By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Drayton McLane remembers one of his mentors telling him that we don't use "the most powerful thing we have."
"And that's dare to dream; it's free," McLane said during Saturday's McLane Stadium Dedication ceremony in the spacious Baylor Club. "It's free (to dream), and we have great ideas."
The 78-year-old McLane, formerly the Chairman of Baylor's Board of Regents and owner of the Houston Astros, saw one of his biggest dreams come true with the opening of the $266 million, riverfront McLane Stadium that brings the football team back to campus for the first time since 1935, the year before he was born.
"The most difficult thing in life is change, big ideas," he said. "It scares people to death."
McLane credits Baylor Vision 2012, which included the goal of having an on-campus stadium, as "the beginning of why we're here today. We had a big idea."
"We have this stadium, we have other fine athletic facilities, but we have a magnificent university that's based on higher Christian education. And that's what's really exciting," he said. "Our responsibility as Baylor graduates and Baylor supporters and as Christians is to hand it off better than we found it."
And as McLane told Baylor President Ken Starr when he pitched the stadium, it's also helped the school fund the new $100 million business building, finish off the president's $100 million scholarship endowment initiative and complete the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC).
"What it says is that you can dream big, you can do things at Baylor that we haven't been able to do before," said Richard S. Willis, the current chairman of Baylor's Board of Regents. "Our freshman class is over 3,600, far and away the biggest freshman class we've ever had. And our ACT scores are higher than they've ever been in the history of Baylor University, So, not only are we getting a huge class of freshmen, but they're the best students we've ever had."
Director of Athletics Ian McCaw said the stadium was "really the culmination of so many wonderful things."
"I'm certainly excited to see our students and fans arrive (Sunday). I think they'll be captivated with, first of all, the whole pregame festivities - the pageantry that goes on outside the stadium, the tailgating area, sailgating, just the Baylor family coming together. And as they transition into the stadium, I think they'll be incredibly impressed with the 5,000-square-foot video board, the ribbon board that goes around the stadium, the state-of the-art sound system and just the electricity within McLane Stadium is going to be something special," he said.
In addition to McLane and the other Founders - John Eddie and Sheridan Williams, Paul and Alejandra Foster, Clifton and Betsy Robinson, Bob and Janice Simpson, Jim and Julie Turner and Baylor Scott & White Health - the constant message from Saturday's dedication ceremony is that "we wouldn't be here today" without the support and partnership with the city of Waco.
"I think this is a time that Baylor will reflect on and Waco will reflect on these times and say, `This is one of those bends in the hockey stick where things were going well and then sort of took off," said Megan Henderson, Executive Director of the Waco Downtown Development Corporation. "It's exciting to be a part of this exciting time and see the advanced art of welcoming people to the community."
Brian Nicholson, Baylor's Vice President for Operations and Facilities Management, said the Traditions Rally on Thursday was "an emotional event, seeing 15,000 of our friends come in."
"The place gets a little lonely when you look at the same 30 to 40 people every day," Nicholson said. "I'm just excited to sit back and watch all those people come across the Umphrey Bridge and into the stadium."
Wes Yeary, a former Baylor football player and current Director of Sports Ministry, voiced the dedication prayer:
"Lord, we thank you for the vision that you gave Drayton McLane years ago. And we thank you for the many men and women who shared that vision and bought into. We thank you for the McLane family and the Williams family and the Umphrey family and so many hundreds of families that gave, that made sacrifices, through their time and their efforts and trhough coming together with others in helping bild this place.
"Father, we pray that this place will be used for your glory and you use it to bring people together of all walks of life from all over the world. And that the things that take place in this stadium here bring great glory to you, and that you use it to impact lives for eternity.
"We want to commit this place, dedicate this place, to you; that it will be a vessel, that it will be a house you use to change lives.
"Tonight, with this family, we just want to say we love you and give you great things for all the work that you did to bring people together and provide the resources for this place. And as your children, we pray tht you will use it for your glory and for you to do in it and through it whatever you desire. So, here it is, Father. Bless it, use it. And as your people, Father, we give you great thanks. And most of all, we thank you for your son, Jesus, and the price he paid so that we can be called your children. It's in his precious name that we play and pray. Amen."