William and Mary announces $27 million renovation to Zable Stadium

WILLIAMSBURG — William and Mary announced plans Tuesday for a $27 million renovation project of Zable Stadium that will update and modernize the 79-year-old facility.

Plans call for a new upper deck, suites and a new press box on the west side of the stadium, closest to the Jimmye Laycock Center, as well as new and enhanced concession and bathroom facilities.

"I cannot, I don't think, adequately express my excitement for the enhancement, the changes that we're going to make to Zable Stadium," Laycock said at the announcement, in the lobby of the building that bears his name. "Zable Stadium is a neat, neat place to play. It's a great place to come to games. I've had many, many pro scouts and other people talk about what a wonderful facility we have. But I know, and everybody knows, that we've got to move forward, we've got to improve it and we are going to improve it."

W&M president Taylor Reveley praised the stadium's durability and place within the school's campus and community at Tuesday's announcement. But he pointed out that it was built in 1935, during Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term, in the midst of the Great Depression, and said it is "on the cusp of new life in the very nick of time."

Final plans are expected to be complete in December. Renovations are scheduled to begin early in 2015 and to be complete in time for the start of the 2016 season. Plans call for more permanent seats on the west side of the stadium, particularly between the 30-yard-line markers. A new pressbox will be built on the west side, as well.

The project will not affect William and Mary's home schedule in 2015, athletic director Terry Driscoll said, nor will it significantly alter the present stadium capacity of 12,259.

"We've had one of the nation's most scenic and accommodating home fields for nearly 80 years," Driscoll said, "but the aging structure is sorely in need of some modernization. Thanks to the wonderful generosity of Walt, Jim, Fran and Hunter, we will be able to provide our fans with the kind of game-day experience that more closely matches the great tradition of excellence our program has provided the campus for over a century."

William and Mary already raised $22 million in private funds toward the renovation, including a $10 million gift from the estate of the late Walt Zable, whose name is on the stadium.

The school also received separate $6 million gifts from W&M alumni Hunter J. Smith and from James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin.

Laycock spoke about the importance of the stadium renovations as a recruiting tool for future players, but as validation of the legacy of the program.

"It speaks as a recognition of former players and coaches," he said. "It's what we talked about when we dedicated this building here. It's a lot of players, a lot of coaches have worked extremely hard and done things the right way for a long, long period of time. That's what enabled us to have this facility and that's also what's enabled us to have the new additions and enhancements with Zable Stadium."

Smith (W&M Class of 1951) is a longtime benefactor of sports and the arts throughout Virginia. Her late husband, Carl Smith, donated millions to University of Virginia athletics, notably a $23 million gift toward the expansion of Scott Stadium.

At William and Mary, Hunter Smith gave $10 million last year to establish the Hunter J. Smith Endowment for Freshman Seminars. She also routinely donates to the Swem Library and Pi Beta Phi.

James McGlothlin (W&M Class of 1962) is the founder and CEO of the United Company, headquartered in Bristol. He and his wife, Frances (Class of 1966), contributed to renovations to the Wren Building, the expansion of Swem Library, the Brafferton preservation project and to the W&M law school.

The couple established the McGlothlin Leadership Forum at W&M's Mason School of Business in 2011. McGlothlin-Street Hall, which houses the departments of geology, computer science and applied science, was named in their honor.

"Zable Stadium lies at the heart of William and Mary's campus," Jim McGlothlin said in a statement. "This renovation project provides a wonderful opportunity to ensure that this iconic landmark serves as a beacon of excellence befitting this great institution. It is important to Fran and me that this project will both preserve the architectural integrity of the original structure while improving the football game experience for all."

The Richmond-based firm of BCWH Architects handles the design work, while Barton Malow, an Orlando, Fla.-based contractor, is in charge of the pre-construction phase. An official groundbreaking is expected in February.

"I cannot thank the benefactors enough," Laycock said, "so far as the financial input that they were able to give us in order for this to happen. It means a great deal to me. I'm very humbled by the fact that they thought enough of our football program to invest this kind of money in our program. I look forward to many, many more filled (games) at Zable."

Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637.