Renovation of Bryant-Denny showcases Alabama extravagance, pride

There wasn’t a nicer on-campus stadium for college football in the entire country than the one in Tuscaloosa.

That’s what I thought about Bryant-Denny before the $107 million renovation. Now? Now, I understand the psychology of those Egyptian pharaohs of old. They wanted eternal homes worthy of not just kings, but gods amongst men.

No. 2 Alabama reopens its palace of Southern power on Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. home game against No.13 Texas A&M. It’s a fittingly symbolic matchup of wealth and extravagance. Texas A&M might have the most money of anyone in the SEC, and the Aggies’ Kyle Field is an experience more than place, but Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium is a monument to an entire state’s uncompromising, unapologetic love for college football.

We do it better than anyone, for good or ill.

Bryant-Denny Stadium is a house of worship, a source of dreams and a place of business. It’s where Tennessee goes to die every other year, and where Crimson Tide glory lives forever. It’s where Paul Bryant built a legacy, and Nick Saban enriched it and made it something better.

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Without guilt or journalistic compromise, I can say that I share in that love of Alabama football even without being a fan of Alabama football. Same goes with Auburn. I’m a proud Alabamian, and for me those teams represent the greatness we can achieve as a state when we work together.

It sure is a complicated love, though, and that seems especially true after this past summer. That’s why I want to reflect for a moment, and pause and say thank you.

On Saturday, I’m going to sit in a brand new press box that was completed by construction workers during our ongoing pandemic, and to them I just want to say thank you.

I’m going to write about players who had the courage to take a stand for this country by standing in the schoolhouse door, and to them I want to say thank you.

I’m going to appreciate being with the fans, and give thanks to the moments we all have together. Lord knows we haven’t had many of those over the last six months.

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We almost didn’t have this season, and while college football is one of the most culturally important things we do in the South, they’re playing these games during a pandemic because of the money at stake. I can appreciate that fact while also enjoying an unprecedented 10-game SEC schedule, and hoping we make it through to the end.

Every week of this college football season we’ve been reminded of the risks these schools are taking to have these games. South Alabama and Troy were supposed to play on Saturday, but it was postponed due to COVID-19-related concerns and contact tracing.

It should be a reminder for everyone that we can’t afford to let our guards down for a moment. Not for ourselves, either. I mean for the people we love. People are always depending on the choices we make.

Just think about all that was sacrificed to get here to this opening game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

While most of us were quarantining this summer, the people renovating Bryant-Denny Stadium were risking their health and the health of their family members to make a living on a jobsite that couldn’t afford to properly shut down during the pandemic. Why? Because so much money runs through Bryant-Denny Stadium on game day.

Major college football like the kind played in the Power 5 conferences was simply too big to fail this season because it is always too big to fail. We play college football at all costs in this country, and it just took a while for the Big Ten to realize what the SEC knew from the beginning. At Alabama, there are some major bills to pay.

This renovation upgraded the recruiting room and lockers to wow the visiting five-star prospects, but those things aren’t why this construction project was conceived. It’s about the new bank of luxury suites, and the “ownership” buy-in for those is in the millions.

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For hopefully decades to come, national corporations and billionaires will be doing business from those high-end places on Saturdays in the fall. Say what you want about the price tag of it all, but ultimately that’s good for business in Alabama.

And, buddy, let me tell you, Southern decadence will be on display. The highest of the high rollers will be up on the seventh floor, and no expense was spared in the building of those party pads: marble everywhere, hardwood intricately crafted and, of course, crystal chandeliers.

According to the blueprints, there are 10 chandeliers in the common area of the seventh floor suites, and they’re priced at $6,000 each. More chandeliers are in the individual suites, and, naturally, the owners had the option of picking out their own styles.

Why so elaborate? Because with Saban as a coach, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the scenery during second halves.

I have but one request. Someone please send me a menu from the seventh floor on Saturday so my stomach can dream. Your identity is safe with me, and I’ll even throw in a pre-packaged boxed lunch.

Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group. He’s on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.

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