The Register Guard Features Reser Stadium

June 27, 2005

Corvallis, Ore. - By Bob RodmanEugene Register-Guard

For three years, the so-called Beaver Nation has been 'Raising Reser,' the catch-phrase for the $80 million initial phase of the three-pronged expansion of Oregon State's half-century-old football stadium.The facility has risen, a third of it, anyway. Almost.

Tons upon tons of concrete and structural steel have thrust the renovated east grandstand of Reser Stadium high into the sky.

'It is the largest construction job by size and cost in the history of Benton County,' project administrator John Norton said.

While the finishing touches continue, and likely will until the Beavers' season opener against Portland State on Sept. 3, the stadium, Norton said, 'will be football-ready.

'This company (Hunt-Wildish Joint Venture, which also oversaw the University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium expansion project) never has missed a kickoff, and it doesn't plan to miss this one.'

Bob De Carolis, Oregon State's director of athletics, says he's staggered by the size and scope of Reser Stadium's renovated east grandstand.

Workers install seats in the upper deck of the nearly completed east grandstand at Reser Stadium, which is undergoing an $80 million facelift that includes new artificial turf.

Photos: Thomas Boyd / The Register-Guard

The project essentially will be completed in 14 months, four months faster than the usual 1 1/2 years for a job this size, said Norton, a Eugene resident and University of Washington graduate whose uncle, Mush Torson, played basketball at Oregon State in the late 1920s.

The biggest hurdle for the project, which jumped the stadium's seating capacity from 35,362 to 43,000, 'has been time,' Norton said.

'The weather has been both good and bad. The warm spring was terrific and a real blessing, but the rain largely has been a nuisance.'

The project is being paid for by some $30 million raised through donations and ticket sales, and $60 million from state-issued bonds.

Amid the stadium project, the Beavers put to the torch a $12.5 million athletic department debt that had accrued during the decade from 1988 to 1998.

Thrilled, and perhaps somewhat relieved by all of this, is Bob De Carolis, the OSU director of athletics who has nurtured, prodded and been the vanguard of the project since former football coach Dennis Erickson began beating on his 'we-need-a-better-stadium' drum more than four years ago.

'It still stuns me that we're doing this (expansion) at all,' he said.

'The other thing that staggers me is the size. I knew it would be big, but it didn't really hit me until I was standing there looking up at it.'

The rooftop of the structure rises 165 feet from the ground, or the equivalent height of a 10- to 12-story building.

In the far corners of the upper reaches of the towering grandstand, the sightlines are downward from seats that seem close enough that a fan could reach out and touch a passing cloud.

Beaver Nation? It's more like Elevation Nation.

There are four main levels to the structure - ground, founders loge, club and suites. There are 200 loge seats, 3,600 club seats and 20 luxury suites. East sideline bleacher seats, totaling 3,500, will house OSU students.

There are four brick-wrapped towers, the backbones to the structure that contains 700 precast riser sections upon which the 15,000 chair-backed seats will rest.

There are 250,000 bricks used in the project, and all were set by hand.

Stairs, elevators and the first escalators installed in a structure in the history of Benton County will take the additional 8,000 fans to and from their seats.

Even the floor of the stadium has changed, the aging and hardening AstroTurf removed and replaced with FieldTurf.

The east side of Reser Stadium now looms over the facility in an almost menacing way.

Once the two other phases of the project - renovating the west side of the stadium to mirror the east side and adding a deck to the south end zone to complete the bowl - the facility could have the threatening look and deafening sound of Louisiana State's Tiger Stadium, better known as 'Death Valley.'

Those changes, including more luxury suites and a new media level, would expand Reser's seating capacity to 55,000.

De Carolis said the planning for the completion of Reser's total renovation has begun, and 'we hope we could do the end zone in the next three years.

'Part of it is going to be dependent on how much energy we can leverage with the silent phase of the capital campaign at the university level,' he said.

'Success on the field will play a role, but I don't think we have to have a Fiesta Bowl type of year.'

The Beavers had a milestone season in 2000, finishing with an 11-1 record, a No. 4 national ranking, a share of the Pac-10 Conference championship and a win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

Since the 1999 season, when OSU had its first winning season since 1970 and played in its first bowl game since the 1964 Rose Bowl, the Beavers have had five winning seasons and played in five postseason games.

Oregon State also has recorded 23 consecutive home sellouts, dating back to Sept. 30, 2000.

The need for a bigger and better football facility was obvious. So was the need for revenue.

Reser, then called Parker Stadium, was constructed in 1953 with a seating capacity of 28,000.

Renovations raised capacity to more than 40,000 before it was reduced to 35,362 with the construction of the Valley Football Center at the north end of the stadium.

'We did not get really serious about it until after the indoor practice facility was built (in August 2001),' De Carolis said. 'It became evident that it was the last piece of the puzzle for football.'

At 43,000, the stadium still ranks ninth in size among the Pac-10 schools.

'We don't have to be the biggest, but we are striving to be the best,' De Carolis said.

'It's about quality, not quantity.'

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