After a disputed touchdown lifted the Texas Tech football team to a 23-21 victory over Oklahoma in 2005, a viral video captured the sounds of an unseen Red Raiders fan disrupting post-game interviews with Sooners fullback J.D. Runnels and offensive coordinator Chuck Long.
As reporters chatted with Runnels on the ramp outside the visitors’ locker room, the fan yelled down from the bleachers above, too loud to be ignored, at enough distance to fire away with impunity. Runnels answered a few questions, stopped, smiled and glanced up in irritation after others.
Long stopped his interview, suggesting to reporters they move farther down the ramp to get away from the noise. The heckler shouted “Gooo Raaaiders!” about a dozen times.
The video can be seen on YouTube, where it has 346,000 views.
It took place in the southeast corner of Jones AT&T Stadium, where the visitors’ locker room has been for generations. Come 2024, the “Go Raiders!” guy might have a harder time pulling it off.
When Tech’s ongoing, $220 million football facilities project is finished, visiting teams’ game-day operations will move permanently to the northeast corner of the stadium. The new visitors’ locker room and ramp will be constructed there. That’s where the visitors’ equipment truck and team buses will go, too.
Latest on construction: Coming soon: Jones AT&T Stadium project staying on schedule for ’23 upgrades, ’24 completion
Tech officials say it will solve problems — or prevent them from developing — before, during and after games.
“It’s going to make, I think for our fans, a much better experience,” said Chris Huckabee, chair of the Red Raider Facility Foundation. “It’ll put their buses and their trucks out close to Marsha Sharp Freeway rather than up by our fans and our (Football) Training Facility, so it moves them out to the north side of the stadium.”
Cody Campbell, a member of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents, said the new logistics will “be great from an operational standpoint.”
“It gets the visiting buses and trucks out from being where our fans are before the game and where people are passing through,” Campbell said.
The current visitors’ locker room, and opposing teams’ equipment trucks and buses on game day, are only a few steps away from the Tech Football Training Facility. It’s a fairly narrow corridor of high pedestrian traffic for fans and where the Red Raiders retreat after games.
Tech envisions that area soon being all about Tech.
“We think it will become a very active plaza, which we call Sixth Street, but it’s a pedestrian walkway,” Huckabee said. “We think it’s going to create a very nice experience for our fans and will move all their trucks and trailers down to the other end.”
Last July, Tech announced plans to build a four-level south end zone building and two-level daily headquarters to be named the Womble Football Center.
Though it wasn’t public at the time, Tech officials were debating whether to put the visitors’ locker room in the southwest or northeast corners of the stadium, which the Avalanche-Journal first reported in August.
The Red Raiders’ new entrance to the field will be directly behind the south-end goalpost beginning in 2024. Having the visiting team in the southwest corner would be problematic, Tech officials decided.
“They would be crossing all the way across the field and potentially across our guys in order to get to their sideline,” Campbell said, “so this is a much better approach. Game-day operations-wise, it’ll be really, really good.”
Foot traffic around the south end of the stadium is just as big a consideration.
“The visiting buses and trucks would have had to be out there right there on that southwest tunnel, which is a huge thoroughfare,” Campbell said. “We didn’t want their stuff there, where all of our people are.
“So I think it’s better from a safety standpoint, plus interaction with our fans and everything before the game. I think (the locker room relocations) will be a big positive for a lot of reasons.”
The new locker rooms won’t be ready until 2024, so visiting teams to Jones AT&T Stadium in 2023 will dress in trailers. And both teams will enter and exit the stadium via the ramp in the southeast corner, Tech officials told the A-J in April.
“It’ll be multiple trailers,” Huckabee said, “because you’ve got to have a bathroom unit, shower/toilet facilities and then you’ve got locker rooms, and there will be several of them put together to make a larger locker room. Multiple trailers to make that happen.”
There has been no entryway to the field in either the northeast or northwest corners of the stadium. The one planned to be constructed before the 2024 season will be a partial ramp, Huckabee said.
“You tunnel into the stadium,” he said. “Most of it’s ramping exterior and then a little bit of a tunnel there right before you enter the field.”
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: What went into the decision to relocate visitors’ locker room at Jones AT&T Stadium?