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The $175 million redo: OSU moving ahead with Reser upgrades

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Oregon State University is looking to hire a consultant that will move its Reser Stadium upgrade project forward.

The university seeks to replace the 66-year-old west side of Reser in a $175 million project that would be the largest construction effort in the school's history.

The intent to hire the consultant, which the university hopes to achieve by Dec. 13, was announced in a “request for proposal” that the university posted Tuesday on its website.

“The concept of completing Reser Stadium by renovating the west side is included in the OSU 10-year capital forecast that was accepted by the university’s board of trustees in the last year,” said Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president for university relations and marketing.

“The request for proposal that was recently released seeks to receive proposals for consulting services to advise and consult on the project’s feasibility and scope.”

The tentative timeline for the project calls for six stages, culminating in the fall of 2023 when the first game would be played at the completed stadium.

The university has been working since 2005 to redo Reser, which was known as Parker Stadium when it opened as a 25,000-seat facility in 1953. The university replaced the east side in 2005, remodeled the south end zone in 2007-08 and upgraded the north end zone/Valley Football Center area in 2016-17.

The final pieces of the puzzle, according to the request for proposal, include:

• Replacing the west side grandstand and pressbox.

• Make the concourse continuous throughout the stadium.

• Increase restrooms and concessions areas.

• Repurpose underutilized east side club seating and create more loge boxes, “premium spaces” and suites.

• Improve the scoreboard and relocate the visitor’s locker room (it currently resides in the basement of adjacent Gill Coliseum).

• Create spaces via a public/private partnership that will allow for year-round use of the stadium.

The project also would reduce capacity at the stadium, currently at 43,154. The stadium’s capacity peaked at 45,674 from 2007-15 before the Valley Football Center work reduced it.

OSU officials said they have no estimates of the number of seats that will be lost, but athletic director Scott Barnes noted that “across the nation, college football stadiums are seeing reduced seating capacity. At OSU, we are focused on right-sizing Reser Stadium so that we will offer the right mix of general, reserved and premium seating, social spaces and fan amenities that will draw fans to enjoy and support our football program.”

As recently as 2014 OSU averaged more than 42,000 fans at its home games. In recent years as the team has struggled, attendance has fallen, with none of this year’s four home games drawing more than the 33,585 that were on hand for the Sept. 14 Cal Poly contest.

Four of Oregon State’s Pac-12 Conference brethren have downsized their stadiums in recent years, with Stanford making the most drastic change, dropping Stanford Stadium from 85,500 to 50,424. Arizona State (from 74,500 to 53,599) and California (80,000 to 63,000) also have made significant reductions. Washington, meanwhile, made just a 2,500-seat reduction to approximately 70,000 when Husky Stadium was remodeled from 2011-13. 

As an example of how the stadium landscape has changed, early iterations of the proposals to complete the Reser Stadium project called for a capacity of 55,000.

The projected $175 million price tag for the Reser renovation, which includes $122 million in construction costs, is slightly higher than the $158 million that redoing Cordley Hall is expected to cost, Clark said.

No definitive information is available yet on where the $175 million will come from, with Clark noting “as for sources of possible funding, philanthropy is one such source. Premium seating revenue is another. Possible private sector partnerships is a third. No expenditures of tuition funding would be involved.”

The public-private component, according to the request for proposal, would allow for 365-day use of a facility that normally is empty much of the year.

Clark said the university is “evaluating uses that might possibly serve student programs, OSU student success initiatives and engage faculty, student and staff in teaching, research and outreach activities, such as experiential learning.”

The $175 million would bring to $400 million the total that the university has spent on athletic facilities since 2000 (see chart above), although OSU officials said that not all of the Reser money will be spent on football-related items.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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