Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Facilities Arms Race: “Billions and billions and billions…”

image Maybe the only solidly positive sector in an otherwise moribund US economy? Literally, billions of dollars are being poured into the construction of college athletics facilities.

We touched on one small example earlier today.

Vanderbilt is spending chump change compared to what schools in the SEC and other power conferences are pumping into bigger, newer, better projects This story from Brian Bennett from gives a great run-down of the who, where and why of the construction boom.

Definitely worth a read, and check out what Bennett refers to as “just a sample” of what’s going on:

    • Arizona: In the midst of a $378 million north end zone expansion at Arizona Stadium that will add about 7,000 seats.
    • Arkansas: Recently broke ground on a new, $35 million football operations center.
    • Baylor: In beginning stages of building new stadium at estimated cost of $250 million.
    • Boise State: Recently broke ground on a new, $22 million football complex.
    • California: Completely renovating Memorial Stadium at an estimated cost of $321 million. As of April, the school had raised $35 million with a goal of $270 million in donations by summer 2013.
    • Florida State: Currently raising funds for new indoor practice facility, with hopes of breaking ground this fall.
    • Iowa: In phase one of a two-part, $57 million plan to build a new practice facility and operations building.
    • Kansas State: Has embarked on $75 million project to upgrade west side of Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
    • LSU: Recently approved $100 million expansion of Tiger Stadium, bringing capacity close to 100,000 seats.
    • Louisville: Has begun fundraising for a $7.5 million, 18,000-foot addition to its football complex.
    • Michigan State: Installing new $10 million scoreboard at Spartans Stadium that will be largest in the state.
    • Mississippi State: Expected to open new, $25 million football complex in January.
    • Nebraska: Finishing a $63.5 million expansion of the east side of Memorial Stadium that will add about 6,000 seats.
    • Oklahoma State: Construction underway on a $16 million indoor practice facility, plus new outdoor fields that will cost $3 million.
    • Ohio State: Spending $7 million for new scoreboard and improved sound system and other touches at Ohio Stadium.
    • Syracuse: Upgrading locker rooms and other team areas at a cost of $5 million.
    • Tennessee: In final stages of a $45 million new football complex that will contain 145,000 square feet.
    • TCU: Expected to complete $164 million expansion and renovation to Amon G. Carter Stadium in time for this year's season opener.
    • USC: Scheduled to open the $70 million, 110,000-square foot John McKay Center this summer; complex includes locker rooms, training areas, football offices and a two-story video board.
    • Utah: Coaches are working in trailers as a new, $30 million football complex is being built.
    • Virginia: Planning $13 million indoor practice facility.
    • Virginia Tech: Has announced plans to build a $20 million indoor practice facility.
    • Washington: Work is ongoing on a $250 million renovation of Husky Stadium.
    • Wisconsin: In beginning stages of an $86 million upgrade to locker rooms, weight training and academic areas at Camp Randall Stadium, which also got new turf this summer.

In Bennett’s story, there’s the obligatory whine from an academic who complains of a leaky roof in the Chemistry Department at Kentucky after noting that the 2011-12 National Champs just completed a new basketball practice facility.

Bennett notes that much of the funding for these mega-projects comes from wealthy alumni and booster donations, but that won’t stop some from arguing that the private money should be reallocated to other campus needs. Never mind the fact that the first donation to be used contrary to the donor’s wishes will be the last donation said donor contributes.

There is some questionable “zero sum game” research out there suggesting that athletics giving crowds out academic support, but most administrators would likely dispute that winning doesn’t boost attention and support for the schools’ academic programs.

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