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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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