South Carolina football fans on Saturday will get a look at a very different Toomer’s Corner than the last time they visited Auburn early in the 2010 season.
After the landmark oak trees at the intersection of College Street and Magnolia Avenue were poisoned by an Alabama fan late in the 2010 season – and ultimately removed in the spring of 2013 when they couldn’t be saved – Auburn has worked toward breathing life back into the area.
The renovated corner, which has served as a destination point for many years to celebrate football victories by rolling the trees with toilet paper, was designed as open-concept brick plaza with a large circular seating wall available for students and shoppers. It was unveiled in late August before the start of this football season.
“It’s bigger. We built it to accommodate more people,” said Mike Clardy, Auburn’s director of communications. “We did some landscaping that looks really nice. It’s just very open right now.”
He then added, “The most obvious things that are missing are the trees.”
New oaks are scheduled to be planted in February 2015.
When the 85-year-old trees were removed, school officials worked on a plan that would embrace long-time customs.
“We’ve had input from lots of people, students, faculty, staff, alumni, fans, into what we’re doing,” Clardy said. “We understand it’s a big deal to them. We’re trying to keep that tradition alive.”
Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr. was convicted of criminal damage of an agricultural facility for an act that occurred during Auburn's national championship season right after the largest comeback in Iron Bowl history.
He pleaded guilty in March 2013 and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years on supervised probation. He also was ordered to pay a 796,000 fine. He was released from jail in June 2013.
Clardy prefers to focus on how Auburn rallied around making Toomer’s Corner even more special.
“We’re doing our best to make a positive out of a negative,” he said.
To remember the oaks, the university is creating mementos from the old trees' wood, with the royalties from their sales going into a special scholarship fund for Auburn students.