New Kyle Field takes fans' breath away

Fans, coaches and players are thrilled with the new Kyle Field at Texas A&M. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Michele Fraga has been attending Texas A&M games since she was in the womb. Literally.

“There’s a picture we have of my mom when she’s pregnant with me at Kyle Field,” she says. “So I have really been coming to games here since I was in the womb.”

Fraga, whose father, Lupe was a Class of 1957 graduate and baseball player for Texas A&M as well as a former member of the board of regents, is a lifelong Texas A&M fan. She and 104,212 other people in attendance at the opening of the newly redeveloped Kyle Field on Saturday when the Aggies trounced Ball State 56-23 had their breath taken away by the size and sight of Texas A&M’s new home.

“It’s absolutely remarkable,” said Fraga, 48. “No other stadium – and I’ve been to a lot of them – even remotely equates to this. I can’t throw out enough adjectives to describe it.”

That was the common refrain of fans on opening weekend as the Aggies opened their new digs under pleasant conditions for a Texas Saturday in September.

About two hours prior to kickoff, Houston Street, which runs along the East side of Kyle Field, is filled with thousands of people. Everywhere around the stadium fans are stopping on their way in to take photos. Whether it’s the stadium itself, posing with the various statues or taking selfies, everyone seems to be commemorating the moment they attended the first game at the new Kyle Field.

Inside a sellout crowd eagerly awaits the entrance. This stadium was built with noise in mind -- the field was dropped seven feet, the seats were moved closer to the sideline, and canopies were added at the top of the east and west side stands.

The Aggies entrance is well-known now by their fans. In 2012, their first year in the SEC, Kevin Sumlin decided to mix tradition with a modern flavor. The traditional “March of Honor,” a drum cadence by the Aggie Band’s drumline that long preceded the team’s entrance into Kyle Field remained but was accompanied at its conclusion by the start of Kanye West’s rap hit “Power.”

Saturday, when the Aggies walked into the south end zone tunnel and the March of Honor concluded, Power began and 30,000 students on the East side of the stadium chanted along “Heyyy-yyyy.” The new Kyle Field is definitely loud.

The Aggies start fast and cruise to a 49-3 halftime lead. There will be no raining on the maroon parade on this night.

Kenya Collins has been around long enough to see plenty of old Kyle Field. A class of 1992 graduate, Collins worked the concessions for several years between 1999 and 2014. This year she is serving as an usher for the first time. On opening night, she’s on the third deck of the East side of the stadium – the student side.

It’s hectic, with 30,000-plus towel-waving Aggies who stand the entire game and perform yells throughout. Collins has been observing the students all night. The most common reaction from them?

“Wow,” she says.

For herself, it’s breathtaking as well. “It’s very nice,” she says. “We’ve come a long way from the old Kyle Field.”

As the third quarter turns to the fourth, the Aggie War Hymn plays and the students “saw varsity’s horns off.” The crowd is sparse but the student section is still mostly full as the Aggies lead 49-13 heading into the final 12 minutes.

Perhaps the furthest seat from the field on this night is in section 341, row 45 on the Southeast corner of the stadium. On the seat closest to the aisle stands Audrey Nichols, a junior communications major at Texas A&M.

She has been up here, where the view is nice but definitely not close – and three flag poles are within the view – but she has enjoyed the time in the new Kyle Field.

“It was interesting,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of fun. The view was really cool.”

First impression: “It blew my mind. I came to games with my sister in 2010 so I saw old Kyle Field. Seeing it now is so different. It’s insane. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s still home.”

With roughly 10 minutes remaining in the game and the Aggies leading 56-16, this distant section is still mostly full, but once offensive lineman Koda Martin recovers a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, Nichols and several others began heading toward the exits.

After the game, with the Aggies' 56-23 win in hand, Sumlin sums up the sight of a full, new Kyle Field thusly:

"It was awesome," he said. "What a great atmosphere. It's hard to make Kyle Field better, but we did the impossible."