Donors, friends, family, athletic faculty and football players filed in under a white pavilion as people anxiously awaited the groundbreaking of the Gary Weber End Zone Complex Friday.
They were greeted with pictures of conceptual renderings for the new complex. Among a 12-person panel, SMU star running back Tyler Lavine opened the red and blue ballon-filled ceremony in prayer while shovels turned over soil.
SMU President R. Gerald Turner took the stand after Lavine and said it would be the start of a new era for all SMU athletics.
“It’s always a good thing when we have a big tent here on campus,” Turner said. “That means something great is about to happen.”
Turner followed his speech with a two-minute video describing the details about the expansion showing the impact the complex will have on the future of Mustang football.
The new complex is named after Garry A. Weber, who was a former Mustang football letterman. Weber graduated from the university in1958 and went on to serve Dallas as both a Dallas County judge and City Council member. He then founded Weber Financial Inc., which opened doors for him to flex his philanthropic muscle. In January 2022, Weber’s foundation committed to making a $50 million donations for the complex marking the largest gift in SMU Athletic history.
Fast forward to groundbreaking day, Dec. 2, and Weber said he was happy the project was finally about to commence.
“When you have goals and you run into obstacles you don’t stop,” Weber said.
The 192,500 square-foot complex will situate itself in Ford’s stadium south bowl, connecting the east and west gate entries. Students have said they will miss the open lawn.
The student section will be replaced with three levels of additional restrooms, concessions stands and seating. There will also be team-focused spaces like new locker and weight rooms, meeting rooms, a full-team auditorium, and a kitchen and training table to support all of SMU’s student-athletes.
“The mustangs are accelerating into the future and will keep going until SMU is at the forefront of football,” said Rick Hart, SMU’s director of athletics.
The panel, filled with SMU athletic faculty and donors including Weber, joked about their pre-written scripts using the word “transformative” to describe the project. However some panelist used other terms.
“Game changer is the word I would use for today,” said Rhett Lashlee, SMU football head coach.
“My words would be big time and huge commitment,” said David Miller, SMU vice-chair of the Board of Trustees.
The complex is set to finish just in time for the 2024 football season.