I speculated a couple of weeks ago that one likely approach athletic directors might take in a future when financial growth began to top out would be to adopt a professional approach to their fan base. The trend on the professional level is to shrink overall stadium seating in the newest stadium venues. The goals in doing so are two-fold: one, fewer overall seats means less supply, which means the value of those seats to the buying public increases; and, two, replacing general seating with premium seating is another way to enhance the per seat revenues.
Now, we may have our first canary in the coal mine chirp sounding from, of all places, Gainesville, Florida.
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin has a long-term plan to give The Swamp a much-needed face-lift.
Stricklin wants to “find ways to upgrade the overall quality” of the fan experience inside the outdated football stadium.
He said there is some “low-hanging fruit” that could include improved wireless, an enhanced sound system and upgraded visual boards. He also said restrooms and concession stands would be remodeled throughout the facility.
But the biggest — and most expensive — part of the makeover would include revamped seating.
“There was a time when, probably when the north end zone (section) was done in the early ’90s, when seat count is all anyone cared about,” Stricklin said last week. “Just cram as many people as possible in there. Obviously that is not (the case) when you talk to people who do facilities and stadiums these days.
“That’s not as important as quality and making sure you’re creating an environment that people want to come and participate in. The days of fans being OK sitting three hours on a piece of aluminum, I think, are gone. So we’ve got to find ways to upgrade the overall quality.”
Florida’s last major renovation to The Swamp was completed in 2003. The $50 million expansion included the addition of 2,900 club seats and luxury suites. Little has been done inside Florida Field since.
Stricklin said part of the plan would be to aesthetically overhaul the 90,000-seat stadium, which could reduce capacity and create premium seating closer to the field.
What a coincidence… upgrading the overall quality and increasing revenues. (From Strickland’s point of view, increasing revenues is upgrading the overall quality.)
The reason, by the way, that once upon a time seat count was what folks cared about most is because it was important to athletic directors to make sure that as much of the fan base could attend games as possible. It’s nice that people who do facilities and stadiums these days are much more enlightened about what truly matters.