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Kyle Field's Evolution: Defining the Times

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Kyle Field's journey has been a long and momentous one, and it's not over yet. Only this latest chapter has been closed.

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Ascension

by Rush Roberts

It's always been the first thing you see when approaching College Station driving in from the west: a gnarly beacon jutting into the sky after two hours of blackland prairie and country roads. You're home, and it's time for football.

Now as 47 loops down under 60 and you pass Easterwood and approach 2818, you crane your neck in anticipation. It's still there and ostentatious as ever: seemingly twice as big and just as imposing, but the lines are muted a bit; its presence softened by an ode to modernity. It cuts the sky a bit more gently.

Kyle Field dwarfs its surroundings and makes campus seem smaller. It's both a tangible and gravitational force and everything around it: the tailgating, the bustling MSC, the buses ferrying people all around, all seem to fall under its shadow, even when the sun is behind you. When you approach, you instantly become a rube straight off the farm staring up at this shiny new football shrine.

If you look for advertising, you'll certainly find it in the constant dance of the ribbon boards, in the audio snippets blared in at regular intervals, on the seatback in front of you. But if you cast an unjaundiced eye about, there are shades of the spirit of old Kyle. The naked girders and catwalks in the lofty reaches of the north towers threaten to spit out a bloody John McClane and several German terrorists in the midst of a gun battle. The buttresses at the top reaches of the outer wall jut out into the sky like a 17th century colonial fort. There are acres of muted brickwork that are pretty, but when taken as an aggregate are a snarling nod to nouveau riche taste and attitude. "Yeah, we spent a half-billion to have a bigger, better, stadium than you, what the fuck you gonna do about it?"

Kyle Field still occupies the same space that has thrilled us for decades, give or take a shift of a few feet. It's evolving, but so is college football. So is everything. In the past twenty years we've changed conferences twice and added 30,000 seats to her. It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of features and amenities, but Kyle Field is ultimately what you make of it, as it always has been. If you strip away the countless trappings, it's still a hell of a place to watch a football game.


Confrontations

by Chuck GBH

IMPOSING VS. MESMERIZING


"Holy shit Kyle Field is huge."

The words came unbidden, and sound as if the words themselves were shocked. Kyle Field no longer juts from the horizon so much as redefines it - a single, stark peak replaced by an impenetrable mountain range. Having seen the stadium hundreds of times across dozens of years the shock of the change is as surprising as the immensity itself.

Kyle Field was never a small place, at least never in the memory time frame of anyone reading this. It was always tall, and bulky, and blocky, standing in defiance of opposing teams' confidence as well as good architectural taste. But the newly renovated Kyle Field is big on a different level. Walking around the outside of the "activation towers", you are struck by a visceral sense of vastness, like standing at the base of a skyscraper and looking up to feel the tower leaning over you. As birds fly inside you feel certain that you might blink and see clouds forming beneath the roof.

But for all its size, Kyle's new veneer offers an approachable atmosphere that was never found in any of its rough-hewn prior iterations. As the new face of Texas A&M University and the entry point for most visitors from around the country that is a good thing. For the purpose of intimidating opposing football teams, however, there is no denying that the sharp edges have been ground smooth.

The Aggies' Soviet gulag has been replaced by the Birj Khalifa. For better and worse.


TRADITION VS. MODERN


At full capacity there is one flat screen in Kyle Field for every 6.8 fans. That statistic is entirely made up, and yet believable after stalking the concourses for an hour. Appearances are sleek and surfaces are smooth and the modernity of stadium triggers base neurons in your brain to widen your eyes and fixate your gaze. This is pornography for window-shoppers, a museum of displays to stare enviously at and tell yourself, "One day I'll have one of those."

But the cost of the latest in high-tech living is the erosion of the foundation that Kyle Field was built on. Yells have been sped up or sacrificed in order to allow for a modern version of the classic Dot Race from pro game jumbotrons. The corps block has been split up on the first deck of the student section. At the end of the game the Yell Leaders are no longer carried from the field to be thrown in Fish Pond to lead victory Yell Practice.

The guano smell and high frequency squeaking are gone. Hell, even the bathrooms don't reek of piss yet.

None of these things is inherently bad, and the lack of standing pools of urine is probably for the better. Nevertheless, there is a subtle incongruity with the identity which Aggies have cultivated over the decades and the new palatial home of their beloved football program. You wonder if a man in a cowboy hat and boots will sit in a fine leather chair under vaulted ceilings encrusted with chandeliers and crack wise about people sipping tea in Austin? As he waits for his chai latte will he even grasp the irony? Will another fan wax poetic about the grit and toughness of the Aggies as he watches the saga of the Junction Boys on a plasma screen flawlessly embedded in a marble wall?

PRESENT VS. FUTURE


It's hard to say what this new Kyle Field means for the future of Texas A&M and its football program. The glitz and glamour of the SEC, Johnny Football, a national branding campaign, and a colossal tribute to the excesses of college football may indicate the winds of change in a notoriously intransigent school. Or maybe it's just another blip, another building to be assimilated into the understood Aggie experience, whose previous iterations will be lost to the memories of Old Army.

It's definitely a damn fine place to play football, though.

Identity

by James Gardner

It’s utterly staggering in size. Kyle has dominion. It’s the reminder of man’s ingenuity and gumption across the miles of flat, sleepy Brazos Valley. When you’re witnessing another iconic, big sky Texas sunset, Kyle Field is there.

The amenities are there to meet the hyper demands of 2015 consumers. A stadium that was charmingly covered in mold and batshit two years ago now has WIFI to support 100,000 phone addicts. The farmers have gotten fancy. This rough tough real stuff was funded by men who spend more money on a random football weekend than I make in a year. They hearken back to the good ol’ days with bonfire and the corps while dining on cuisine and sipping wine before jumping back on the private jet.

Only the strong survive. And the soft. They survive too. At the old Barn, you earned your damn seat in the third deck. You climbed those 18 stories via concrete ramps wondering if that rugged structure might just crumble beneath you. No more. Moving stairs take you comfortably up – less wear and tear on the heels, loafers, and custom boots that now saunter around Kyle.

If we’re honest with ourselves, there is nothing practical about any of this. There are 365 days in a year. We use Kyle Field for its intended purpose for seven of those days – roughly 2%. Practicality was never the goal though, was it? It was never on the radar. As is the case in so many of life’s decisions, pragmatism and passion can be comically incongruent. Diamonds, religion, luxury pickup trucks, and football would cease to exist if humans were predictably practical.

A&M prides itself on churning out precise, measured, sensible engineers. These individuals are wired to work in the details. They’re conditioned to work in protocol and budgets – in the excruciating minutiae of massive projects. They iron their toilet paper. 2015 Kyle is representative of this exactness in the nuts and bolts – but with the taste, opulence, and ego-flex of a Texan hell-bent on football and a good time.

If you’ve been to Kyle Field the last few years, part of you will feel some ownership and pride in this place. Hopefully it’s a big part. It feels like we built it. For a university obsessed in its own yore, history is currently being written. Sumlin’s mark is on this place. Larger than life reminders of Johnny hang around more than one corner. I don’t really swing a hammer and my donations to the 12th Man Foundation could fund half a bucket of primer, and yet, I feel like I helped in the construction. This place is for generations of the Aggie Family.

Like any new home, it needs a few parties, a broken lamp, and some scuffs to bring out the real character. Kyle needs some college kids trespassing and a few hijinks. Crazy things will happen in this shiny, meticulously-planned structure – on and off the field. It could use some belligerent Cajuns to visit and leave town as losers. It needs Saban losing his mind because he can’t hear his rainmaking brain think. It needs an SEC night game with a trip to Atlanta at stake. Hell, it needs the hate that could only emerge from a visit from the Horns.