It’s about Dam time: Reser Stadium renovation nears completion

Oregon State University is nearing the completion of a $161 million renovation of Reser Stadium. The newly constructed football field will host its first game on Sept. 8.

As the countdown reached zero, Oregon State University’s Scott Barnes took a final look around at Reser Stadium before kicking off what he thinks of, even 18 months later, as his single favorite act as an athletic administrator.

“Fire in the hole! Let’s do this!” the now 61-year-old athletic director bellowed back in January 2022 before pressing the button that blew Reser Stadium’s west grandstand and its 10,000 seats to bits.

“One of the most exciting three seconds of my career,” Barnes recalled this month as the renovation of the seven-decade-old facility nears its conclusion.

First opened in 1953, Reser Stadium is still covered with bright yellow signs that read, “Warning: Under construction,” and workers are still milling about. But Barnes said the $161 million stadium renovation is indeed in its final stages and will be ready for a new era of Beavers athletics at the Sept. 9 home opener versus the University of California-Davis.

“We are where we wanted to be with time and budget,” Barnes said. “After a couple fixes within the year-round facilities, we should be open and ready for our first game.”

It’s been a long time coming, especially for a football program on the rise. Last season, Oregon State won 10 games and finished No. 17 in the AP poll — its highest finish since 2000 — but did so while playing in half a stadium. With the west side of the stadium under construction, the Beavers never had more than 26,407 fans in attendance to witness the most successful season of head coach Jonathan Smith’s five-year tenure.

It may have been painful, but Lindsay Schnell, a sports reporter for USA Today who attended and covered Oregon State, described the renovation as “necessary and needed” for the Oregon State athletic department to modernize and compete in the NCAA Division I landscape.

“Football makes the college sports world go round,” Schnell said. “What tends to happen is, if football is doing well, it’s almost a chain reaction for the rest of sports.

“The timing couldn’t be more perfect.”

In spite of half the stadium crumbling under Barnes’ thumb, Beaver Nation rejoiced following the implosion. Oregon State alumni such as Schnell recall decades of freezing bathrooms and funky exterior designing.

“Anytime I was there, it always felt like Antarctica,” she said.

Oregon State Athletic Director Scott Barnes works in his office inside of Gill Coliseum. Barnes, 61, said the newly renovated Reser Stadium comes along with higher expectations. “We’re going to be ready,” he said.

Fans helped raise more than $90 million toward the renovation. They’ll notice a rebuilt press box and a taller grandstand on the west end. A larger video board was installed last season.

When the cranes leave, the Beavers will finally be done with a project that technically began with the “Raising Reser” campaign in 2003. That $80 million renovation of the east side of the stadium was completed in 2005.

When the west side is finished, Reser’s official capacity will be around 36,000 fans — nearly 8,000 fewer than its capacity prior to the demolition. The decline in capacity has been a topic of public debate. Barnes, however, is not worried.

“This is a renovation, a modernization, not an expansion,” Barnes said, adding that flex seating can expand capacity when needed. “We want to sell out every game, get the crowd going and be more involved.”

According to Barnes, the implosion offered more bang for the buck than a remodel. Not only will it give the stadium, as Barnes said, “a chance to start from scratch,” but it will allow for a better and more stable exterior design, he said.

Barnes said Oregon State will soon have a “best-in-class” facility that’s not just for the football program.

“What’s unique about this project is the medical center for student health. So, if you’re a general student you can come to the medical center in the stadium for your student health care,” Barnes said.

Oregon State is set to bring in media on Aug. 8 to tour the facility, which will soon open to a deep Oregon State roster that includes the headlining transfer of former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.

The expectations are high for the Beavers — and they should be, Barnes said, now that they have a stadium to match the quality of the team that plays inside.

“We’re going for a conference championship,” he said. “We’re gonna be ready.”

— Angie Interian Solis, Parkrose High School, and Mohammed Damtew, Ida B. Wells High School

This story was produced by student reporters as part of the High School Journalism Institute, an annual collaboration among The Oregonian/OregonLive, Oregon State University and other Oregon media organizations. For more information or to support the program, go to