What would it take to expand the ISU football stadium?
Adding seats to the south end zone would require a lead donor, sustained attendance
Friday, May 24, 2013 7:00 AM
Trying to keep up
The south end zone project would be the largest of a number of facility upgrades for the Iowa State athletics department in recent years, especially since Jamie Pollard was named director of athletics in 2005.
Iowa State has spent more than $100 million on facilities since 2006, and has upped its yearly debt service from about $1.5 million to $6.5 million, Pollard said.
In a college sports era of conference realignment (such as the University of Nebraska leaving the Big 12 Conference for the Big Ten), many schools are competing in what has often been termed an “arms race” of spending on new and upgraded facilities. That’s not how Pollard sees it at Iowa State. Many of the university’s athletic facilities were simply outdated and needed renovation.
Other ISU projects on the radar
• Expand the academic center built in 2007
• Renovate the Olsen Building, which formerly housed football locker rooms and training facilities, to host other sports.
• Build a facility at the cross country course with restrooms and lounge area for teams.
• Renovate the locker rooms in the Lied
• Recreation Athletic Center for the track and wrestling teams, and add seating around the track.
(ISU recently completed a new indoor golf practice facility.)
With record football crowds the past two seasons and the expectation for large crowds in 2013, buzz about a potential stadium expansion has grown among Iowa State University fans. But don’t look for any big changes by next season.
True, Iowa State’s strategic plan since 2006 has been to eventually add seating in Jack Trice Stadium’s south end zone. The expansion would add stadium seating to replace what is currently hillside seating, and potentially an upper deck on top of that.
“It’s still a concept and an idea, an idea that someday we’ll do,” said ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard. “But when we do it, it’s got to be done the right way and at the right time. Now is not the right time, at least financially.”
Pollard estimates the expansion could cost as much as $50 million, and a number of other, smaller athletic projects would take precedence over enclosing the end zone. There’s no specific timeline on it, but he thinks it will happen.
The project will likely require a large donation from a lead donor. Pollard said he has repeatedly talked with several athletic department donors about the project, but hasn’t made any requests for money. And he said he won’t until Iowa State is ready to take on the project, which will probably take the kind of donation that Iowa State has never seen for its athletic programs before.
“What you’ve got to keep in mind is the largest gift we’ve ever gotten for this athletics program was a $5 million gift. The second-largest gift is $2.5 million,” Pollard said. “We’re going to need to raise probably $10 million to $20 million for this project, so that puts it in context of how challenging it’s going to be. It’s going to need to be a transformational gift.”
Though Iowa State wouldn’t consider renaming the stadium, a large donation would likely come with naming rights to the field.
“We’re never going to take Jack Trice’s name off the stadium. That’s iconic and it’s going to stay there,” Pollard said. “But we could be in a spot where we have a donor who wants their name on the field for the type of gift that we’re going to ask them to make.”
What will it take to get to a point where Iowa State will start approaching donors? Increased attendance numbers, mostly.
It’s not as much a matter of making extra money from ticket sales, which wouldn’t contribute too much monetarily in the grand scheme of the project. It’s more about demonstrating consistent demand, showing the need for more seating, and doing that while not having to use special promotions and raising ticket prices in some of the stadium’s cheapest seats.
Iowa State for the first time this season had to cap the number of people in the stadium, declaring a sellout crowd of 56,800 for the Oct. 13 game against Kansas State. For the last two seasons, both of which ended in bowl game appearances, every game has had an attendance of more than 50,000, which had never happened before.
Iowa State announced last week that it expects record season ticket sales for 2013, and anticipates sellout crowds for its first three home games.
“The first time we have a losing season (the Cyclones went 6-6 the last two seasons before losing their bowl games), are we going to fall off or stay with it?” Pollard said. “If we can prove that we can stay with it and keep those crowds, then you’re starting to get to a spot where you’re getting closer to this.”
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