Kirby Hocutt began talking about renovating the south end zone at Jones AT&T Stadium and building something grand not long after he was hired 10 years ago to be the Texas Tech athletics director.
That dreamed-about structure has been a long time coming, but Tech's taken a significant step forward in bringing it to fruition. Tech announced Thursday that Cody Campbell, a former Red Raiders player and now a member of the university's board of regents, has made a $25 million lead gift toward the south end zone project.
"A former player is stepping forward in a program-changing way again and doing something really special," Hocutt told a crowd in the stadium's north end zone club area, "and I think today leaves no doubt — zero doubt whatsoever — that Texas Tech football is going to have every resource and every investment it needs to be successful."
In appreciation for the donation, Hocutt said the Red Raiders' home now will be called Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field.
"I grew up a Red Raider and I've always followed it," Campbell said, "and so I've always wanted to do everything I can to help it. ... Having the field named after me is a very meaningful thing."
The announcement of Campbell's donation came eight weeks after Tech called a similar press conference to reveal a $20 million lead gift for construction of the Dustin R. Womble Football Center, a two-story building that will replace the Tech Football Training Facility as the Red Raiders' day-to-day headquarters.
Because the two projects will be built sequentially with the Womble Football Center first, Tech President Lawrence Schovanec said it could take three or four years to make the south end zone building a reality.
At least now there is a firm pledge to do both.
"There's a commitment to these facilities that we're actually going to get these facilities done," Campbell said. "With my gift and with Dusty's gift, we're going to build the FTF and we're going to build the south end zone. We're moving forward on them. There are a bunch of donors that are on board."
The board of the newly formed Red Raider Facilities Foundation Inc. will interview potential architects for both projects in the coming weeks, then proceed to the design phase. Without having those details in place, Hocutt estimated the Womble Football Center as a $45 million to $50 million endeavor, the funding for it having reached $35 million to $36 million.
Tech still plans to begin demolition of the Football Training Facility in early 2022. On an ideal timeline, Hocutt said, the Womble Football Center would be operational before the 2023 football season. Work on the south end zone building would begin after that.
Tech officials declined to estimate a total cost for the south end zone project.
Hocutt and Womble will lead a group planning to go next week to the universities of South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama to look at and take ideas from recently constructed football facilities. They also eyeballed projects at Texas and Baylor when the Red Raiders played there this season.
Just brainstorming, Hocutt said there could be field-level and premium-seating opportunities in a south end zone building and he'd "like to think of a way that we could be cutting-edge for our students in that space as well."
"There's some ideas and thoughts we have here that I think could be really cutting edge," he said, "that we could continue to take ideas we saw and shape them to what we believe our needs are and how it would benefit our program."
Campbell said the function of the south end zone building is still being talked through.
"One thing I know for sure is we're going to have a Double T scoreboard in some form," he said. "I think that's really important. It's kind of the signature of the stadium, so it will be integrated in some way.
"Beyond that, we need recruiting space. We may do some more suites. It can be kind of a gathering place for students, band, those types of things. I think there are a lot of cool things we'll be able to do with it. It'll be well-funded and well-done and first class."
The stadium's iconic Double T scoreboard, installed in the summer of 1978, just finished its 44th season. Along with the near decade-long discussion of a south end zone renovation, fans have discussed and debated what should happen to the scoreboard.
Tech officials have said in the past that its anchoring and concrete on the interior makes it too cumbersome to relocate. Campbell said it will need to be replaced by a new one.
Schovanec said the Double T scoreboard "is a significant issue with a lot of our fans," adding that, "Our history and our tradition is important."
"I don't think we've gotten that far into discussions," he said, "but we want to retain the emotional value of that Double T. It matters to people."
There appeared to be no dissenting opinions about retaining that feature of the stadium.
"We have agreed that we've got to continue to honor that Double T scoreboard in the end zone," Hocutt said. "Exactly what that looks like and feels like, we're not certain yet.
"But even with Chris Huckabee leading the Red Raider Facility Foundation, he said, 'The only way I will chair this foundation for you and lead these projects for you is if the Double T remains a part of that south end zone project.'
"So with his ask there and our guarantee that that would be the case, with the way that Regent Campbell feels about that, the Double T will continue to be a part of that south end zone project. How exactly it looks or its placement is still to be determined."
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech announces $25 million gift for stadium end zone project