TEXAS A&M WEIGHS HOUSTON EXPANSION AS UT COLLECTS LAND FOR ITS PLANNED CAMPUS Following the University of Texas’s recent start on buying up that land in southwest Houston for a proposed campus of yet-ambiguous-purpose, Texas A&M is now sizing up the city as well, writes Benjamin Wermund of the Houston Chronicle. A&M president Michael Young suggested that those watching the university’s plans for the Houston area “stay tuned” as the school weighs strategy. UT’s November announcement that it would buy around 300 acres at W. Belfort Ave. and Buffalo Spdwy. triggered responses from University of Houston supporters including Texas senator John Whitemire. Whitmire’s December letter to UT chancellor Bill McRaven cited fears that a new UT Houston campus would pull resources and top-tier faculty away from U of H, in part due to the structure of the state’s Permanent University Fund allocations (which go only to UT and A&M campuses). Young, however, suggested that backlash over UT’s ongoing purchases south of Reliant was premature (as, perhaps, was UT’s broadcasting of its plans): “I guess I’m a little confused about the spat at the moment, because I don’t know that UT has really said what they’re going to do,” Young told the Chronicle. “So far it’s a land deal, and I must say an amusing one, because I didn’t know you announced you were going to buy property before you actually bought it.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Conceptual rendering of UT Houston campus: Houston Public Media
A&M TO ESTABLISH MARINE RESEARCH INSTITUTE IN ISRAEL AFTER PEACE CAMPUS TALKS BREAK DOWN Meanwhile, in Haifa: Details regarding a proposed Texas A&M institute in Israel were announced this week, with major edits to location, scale, and scope from earlier plans to place a campus in the country. In late 2013, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp announced a $200 million “peace campus” proposed for the city of Nazareth, intended as a multicultural university in the region’s notoriously tense ethnic landscape. But Sharp told the AP this week that the plans have been rethought due to concerns that local officials would exert control over the direction of the campus — instead, a $6 million marine observatory will open in collaboration with the University of Haifa, 20 miles west of Nazareth on the Mediterranean coast. A&M’s believes its Gulf of Mexico expertise will compliment the research at the new institute, which will also contribute to offshore oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. [Texas Tribune, AP]
AN ART CRITIC TOURS TEXAS A&M On a recent visit to College Station, Rice and UT Grad Rainey Knudson tries to get past Texas A&M’s fortress chic: “So yes: to this outsider anyway, the A&M campus feels unattractive, humorless and a little silly. They have more bronze statues than you can shake a stick at, there are overbearing messages of social conservatism everywhere, and if you’re interested in good art, you’re out of luck, at least in the public spaces. These people couldn’t paint bigger targets on themselves for ridicule if they tried, right? And yet: the president of the school famously leaves the door to his house on campus unlocked. Students and faculty will tell you not to lock your car, that you could leave a computer lying somewhere on campus and it would still be there when you get back. And it would. That’s the flip side to all the sanctimoniousness at A&M: there really is a palpable, profoundly likeable sense of honor at the place (and I’m not just saying that because it’s one of their six core values that’s repeated all over campus.)” [Glasstire] Photo: Rainey Knudson
OH MY GOD! THEY KILLED KYLE! Here’s a view from the front row yesterday morning as the west side of Kyle Field comes a’-tumbling down, to the cheers, hullabaloo, and whoops of a crowd police estimated at 7,000. The Aggies are eager for the final phase of the school’s ongoing stadium renovation project to come to completion. After hauling off the 75,000 tons of debris, and rebuilding, the Aggies plan to have Kyle Field reopened — with a capacity of 102,51, the largest stadium in Texas — by September 12, when Ball State University’s gridiron warriors invade College Station in new Kyle Field’s debut. [Bryan-College Station Eagle; previously on Swamplot] Video: Ton Wagner
WHICH A&M BUILDING HAS GOVERNOR PERRY’S NAME ON IT NOW? Two days of “deep reflection” after telling the Bryan-College Station Eagle that he would be honored to have Texas A&M’s iconic Academic Building renamed “The Rick Perry ’72 Building,” Governor Rick Perry decided to decline the proposal by the A&M Board of Regents before it ever came to a vote. “I have informed the board of regents of my decision to politely decline this honor,” Perry said at a graduation ceremony last night, hours after the vote was supposed to have taken place. “And I do so because there are places on this campus, like our most cherished traditions, that transcend any one individual. They are bigger than any one of us and they represent our shared heritage. I want the Academic Building to be called the Academic Building in 2114, 200 years after it was built.” Perry’s announcement came after 2 days of intense, mostly negative reaction to news of the proposal, including a resolution against the renaming from the student senate, a petition signed by 7,000 students in opposition to same, and an editorial in The Battalion, A&M’s campus paper, which reads, in part: “The absurdity of the idea goes well beyond the irony of putting Perry (and his well-documented sub-2.5 GPA) on A&M’s academic hub, which in 2014 celebrates its 100th birthday. The regents shouldn’t name the Academic Building after the governor. Not because he’s not qualified, but because no one is.” Which is not to say that some other campus edifice might not soon bear the Perry name, as the editorial acknowledges: “Perry might deserve campus recognition, but give him something — anything — other than the Academic Building.” [Bryan-College Station Eagle; The Battalion] Photo: Texas A&M
Meeting in special session in College Station on Thursday at 3:30 p.m., the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents will vote on a measure to rename the campus’s iconic, 100-year-old Academic Building the “Governor Rick Perry ’72 Building.”
Also on the agenda: a vote on a resolution to honor the recently-indicted Aggie alum’s “outstanding dedication and service” during his longest-ever stint as a Texas governor.
The potential Rick Perry ’72 Building was actually built in ’14, 2 years after Texas A&M’s Old Main building burned to the ground:
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Phase 2 of Texas A&M’s $450 million Kyle Field makeover will get underway in earnest in the early morning hours of December 21, after a season-long pause to slot in the Aggies’ 2014 home-field gridiron slate. That’s when Christmas will arrive early for demolition junkies, as the stadium’s multitiered west side will come down with a bang.
Some prep work has already begun, but the pace will quicken about two hours after the conclusion of the Aggies’ season finale on Thanksgiving Day against LSU. That’s when the whole stadium will once again become a construction zone, and only those with the proper credentials will be granted entry.
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Amid much local hullabaloo in Aggieland today, Houston’s Midway Cos. unveiled its plans for a new campus-adjacent mixed-use complex. By fall 2016, Midway hopes that Century Square will feature an outdoor concert space, a midrise office building and conference center, an apartment building, shopping and dining outlets, and, at least judging from the site plan below, ample space for a pad site or six along busy University Dr. Not one but 2 new boutique hotels are also slated to go up at the corner of College Ave. and University Dr. across the street from Texas A&M’s polo fields and Emerging Technologies Building and the local IHOP.
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WHAT A FIRED IRONWORKER LEFT BEHIND AT KYLE FIELD The ironworker fired from his job at the Kyle Field construction site after hoisting a University of Alabama flag from a crane at the Texas A&M football stadium has been subjected to an even greater indignity: After a photo of the stunt (at left) went viral, a crew of dead-serious investigators has been scouring the worker’s largely jokey Facebook page for possible additional anti-Aggie activity. And overnight, it appears, they hit paydirt. In context, Bobby Livingston’s offhand comment on his Facebook page from February 28th, under a self-portrait in an Alabama sweatshirt, that “This stadium will never be ready for this. Season,I’m putting iron in backwards and wrong holing everything!!”appears to be a joke among friends. It’s tougher to judge the circumstances surrounding a later Livingston post, however, because it appears now to have been deleted: According to College Station reporter Patrina Adger, he wrote on April 6, “If you ever attend a Texas A&M football game, don’t sit at the Northeast End Zone. It was raining today and I made two very ‘questionable’ welds.” The engineering firm in charge of inspections at Kyle Field, which is being expanded to seat more than a 100,000 fans, has issued a statement in response, assuring that all welds and connections have been tested, verified, and reviewed. [KBTX] Photo: Bobby Livingston
IS TEXAS A&M READY TO KNOCK DOWN KYLE FIELD, TOO? A source tells the Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka that Texas A&M has plans to jettison more than just its affiliation with the Big 12 in its quest to join the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference. The university has plans to tear down Kyle Field on the A&M campus in College Station and rebuild it “as a modern stadium, with a seating capacity of 90,000-plus. The only part of the current stadium that will be retained is the north end zone.” The Zone is the most recent part of the 1927 football field; it opened in 1999. [BurkaBlog] Photo: Coaches Hot Seat