Reprinted from the CEFMA newsletter.
The oldest college football stadium in the country is Franklin Field — host to the University of Pennsylvania’s Quakers since 1895 — which boasts more than 800 games over its 122-year history. Harvard Stadium, which opened in 1903 but brags that it is the oldest permanent concrete structure in the country, was followed by the opening of Bobby Dodd Stadium, home to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, in 1913.
These early facilities had a seating capacity that ranged from 7,000 to 30,000. Today, most Division I college football stadiums average around 60,000 seats, with a select few exceeding 100,000.
It used to be that these grandiose facilities would only be used during the fall, about 10 times a year, when they came to life with the sounds of screaming fans, marching bands, and the public-address announcer relaying the action on the field. The rest of the year, they would sit dormant. But times are changing. In today’s ultra-competitive environment, institutions of higher learning must find opportunities to generate revenue whenever and wherever possible.
As the pressure to build bigger, newer stadiums to attract better athletes continues to increase, schools are looking for ways to generate revenue 12 months a year, and are getting creative about how they do it. Stadiums need to be able to adapt to all kinds of uses, including all types of sporting events, community gatherings, live concerts, political rallies, and graduation ceremonies. And they are learning some lessons from professional teams and facilities around the globe that are facing the same reality.
A recent New York Times article stated, “The English soccer club Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, set to open next year in London, will accommodate multiple sports with a field that can retract to reveal artificial turf to host N.F.L. games. T-Mobile Arena, the home of the N.H.L.’s Vegas Golden Knights, has two towers jutting from the interior, each serving as part-time viewing platforms and, occasionally, nightclubs. And plans for a 60,000-seat football stadium for the Washington Redskins include a recreational moat that can be used for kayaking and surfing in the summer and ice-skating in the winter, while its external skin could double as a climbing or rappelling wall.”
The idea of sporting stadiums hosting non-sports events is not new. You might be showing your age if you remember when the Beatles embarked upon their first tour of the United States and historically played at Yankee Stadium — the first music concert ever held at an outdoor sports venue. You may also recall when, after 9/11, the city of New York again called on Yankee Stadium to house the thousands of families attending the memorial service for those lost in the attack. Now this is becoming the norm as facilities try to maximize
their usage, become relevant in the community, compete with television broadcasts, and generate additional revenue.
There is illustrious history in these houses of football worship, but they must continue to adapt and evolve if they are to remain relevant in today’s environment. It is not just about sports anymore.
Authored by: Tim Miller, Director of Business Development, InProduction