It was official confirmation following years of planning and fundraising
Cookeville – Tucker Stadium has stood tall on the Tennessee Tech campus since 1966 as countless student-athletes have taken to the Overall Field turf. The stories the facility could tell as it has hosted championships and special events, while it’s been the home of the Golden Eagles for generations.
As University President Dr. Phil Oldham took the stage last week at the Tennessee Tech Football Alumni Reunion and Golf Classic, he said the words that excited the gathered alumni at the Leslie Town Centre: “We’re building a new football stadium.”
It was official confirmation following years of planning and fundraising, all set to give the aging facility a facelift.
“It’s time to do something different with it,” Oldham said. “We’re excited about that. We’re going to rebuild the west side of Tucker Stadium. I’ll put it in football lingo – we’re 1st-and-goal on the 10-yard line and we just have to get it across the goal line.”
With the stated plan to begin demolition on the west side in Dec., the process will then begin to give the facility a well-deserved facelift and provide Tennessee Tech’s supporters with new amenities to enhance the game day experience.
“Pardon the pun, but it’s a game-changer,” Oldham said. “Fans are so vital to driving the success of an athletics program, especially football, and fans today have pretty high expectations for that fan experience at a game. They want nicer amenities, VIP-type seating, more options for concessions and that’s what we intend to do.”
The details Oldham delivered to the crowd included that the construction process will take approximately 18-to-20 months and the design is in its final stages.
Updating and enhancing Tucker Stadium is just part of the equation, though. It will play a big part in driving fans to Cookeville and Tennessee Tech for events, but it also stretches beyond the campus’ reach
“It has a great impact on the university as a whole as it creates more enthusiasm, excitement and school spirit,” Oldham said. “It also impacts the community with a tremendous economic impact on the broader community of Cookeville and the Upper Cumberland.”
The investment into Tucker Stadium is an important one and another piece to the ever-growing, ever-changing landscape of Tennessee Tech as new buildings continue to rise on campus and drive the campus ever forward the future.
“As a university, if you’re not growing or getting better, you’re dying,” Oldham said. “There’s really not an alternative here. You have to keep pushing forward. Yes, these things are challenging, but you meet them, get the people around you to support you and make it happen.”
While it’s not the first improvement to Tucker Stadium, it is the first major construction project to the facility since nearly its inception in the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Artificial turf was added in 1970 and refreshes in 1980, 1994, 2007 and 2021 and a seating expansion took place in 1971 the year before the Golden Eagles stood as one of the top NCAA College Division teams in the country as the 1972 squad reached the Grantland Rice Bowl.
New lights were added in 2008 to bring the facility up to broadcast standards, the press box was updated in 2009, then a 100-by-50-foot Daktronics videoboard in 2018 – one of the largest in the Football Championship Subdivision – was added behind the South end zone.
Of course, it’s not the only project in progress as the fundraising process continues for the Football Operations Center, planned to be behind Tech Softball Field by the Athletic Performance Center.
With those projects, the alumni and the community — through donations and support – have helped make these developments from lines on a blueprint into reality.
“It’s really exciting to see everyone come together,” Oldham said. “That’s probably the greatest success of all. It usually starts off kind of slow and sluggish, and there’s always some critics and naysayers that say ‘I don’t think you can do it.’ It almost invariably picks up momentum and everyone gets excited about it. I think we’re at that point right now.”
For the nearly 60-year-old venue, it’s a whole new lease on life – an opportunity to keep standing and create more legends, while offering something new for the program and its followers.
“Sixty years at Tucker Stadium is a lot of history and a lot of you helped build that legacy that history,” Oldham said to the football alumni. He then shifted to the family of the late Ottis Phillips, a Tech football alumnus and community leader that helped spearhead the effort.
“Ottis and his family mean a lot to Athletics and the Tennessee Tech football family. Ottis stepped up early and was absolutely convinced we had everything in place, and we could do this. We met multiple times, and he was a great inspiration to me as I know he was to many of you. We owe it to him and everybody else to get these projects done and I appreciate all the help you all have done to make this happen.”