Hannah Whisenant / Rivard Report
The Valero Alamo Bowl on Thursday donated $6 million toward further improvements to the Alamodome, which is currently undergoing renovations in preparation for the 2018 NCAA Men's Final Four.
The donation, which will be supplemented by an additional $3 million from the City, will be used to enhance Wi-Fi capabilities, install two more video monitors in the corners of the stadium, and enhance the sound quality in the facility by updating equipment, said Michael Sawaya, the director of conventions, sports, and entertainment facilities for the City of San Antonio. The improvements will be completed in time for this year's Valero Alamo Bowl, its 25th anniversary.
Wi-Fi coverage will be significantly expanded, going from a maximum capacity of 3,500 simultaneous users to 65,000, the City-owned building's seating capacity. Increasing the Wi-Fi capacity to that size matches the standards used by the NFL in stadiums where its teams play. Coverage will include all areas inside the Alamodome, including the field, concourses, box offices, and some parking areas.
The dome's sound system will be improved as old equipment is replaced with new technologies. The system will also be reconfigured for clarity and reliability by clustering sets of speakers in the center of the stadium, Sawaya said.
Four new video screens will be added to the each of the stadium's four corners, with the two existing screens being replaced. To preserve as much unobstructed seating as possible, Alamodome officials decided to place video screens in the corners.
"It's one of the largest dome stadiums," Sawaya said of the Alamodome. "We looked at what the NFL standard is, hired a firm familiar with the standard, and went to work with Cisco" Systems.
Getting additional funding from the City was key, Sawaya said.
"We would have less of a vigorous Wi-Fi system, would not have been able to renovate the sound system, and [would] be limited to buying one of the video screens," he said. "We had to make the $6 million work."
Decisions on the improvements were made to ensure that the Alamodome's amenities are competitive with comparable venues around the nation, Sawaya said. Innovations will make the Alamodome more attractive to event hosts and promoters, who are looking for stadiums with such amenities already in place.
Renovations of this sort signify the place that the Valero Alamo Bowl has made for itself in the city, said Derrick Fox, CEO and president of the Valero Alamo Bowl.
"It's exciting," Fox said. "It's our 25th anniversary season, and it's been fun watching the bowl grow. We've taken what used to be a lesser tourism week and turned it into one of the most robust and vibrant of the year."
Fox said the Alamo Bowl has directly contributed a total of $458 million have been to the local economy.
City Council members lauded the improvements on Thursday, citing the positive contributions the Alamo Bowl has made to the community.
"It's historical," Sawaya said. "We don't know of any other circumstance where the bowl itself has made a contribution to the dome."
The enhancements funded by the donation are scheduled to be completed by mid-December, in time for the 25th anniversary Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28.
In separate Alamodome news, new regulations are in place that limit the size and type of bags and purses that can be brought into the building. The new rules, which went into effect June 10, are similar to the "clear bag" policy used by the NFL and the NCAA for major events. Purses may be no larger than 6 inches square, while clear bags 12 inches square or smaller are allowed, along with medically necessary bags and diaper bags.
Alamodome officials have stated that prohibited items now include clutch purses larger than 6 inches square, backpacks, camera cases, mesh bags, purses, seat cushions, clear two-chambered backpacks, tinted plastic bags, briefcases, oversized tote bags, fanny packs, and computer cases.
"Having a clear bag [policy] is about expediting the [security check] process," Sawaya said. "It's not just about having clear bags, it's restricting certain items from being brought in and communicating that to people in advance."