(from Sports Business Journal, September 23-29, 2013)
The downward trend in attendance for college football has architects designing smaller stadiums that can grow as needed. According to NCAA figures college football has seen a 2% decrease in attendance over the past four years. This small but concerning number has athletic administrators focused on how to fill the seats and make sure fans enjoy their experience.
Baylor University’s new stadium is one that will expand when needed, and it is expected to open in August. Jeff Spear, Senior Architect and Principal with Populous who is the design firm for this project, says that the stadium will open with 42,500 fixed seats and standing room for 2,500. The stadium will have the capacity to add 10,000 more seats for a total capacity of 55,000. Spear said, “People aren’t going to games as much, nobody wants to play in an empty building. Schools are looking at [the trend] and if there is a surplus of demand, there are strategies in place to grow.”
Baylor’s average attendance for football was 41,494 for 6 home games last year, and over the past 62 years only five crowds have reached the 50,000 person capacity of Floyd Casey Stadium, the current home of the Baylor Bears. Because of the lack of attendance, Baylor officials removed 3,000 of the seats by putting a tarp over them to lower the capacity to 47,000. Doug McNamee, Baylor’s Assistant Athletic Director for Premium Sales and Services, says that for the new stadium, the demand and donations for premium seating is exceeding the demand for lodge boxes and suites. As of now Baylor has raised more than its goal of $125 million by raising $130 million to total the project to 250 million dollars.
Baylor is not the first facility to have the ability to expand, and there are plans put in place already ensuring that it will not be the last of its kind.