I've had some interesting conversations recently around the first real big decision point that Bill Moos is wrestling with. We covered the notion of Phase III versus facilities upgrades a few weeks back but we thought we would shed a little more light on what we're hearing.
Everyone internally is very excited about the Bill Moos hiring. His first few weeks have pretty much confirmed their perception of the man. He's listening a lot right now and he's expected to unveil his vision for how to shape the department and it's budget in the middle of the Summer. Lots of things are on the table including restructuring groups within the athletic department.
But here's the big bad elephant in the room that he needs to address this Summer that will set the direction of many other smaller issues. What do you do with facilities?
What do we know so far? Hit the read more button to get the rundown.
The Weight Room:
This Summer the weight room is being upgraded. It's about a $550K facelift that is already just about paid for. There might be about $100K left on the tab. When the weight room was built back in the mid-90's it was considered a top shelf facility and a recruiting attraction. The facelift is essentially going to modernize the equipment, alter the layout to allow for greater occupancy, and there will be some cosmetic changes. Good stuff and badly needed.
Next on the docket are the locker rooms. Probably about a $1.5 million dollar project and it will be a bit more ambitious with some upgrades and more recruit friendly amenities. Not an Oregon style upgrade but still something that will be really functional and a better recruit story when they walk through. Expect that to kick-off around the Fall or Spring and it probably won't require a massive campaign push. You'll hear about it but it won't be a Phase III style effort to raise funds. More good news, right?
Both are nice and keep us within shouting distance of our Pac-10 competition. But here's the gold standard that Moos is mulling over.
Stadium expansion vs. football only facility:
If Bill Moos walked into a blank slate sort of situation, he wouldn't be doing Phase III. He would be building a football only facility that would be a real recruiting tool and the centerpiece of ushering the athletic department into a new era of competition and bigger budgets. Here are the two scenarios that he's faced with choosing from this Summer.
Expand Martin Stadium:
Phase III expansion fundraising is well underway and it's the upgrade to Martin that Jim Sterk had been building towards for several years. It's the one that was going to bring in the actual dollars to the department. When fully functioning and fully sold it would drive about 50% more to the revenue pool than we have currently. At last check the suites and loge sections were totally sold out. Unfortunately, club seats were only at about 55% reserved. The benefit to getting the expansion done now is simply cost of capital. It will probably never be cheaper in our lifetime to build than it is right now. If we are 60% of the way there right now that probably means we are only 45-50% of the way there in terms of future construction costs. So, if we delay this project we are going to be farther away at getting it built than we are today. Additionally, if you start to sell-out an expanded Martin then it enables you to do spend against all of those other facilities needs quickly and without having to dip frequently into alumni pockets. We are down the road already and Bill Moos must decide if we wants to put a hard stop on two plus years of work and start steering the boat in another direction. It's a huge decision.
Football Only Facility:
The alternative is awfully attractive. We are hearing that Mr. Moos would prefer to build a football only athletic facility if he shutters the Phase III expansion. It would sit right next to Martin Stadium in the area that the team currently uses as a practice area. Ever wonder why they built that funky elevator up to The Cub? It was apparently to accommodate for a future building that would go into this area. The building would likely cost anywhere from $15-20 million and it would immediately put us in the conversation as having the best football facility in the Pac-10 if not the country. It could potentially house their own locker room and lounge area, football offices, football meeting rooms, and even it's own weight room. It would have a Cougar Hall of Fame and memorabilia area and it would have a natural connection to Martin Stadium so you'd literally have a football enclave that connects the stadium to the facility. It would be the centerpiece that would drive better recruiting and in turn better results on the field. These results would conceivably drive ticket demand (like it did in 2001-2003…remember when we actually had a season ticket waiting list???) and then you could build the expansion of the stadium.
So, which direction would you choose? Forego the years of work put into Phase III and risk elevated construction costs to build a football facility OR stay the course and try to get Phase III built when it's cheap and hope that the program turns and drives demand? For me, I would prefer the football facility. I like the idea of seeing what our staff could do if they were recruiting with a facilities advantage. I like the idea of driving demand for seats with a superior product and then expanding to fill that need. I also think that if construction costs are cheap for the stadium expansion then the same rules would have to apply for a football building.
Either way, it will be interesting and fun to see where Bill Moos decides to guide us over the next several years.