The university has not wasted time preparing for construction of an on-campus stadium. ACU petitioned the city of Abilene to re-zone property north of Ambler Avenue and abandon ACU Drive, which cuts through the land.
The university owns the plot of land on both sides of ACU Drive across Ambler. Although renderings of the new stadium on the north side of campus show a parking lot on that plot, the only construction that will take place for now as a result of the city’s approval will be to remove ACU Drive and consolidate the land. Legally, the city owns the street and the university had to petition the Abilene City Council and the city’s zoning commission to abandon the property. Any changes to the street are not legal until the university has completed the petition process.
Kevin Roberts, vice president for planning and operations, said the university is now awaiting the city’s decision to make the changes.
Petitions for changes go to the Abilene Planning and Zoning Committee, a sub-set of the city council. That committee reviews plans to decide whether they are passed on to the city council. Upon receiving the petition, the council has to organize an open meeting to read the petition. A period of one month is given for the public to present their sides on the plan before the council meets to vote for the approval or rejection.
“ACU intends to abandon ACU Drive for the purpose of beautifying the surrounding area as people enter Abilene to head toward campus and the city,” Roberts said.
ACU is working with local engineering firm, Hibbs & Todd, as its representative to handle the paperwork that is required. This also includes the petition and surveys, and to outline any gas, water or electrical lines that go through the land and to chart out the changes that will occur and how it will be done.
Surveys were collected within the neighborhoods near the land, Roberts said. Those housing areas, such as Country Meadows and Roundtree Lane, gave positive feedback toward the removal of ACU Drive because it will improve traffic and reduce speeding near Judge Ely. The city council would refuse the petition only if the communities living near the land are against it, Robert said. But according to the surveys, the nearby neighborhoods are in favor of the plan.
“We worked very closely with the city to try to make sure they’re OK with it,” Roberts said. “They don’t want that road either.”
Because of the legal side of abandoning the road, even if the city council is in favor of ACU’s plan, the process of permitting it has to be followed, he said.
Ben Bryners, development services manager with Abilene’s Planning and Development Services Department, said the denial of the right-of-way to abandoning the street, if any, is due to any negativity from the community.
“We had some very specific meetings with the folks of the surrounding neighborhoods,” Roberts said. “We just explained our plan to them and ensured them that we weren’t going to be building the football stadium right beside their homes, and they seem happy with it.”
ACU has made special considerations to the community to guarantee the entrances to their homes will be protected.
“We want to ensure that they will still have good access to their neighborhood, which they will and it will be easy for them to get in and out,” Roberts said.
Before 1993, the ACU Drive used to be North Judge Ely Boulevard. This same road ran through campus, between Elmer Gray Stadium and the present site of Crutcher Scott Field. The street used to run straight through the university property. Because of ACU’s expansion across old Judge Ely and the construction of new Judge Ely, the street was renamed. This change created what we now know as North Judge Ely Boulevard, which runs along the east of campus.
The transformations that occurred are possible because ACU owns most of the land that surrounds the campus. The university is waiting for the one-month period to end and for a city council vote, which will take place April 10.
“Once the city abandons the property, ACU will have to re-plat the land before any construction or improvements are to be made,” Bryners said.
The university will have to redraw all the permanent records and maps to remove ACU Drive. The process is called “replatting” and will take about a month to complete.
Plans for any construction on the land will not take place anytime soon while the university concentrates on fundraising for the stadium and buildings on campus.
As far as a parking lot and crosswalk is concerned, ACU has made considerations to it but will not be taking action soon, Roberts said.