South Carolina fans showed up every Saturday despite some often-sour results.
It was past time for their loyalty to be rewarded.
The area around Williams-Brice Stadium has been transformed from what was a grim and gray fortress at the edge of town into an area offering a pleasant location for pre- and post-game festivities.
“We’re excited about what Tami Brooks and her family have engaged in, to change the appearance, that many of you remember as a lot of asphalt,” athletic director Ray Tanner said Sunday. “Some people say it was a concrete jungle, very much of an industrial area. And it’s changed considerably.
“It’s an opportunity for our fans to have an environment that they have not experienced in so many years.”
No longer will USC’s stadium look like a taller version of the numerous warehouses and empty lots that dominated the area.
Trees, greenspace, bricked walkways and gates resembling the iconic entries to USC’s Horseshoe are in place.
The Springs Brooks Plaza is ready for its Sept. 12 debut, and in a few years when the palmettos are in full bloom, the image will be a staple of the SEC Network and hopefully many more channels.
It’s already pleasant, and a 180-degree turnaround from the cement-laced, car-strewn lot it was. The latest entry in the Gamecocks’ facility improvements brings to mind what its creators envisioned – a game day atmosphere like The Grove at Ole Miss, but with a distinct South Carolina flair.
“For 81 years, I guess it is, our fans and alumni and donors have entered this stadium the same way,” Tanner said. “For the first time in many, many years, we have a different look.”
TV trucks will no longer clog the midpoint of the stadium bordering Bluff Road, which often impeded pedestrian traffic. The trucks will be relocated to the southwest corner of the stadium, with plug-in stations nearby, the cables buried underground.
Power lines stretching from Key to Bluff roads have likewise been relocated underground, and the fences separating the Cockaboose railroad from the regular stadium have been removed. Two restroom facilities are in place, along with the Bignon Game Day Center, a location for tickets, merchandise and security.
The $14.5 million project also re-did Williams-Brice’s four ramps to the upper levels of the stadium. “A fan has the ability to walk around the entire stadium once they’ve gotten in,” USC architect Derek Gruner said. “They couldn’t do that before because of the ramps.”
The installation of George Rogers’ statue next week will give fans a meeting place on the stadium’s northwest side, and there is room for more sculptures – a large Gamecock has been discussed. A brick wall on the south side has room for memorials to program greats, while the walkways are featuring memorial scripted bricks – more than 3,400 were purchased in the first wave and orders are being taken for next year.
The stadium itself has had more of the gray cement color restored to it, with the giant ads that covered the outside of the ramps taken down with no plans to be restored. The cleanliness of the cement, due to pressure-washing, blends nicely with the greenery.
“When you see a picture of the Horseshoe on satellite, it’s notable right away because of how green it is,” Gruner said. “That’s what we want this to be eventually. It will bring comparisons to the Horseshoe as two of the greenest spots in Columbia, even with the stadium in the center.”