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New $1 Billion Home Of The SEC Championship Game Pure Sci-Fi

The Atlanta Falcons and the city of Atlanta reached an agreement in March that will lead to the building of a new $1 billion stadium in the heart of the city.  Yesterday, renderings of a pair of designs for the retractable roof stadium hit the internet.  And, boy, did they make a splash.

 

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Photo #2 looks like an opened flower, or perhaps a partially-peeled Vidalia onion, which would be appropriate.

If you haven’t guessed it, the “oculus” in the middle of the field is the retractable roof part.

 

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The other possibility — though it seems rather quaint compared to the “Logan’s Run” dome above — is for a concept called “The Solarium.”

 

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According to a report by the Georgia World Congress Center, whichever design gets the nod, the stadium will feature “impact seating.”  You know what impact seating is, don’t you?  It’s a chairback seat that vibrates when players collide on the field.

In addition, IMAX-style screens are to be located above the seating areas — take that, Jerry Jones — to create “football in the round,” a 360-degree immersion into the game.

You can find a video run-through of the designs right here.

We bring you this update on the Falcons’ stadium because the new venue is all but guaranteed to become home to the SEC Championship Game each December, too.  And if you’re already chomping at the bit to see SEC football played in a building better suited for a game of “Triad,” you only have to wait until 2017.

 

War of the Gods Triad Battlestar Galactica

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SEC/Big XII Ask 10 Cities To Bid For “Champions” Bowl

At first, the new “Champions” Bowl featuring the winners of the SEC and the Big XII — when they’re not in the national playoffs — was expected to be its own new game.  Then word trickled out from both conferences suggesting the game could simply partner with an existing bowl.  At that point, the Cotton Bowl and Jerry Jones’ mammoth Cowboys Stadium became everyone’s favorite to land/become the “Champions” Bowl.

Ah, but yesterday ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that SEC/Big XII officials had requested bids for the game from 10 cities:

 

1.  Dallas (which likely means Arlington and Cowboys Stadium)

2.  New Orleans

3.  Atlanta

4.  Phoenix (likely meaning Glendale and the Cardinals’ home dome)

5.  Houston

6.  Orlando

7.  Nashville

8.  San Antonio

9.  Tampa

10.  Jacksonville

 

While someone in the SEC office told me the game is “still finding its legs,” this list suggests that the two conferences want to bid out their game each year and simply partner with whatever bowl exists in the city that bids the most cash.

According to Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News, the leagues are willing to accept a lump sum payout from the bowls/cities or some sort of new revenue-sharing model.  This would mean that the bowls/cities would take out a management fee to actually run the bowl and then split the rest of the revenue — at some percentage — with the SEC and the Big XII.  I spoke to two bowl officials last week who suggested the bowls involved would want some portion of the $80 million per year television contract the leagues have reportedly inked with ESPN.  Solomon reports, however, that the conferences won’t be sharing that cash… or revenue brought in from a title sponsor.  (The exception being when the “Champions” Bowl is part of the national playoffs and the proceeds are split with other leagus.)

But if a bowl gets none of the television money, has to give up its own title partner for a year, and can only keep a percentage of the game revenue — tickets, concessions, parking, etc — over and above a built-in management fee, then why bid?  While hosting the SEC/Big XII “champions” would be a nice draw for viewers and tourists ready to pay higher ticket prices, a game like the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, for example, might actually stand to make more money with its usual Big XII/Pac-12 middle-of-the-pack game.  In that case, it would be paying out its usual lump sums to those leagues, it would still be able to pocket the cash from corporate sponsor Valero, and it would be able to keep a chunk of ESPN television money.

From a “wow” factor, landing the “Champions” Bowl would be a win for any bowl.  But from the bowl officials I spoke with, the cash factor wouldn’t be nearly so great.  So it will be interesting to see which of the above cities decide to make bids.  You can bet that ego will play a role in who does and doesn’t and that — again — leads back to Jerry Jones and Arlington.

As for the cities invited to bid, six are in SEC states, three are in Texas (a state shared by both conferences), and Phoenix is outside both leagues’ footprints (though the Big XII has a tie-in with the Fiesta Bowl as part of the current BCS set-up).

It’s hard to imagine some of the cities on the list actually landing the game, but it certainly makes sense for the conferences to ask 10 cities to bid.  The more cities involved, the more competition for the game and, in the end, the more cash the leagues will pocket from the winning bidder.

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LSU Looks To Expand Tiger Stadium; Who’ll Be The First To Go The Other Way?

LSU officials announced yesterday that a proposal to expand Tiger Stadium will be taken to the school’s board of supervisors next week.  That proposal will call for the addition of:

 

* Approximately 60 suites

* Approximately 3,000 club seats (above the current South end zone seats)

* Approximately 1,500 general seats (above the proposed new club seats)

 

A number of SEC institutions have recently completed expansion (Alabama) or renovation (Tennessee) projects at their football stadium sites.  Others — like Mississippi State — are working to add seats.  Vanderbilt is going to add a grass berm area in the open end zone at Dudley Field.  Missouri officials are expected to look at future expansion of Faurot Field.  And at Texas A&M there’s talk of possibly demolishing Kyle Field in favor of building a newer, better, bigger facility in its place.

All that sounds good and the idea clearly is to bring in more cash for cash-strapped universities.  (Though it seems hard to call these schools cash-strapped when they’re bringing in record revenue from ticket prices and television contracts.)

Unfortunately, attendance is dropping across the country for most sporting events.  Many schools and professional franchises are finding it harder and harder to compete against wall-to-wall HD television coverage.

Years ago, a fan’s only option to see his team play was to buy a ticket and attend a game.  Now, a fan can sit in his media room, dial up his own school’s game in crystal clear HD — or even 3D — and also flip around the dial through dozens of other games in a single given day.  Think about it.  You’ll be able to see more college football games in a weekend this fall than you could have in an entire year just 20 years ago.  That’s a staggering jump in terms of options.

Also, some “common” fans are already being priced out of their favorite team’s games.

At some point, one major university will decide to build a stadium that caters first and foremost to the richest of the rich.  The overall seating capacity will take a deep slice while the size and luxuriousness of its suites and club areas will grow.  Bigger seats, better food, better views and better parking.  Closer proximity to the players and coaches might also be a draw — a la Jerry Jones’ catwalk at Cowboys Stadium where his team enters through a club level.

Ramping up the event factors of attending a game while cutting down on the ability to get into said game might just drive overall revenues even higher with less seats to sell.  Think Augusta National.  There might once again be something special about saying, “Yes, I was actually at the game on Saturday.”

In the short run, it makes sense for programs like Alabama and LSU and Texas A&M to expand their stadiums — while also adding club suites and box seats — while the demand for tickets is high.  But all programs have highs and lows, as older fans at Bama, LSU and A&M well know.

So in the long run we may begin to see a shift toward stadiums designed to go head-to-head with the comfort of your own living room.  And that might mean smaller stadium capacities… with much more room and many more amenities for the biggest of boosters.

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