GSU's Robinson Stadium receiving multi-million dollar upgrades

5 May 2017

Grambling's return to relevancy on the HBCU football scene came full circle in 2016 by winning its first black college national championship since 2008.

With gains made on playing field, it was time for Grambling to catch up with its facilities.

The long-awaited upgrades to Eddie Robinson Stadium are coming to Grambling's campus.

Grambling is moving forward with plans for $1.5 to $2 million upgrades that includes new field turf, a new scoreboard and new signage for sponsorship opportunities. Grambling also plans to add additional parking and tailgating areas for fans.

"It's a huge brand, and if you're a huge brand and a successful brand, your field and facilities should mirror image that," Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs told The New-Star. "Having a video board and having field turf facility here for us, basically is a perfect marriage met in heaven."

The face lift is needed for Robinson Stadium, which opened in 1983. The 19,600-seat stadium served Grambling well for the better part of the last four decades, but the scoreboard is outdated and the field is plagued with drainage issues.

"The game day experience will be something we've never had at Grambling," Grambling athletic director Paul Bryant said.

"This is something we've needed and wanted for some time."

Austin, Texas-based Hellas Construction will handle the turf. Nevco will install the new 48 by 25 foot scoreboard. Hellas has installed turf at major venues like AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Grambling's new turf is called Matrix and features helix strands of synthetic material that plays more like real grass. Once completed, Grambling will join Alabama A&M and Alabama State as the only three Southwestern Athletic Conference teams to play home games on turf.

The upgrades are being made possible via a partnership with Origin Bank and Coca-Cola, and the project, which is estimated to run around $1.8 million, will be funded through Grambling's university foundation. Construction is expected to start next week with a completion date of August for the annual Eddie G. Robinson High School Football Classic Jamboree.

Grambling is cashing in on the momentum from an HBCU championship in 2016.

"We're champions, and champions deserve to play on a field as such," Fobbs said.

Plans for athletic upgrades were put in motion last summer when new president Rick Gallot took over and later hired Bryant as Grambling's first permanent athletic director since 2013. During a January introductory press conference, Bryant maintained one of his top priorities was to provide upgrades to the football stadium.

"This is going to transform the way we're looked at, the way our potential student-athletes look at Grambling State," Bryant said. "'Oh yeah, we're champions but our facilities aren't great.' Now, we have great facilities and we're going to give them a quality playing surface."

An indoor facility is next on the agenda. That must wait, but the new scoreboard, which includes a digital presence, will enhance the fan experience. A new turf field helps with less maintenance and the ability to have more home games.

Bryant said the plan is to keep the cement base on the existing scoreboard and turn it into club seating level in the end zone. The space, which is currently unfinished and used by support staff members to film games and practices, will be able to fit 20 people.

The practice field is considered Phase 2 of the upgrades, which will come at a later date. Earlier this year, Grambling installed new grass, fencing and netting in the baseball field, new grass at the softball field and a redesign of the soccer complex along with new fencing and drainage.

Hellas CEO Reed Seaton said he hopes to break ground on the new turf by next week. The project begins by removing the current grass followed by regrading the existing sub-base, which Seaton referred to as a free-draining stone sub-grade. Construction will then turn to pouring concrete on the sides of the field and footing on the walls.

The base work is expected to take 30 days. By early July, Seaton hopes to begin laying turf.

In years past, Grambling was often forced to practice inside when it rained and turned the practice field into slop. New turf will allow Grambling to practice on its game field without worry of wear and tear for game day.

Drainage will improve, too. Walls on the side of the field are being added to catch the water as it comes down the hill. The turf has the ability to drain 10 inches per hour and can cool down by 40 degrees.