Tennessee State is 240 days away from holding a game on campus for the first time in 14 years.
On Thursday, the Tigers took the first step in seeing that plan come to fruition. Demolition on a 60-year-old ROTC building behind one of the end zones at Hale Stadium is underway.
Knocking down the vacant stone building and the ensuing cleanup to make room for an entrance way into the stadium will take approximately four to six weeks, according to Ron Brooks, TSU’s associate vice president for facilities management.
“For us it is the end of one tradition and hopefully soon the start of another tradition,” Brooks said. “A lot of our alumni have gone through that building with ROTC. Originally, it was a field house. Everybody who has graduated in our lifetime has seen the building because it has been there for so long.
“This is the end of one era and hopefully the launch of another new era.”
Hale Stadium hasn’t held a college football game since 1998. The Tigers continue to practice in the 59-year-old venue but for the last 13 seasons they have played home games downtown at LP Field.
In November, students, alumni and fans voted to bring football back to the stadium, affectionately known as ‘The Hole.’
At least two games will be played on campus in conjunction with the school’s centennial celebration. The first game back at Hale is scheduled for Sept. 15 against Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay.
TSU’s homecoming game and John Merritt Classic will continue to be played at LP Field. School administrators have tossed around the idea of permanently bring back football to Hale. But that would depend on internal and external funds and is expected cost around $27 million to reach the goal of having a 27,000-seat stadium.
Renovations and needed additions to get Hale ready for the 2012 season will cost $1 million.
Along with power washing and painting, temporary restrooms and concessions stands will be added along with 4,000 grandstand seats. The current capacity is 12,000.
Brooks said the next stages of the project will take place in the upcoming months and be slotted around spring football practices, which begin in mid-March.
“I’m sure we will be up to the last minute [before the first game] with certain things, trying to get them done,” Brooks said.