Key to that brand visibility – and keenly noticeable in aerial images – is the Longhorn-shaped seating balcony, which reflects the team’s iconic bovine brand in both its unique shape and cladding with ALUCOBOND® PLUS aluminum composite material (ACM) by 3A Composites USA in the custom UT Burnt Orange finish.
ALUCOBOND PLUS metal panels were selected to match the Longhorns’ iconic team colors – burnt orange and white – throughout the south end zone while ALUCOBOND PLUS in the Rusted Metal finish clads the new towers with an almost suede-like appearance evoking the state’s Longhorn cattle industry.
The stadium’s new south end zone features a total of 48,200 square feet of 4mm ALUCOBOND PLUS in a combination of custom UT Burnt Orange, Rusted Metal and Pure White panels. The project also features 7,920 square feet of ALUCOBOND AXCENT™ – a solid gauge flat aluminum sheet installed as complementary metal trim – in a combination of .040” gauge custom UT Burnt Orange and .040” gauge Pure White.
“Our goal was to give our student athletes and coaches the best environment possible to use as a home advantage to win,” said Drew Martin, executive senior associate athletics director for external affairs/intercollegiate athletics, University of Texas at Austin, of the new south end zone that now encloses the arena – retaining more crowd noise during games – as well as integrates a previously detached and now renovated Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center into the stadium.
The university also was focused on meeting the needs of fans with more premium seating in two towers offering suites and three new clubs as well as non-premium seating for students in corners of the south end zone, according to Martin, who said the stadium’s most unique structural element is the Texas Longhorns’ logo built into the seating bowl.
“This is the only sports stadium to construct a logo in the actual building,” said Martin, of the Longhorn silhouette clad with ALUCOBOND PLUS in custom UT Burnt Orange. “It’s beautiful. It’s a big pride point for fans. It’s so unique to have the Longhorn silhouette built permanently into the stadium.”
Martin said the university design team spent several weeks working with the architect, contractor and 3A Composites USA to color match the ALUCOBOND metal panels.
“We spent a lot of time in color matching the metal cladding,” said Martin. “We made sure that we drilled down to the exact Pantone color, reviewing different color swatches in different lighting environments. … The Burnt Orange and Pure White panels are very attractive. The university’s iconic burnt orange and white colors are so present in the facility and are exclusive to UT.”
ALUCOBOND PLUS in the Rusted Metal finish was chosen to clad the south end zone’s two new towers that feature premium suite seating.
“The Rusted Metal panels give the impression of leather and recognize the Longhorn cattle industry,” said Martin. “The finish is very complementary to our team colors and offers an elevated aesthetic from a visual standpoint.”
Design of the south end zone began in 2018 with construction starting immediately following the Longhorns’ 2018 football season. Construction was managed by the southwest district of Hensel Phelps, which is headquartered in Greeley, Colo., and continued throughout both the 2019 and 2020 football seasons. Construction was completed in August 2021.
Hensel Phelps worked with UT’s athletic department to schedule noisy construction activities around football practices and developed plans to safely control the flow of football fans around the construction site during home games, according to the general contractor’s website. Construction crews, such as Byrne Metals Corp., of Humble, Texas, did not work Fridays during game weeks but instead cleaned the job site to prepare for games.
Byrne Metals fabricated and installed approximately 900 ALUCOBOND PLUS cladding pieces and approximately 800 ALUCOBOND AXCENT trim pieces – both in a wide variety of sizes – for the project.
“Everything was angled in some way; this job included very few typical panels,” commented Matt Hubbell, operations manager, Byrne Metals, who said his team met these construction specifications by first field verifying and then fabricating the ALUCOBOND panels with a CNC router.
Photo credit: courtesy of ALUCOBOND® by 3A Composites USA