America's incredibly expensive college football stadiums

Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan

(CNN)See if you can wrap your mind around this eye-popping price tag for a renovated college football stadium in Texas: half a billion dollars.

That's right, five years ago Texas A&M expanded and improved Kyle Field to the tune of $485 million. That equals more than half a billion in 2018 dollars.
That's more money than the gross national product of some small nations.
In fact, many universities in places like Tennessee, Kansas, Arizona and elsewhere are shelling out astronomical funds to build shiny new stadiums, or to make their existing facilities bigger and better.
    A lot, if not most, of the money for these multimillion-dollar facilities comes from private donors, but the ultra-high numbers speak volumes about the role of sports in America's education system.
    Sporting events, particularly football, have become cash cows that are critical to the overall economic success of many institutes of higher learning.
    Even after adjusting for inflation, experts say the cost of modernizing or replacing aging stadiums is generally pricier than a generation ago.
    Design and construction standards are generally higher.
    And so are the expectations of 21st century fans.
    They expect amenities like club level seats, premium concession areas, video screens throughout the stadium and robust connectivity.
    Let's take a quick look at a few recent, pricey renovations along with some of their best features.

    Making history with half a billion bucks

    Kyle Field in College Station, Texas
    Texas A&M University
    Stadium: Kyle Field (opened in 1927)
    Location: College Station, Texas
    2014-2015 renovation cost: $485 million ($514 million in 2018 dollars)
    Capacity: 102,733
    What the money bought: The latest renovation of Kyle Field was "one of the largest and most extensive redevelopment projects in the history of collegiate athletics," according to the Texas A&M website.
    That's not surprising, given the final price: more than half a billion in 2018 dollars.
    The project transformed Kyle Field from a horseshoe-shaped facility to one fully surrounded by seats, making it "one of the five largest stadiums in collegiate football."
    It also boasts one of college football's largest video boards, measuring 47 feet by 163 feet.

    For $400 million: No more wooden benches

    Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana
    University of Notre Dame
    Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium (opened in 1930)
    (Renovation included three new academic buildings)
    Location: South Bend, Indiana
    2014-2017 renovation cost: $400 million ($408 million in 2018 dollars)
    Capacity: approximately 78,000
    What the money bought: Notre Dame called this renovation and new construction plan the largest building project in its more than 170-year history. The wooden benches are gone from the stadium known as the "House that Knute Rockne Built." In their place: vinyl-covered steel benches that are 2 inches wider, the South Bend Tribune reported. A gigantic 96-by-54 foot video screen dominates the south wall. The renovation also included a stronger Wi-Fi and cellular network, according to the school. But seating capacity dropped from nearly 83,000 to fewer than 79,000. Other improvements include new lights, a new press box and new accoutrements on the concourses.

    $350 million in Jayhawk improvements

    Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas
    University of Kansas
    Stadium: David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium (opened in 1922)
    Location: Lawrence, Kansas
    2018-2022 renovation cost: $350 million (projected)
    (includes new facilities for other sports)
    Capacity: 50,071
    What the money is expected to buy: A five-year renovation that is planned to begin at the end of the 2018 season is expected to include a new indoor practice facility, new seating decks, a high-definition video scoreboard, new luxury seating, concourses and concession areas, reports

    $340 million for the Volunteers

    Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee
    University of Tennessee
    Stadium: Neyland Stadium (opened in 1921)
    Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
    2018-2020 renovation cost: $340 million (projected)
    Capacity: above 100,000 (projected)
    What the money is expected to buy: The Tennessee Volunteers have big plans for the "fifth largest stadium in the nation." Phase One -- which is just getting under way -- is expected to last two years, according to New entry towers and gates will be built along with improvements to the stadium exterior. Also in the works are plans to expand the south concourse, including new restrooms and concession stands.

    Earthquake-proof for $321 million

    Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California
    University of California, Berkeley
    Stadium: California Memorial Stadium (opened in 1923)
    Location: Berkeley, California
    2010-2012 renovation cost: $321 million ($351 million in 2018 dollars)
    Capacity: 62,467
    What the money bought: The sweeping renovation project included major engineering changes aimed at protecting the stadium from earthquake damage. Also new: a press box, a posh University Club, walkways, restrooms and concession stands. Wooden bleachers were replaced with aluminum bleachers, according to local news site Berkeleyside. "We've gone from arguably the worst conditions for Division 1 football to among the best," Director of Cal Athletics Sandy Barbour told Berkeleyside in 2012.

    Breathtaking view