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The planned renderings of the $60 million renovation project of Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California to be completed in 2019. (Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics)

Athletic funding part 3: Investing in the Future

The Bulldog Stadium renovation project took a big step forward on Saturday when it was officially announced that the global engineering firm AECOM was selected as the architect.

Fresno State Athletic Director Jim Bartko laid out his vision for the stadium in the summer of 2015. This announcement now kicks off a design and development phase that he expects will take six months. Going ahead with this part of the project was made possible by a $1.5 million donation from a former student-athlete who doesn’t want to be identified publicly.

Design and development is the start of the major changes coming to Bulldog Stadium. The renovation project consists of four phases. Phase 1 dealt with adjusting the surrounding concourse space with new signage, which was completed before the football season started.

Phase 2 begins with Saturday’s announcement, which will include construction on cross aisles, concourses, restrooms and fan amenities. Bartko plans on bringing a contractor and project manager on board with the goal of actually breaking ground on Phase 2 in December 2017.

The renovations are projected to cost a total of $60-$80 million. Bartko’s plan is to bring in $20 million in donations, and said he has already raised over half of the goal.

For many years, the athletic department under previous administrations has been seeking money from big donors and has often struggled to obtain it. Bartko is not concerned with the past and feels that now is the time for action.

“We have very loyal fans. I think they know it’s time to invest,” Bartko said. “The stadium has been built, so we either invest in it and do it the right way or we don’t. It’s 30-some years old now, and it hasn’t had a lot of work done to it.”

AECOM was responsible for the initial drawings and renderings shown to the public when Bartko first announced the project.

The global engineering firm is centered in Los Angeles and has built and renovated many stadiums and arenas. The company’s past projects include the 2016 Rio Olympics and the Barclays Center – home of the Brooklyn Nets. In July, AECOM was chosen along with Turner Construction Co. to build the new NFL stadium in Los Angeles for the Rams. In addition to stadiums, AECOM has also worked on a variety of other engineering projects such as the One World Trade Center in New York City.

Bulldog Stadium was constructed in 1980, initially seating only 30,000. In 1991, the stadium was expanded to its current capacity of 41,031. With AECOM on board and fundraising in progress, Bartko feels the community will step up and embrace the project.

“It takes a lot of people to step forward. I think we have it,” Bartko said. “I think people know it’s time, and I’m very confident that we’ll get it done.”