A young South Carolina football fan will soon be able to walk through lush greenery on broad brick pathways, marveling at the splashes of color and cool fall atmosphere around a game at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks’ field has come a long way since the days of being a barren concrete fortress on the edge of town.
All that’s missing is a sculpture, a 15-foot-high monument to a star of yesteryear, for a young fan to get his picture taken in front of and have his father reminisce to him about those glorious days.
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Imagine a bronze statue of USC Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers at the corner of Bluff Road and the street that bears his name, or a visored Steve Spurrier, headset intact and playsheet in hand, or (if they can get the hair right) Steve Taneyhill raising both arms to the sky.
It’s a project that has been knocking around minds for a few years, especially as USC has undergone a massive facelift in athletic facilities. But the idea of a statue or two in front of the stadium remains just that for now – a project.
“I’ve heard a little bit talked about it,” Rogers said. “I think I heard maybe it was going to be approached two years ago. Whatever they want to do, the university’s been good to me.”
USC recently gained approval from the State Budget and Control Board for a $33 million upgrade to facilities, which will include the building of a plaza around Williams-Brice Stadium. An artist’s rendering shows a new building, trees and iron/brick entranceways on one side of the stadium. Construction is set to start in December, after the 2014 home season has concluded.
There has been no decision on any statue, athletic director Ray Tanner confirmed. It’s an idea, as Trustee (and Rogers teammate) Chuck Allen has pushed, to make the new spot a “Heisman Plaza” with a statue of Rogers, but thus far it will be a plaza without a giant centerpiece.
The Gamecocks would join some of the SEC’s other heavyweights in having another visiting point outside the stadium before a game, like Alabama, Auburn and Florida. Those three have the most prominent presences – the Crimson Tide have built statues of the five coaches who have won national championships at the school, including present-day coach Nick Saban, while Auburn and Florida have statues of each of their three Heisman winners outside their fields.
USC has decided that spending money on other upgrades are more important than a statue at this point. Included in the most recent approval are the indoor football practice facility, a new soccer building alongside the soccer field, a new outdoor track and a new indoor track, which will be installed in the USC Field House.
The cost of a statue would be extensive as well, although small compared to sums such as $33 million. The Saban statue at Alabama was estimated at $50,000; the Cam Newton statue at Auburn $100,000; and the Spurrier statue at Florida $183,000.
The idea is for the area to mimic Gamecock Park, the revised parking and tailgating area across Bluff Road from the west side of the stadium. The new practice facility will be beyond it, rising like a temple as it sandwiches Gamecock Park between the two football locations, and offer a much more open space for fans walking into the stadium. The constant clutter now – people squeezing between the hedges bordering Bluff and the side of the stadium, skirting the numerous cables and equipment from TV crews – will be a memory.
Tanner and others have spoken of a further removal from the days where Williams-Brice was a block of cement surrounded by warehouses. The project gets them there.
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