When the University of Kentucky ousted Joker Phillips, we said the school would have to invest in its football program or it wouldn’t matter who the Wildcats hired as their next head coach. When UK tabbed Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to be that man, we again stated that only a serious investment in football would allow him an opportunity to succeed.
You can guess then that we give a big thumbs-up to the school’s plan to renovate Commonwealth Stadium.
The plans for the stadium upgrade have been in the works for a while, but UK launched a new website yesterday to help raise funds for the project. According to kfundonline.com, the school wants to add:
* Improved concessions, restrooms, video boards and security for fans.
* A multi-purpose recruiting room
* 10 to 15 suites to seat 100-150 attendees
* 2,000 to 2,500 club seats
* New press facilities
* A new team store
The site says the school’s goal is to “maintain, or slightly reduce, seating capacity while increasing the value of the remaining seats.” Those who’ve read this site for a while know that we’ve been expecting schools to start going smaller with their seating capacities and nicer with the amenities they provide. UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said the following in December:
“People write me all the time saying build an 80,000-seat stadium. No, we don’t need that. Probably, if we do anything, we’ll go the other way. Less and better. And make it really classy. And try and put something that is pretty special to it and make it a better fan experience for those who come. And make the ticket something that is a valuable commodity rather than something that you can pick up anywhere.”
Suites, club-level seating, increasing the value of remaining seats… obviously the school is looking to make more money off of its football program and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the big addition for Stoops — if/when it comes to pass — is the new recruiting room. Kentucky football has needed a new recruiting area to meet with prospects and families for several years. In fact, Joker Phillips must be sick to his stomach that the room is being built after his dismissal.
The overall renovation of Commonwealth Stadium has a projected cost of $125 million.
UK is taking a step in the right direction. James Franklin has done a wonderful job at Vanderbilt, but he’s also gotten more financial support than previous Commodore coaches. Dan Mullen has turned around the fortunes at Mississippi State and stadium expansion is on the docket in Starkville as well. The traditional have-nots of the SEC have proven in recent years that they can compete with the haves if they have enough support from fans, donors, and school administrators.
If Stoops gets support as Franklin and Mullen have, his job will become a whole lot easier.