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Before the players hit the court for the 2015 NCAA March Madness, a group of collegiate sports authorities gathered to host a candid discussion on maximizing current and future basketball facilities.
Bob Beaudine, CEO, Eastman & Beaudine; Dan Leibovitz, associate commissioner, American Athletic Conference; Scott Drew, head coach, Baylor University; Troy Dannien, director of athletics, University of Northern Iowa; and I were part of the panel discussion held at the Indiana Convention Center on April 3.
Our topic was: “Should you renovate existing facilities or build new sports venues?”
How does an athletics director go about deciding whether to build new or renovate? What factors go into the decision?
Troy Dannien, Director of Athletics, University of Northern Iowa
“For us, being the mid-major program on the rise, we always have aspirations to build the best in the facilities arms race. But as the athletics director, I need to balance that with the realization that we have to look for the most value per dollar invested in our facilities. Mixed-use is critical for us. For me, to do my job right and for our program to continue to succeed, we have to get the most use out of our facilities, day in and day out. In some cases, this means we get to build a new facility. Other times, we have to start small and adjust our sights accordingly in terms of construction. Either way, our coaches, student-athletes and staff are moving the needle forward a little bit at a time, every opportunity they get.”
Is a coach always going to want to build new rather than renovate? What factors play into this for a coach?
Scott Drew, Head Coach, Baylor University
“As a head coach, I need to stay current on what qualities a young man who is 17 to 18 years old is looking for. If we are going to have these young men on our campus for a large chunk of their time, we need to have quality facilities for them to be productive and, ultimately, happy. I’ve been blessed over the last few years at Baylor with some incredible facilities, like our new indoor practice facilities. Our arena was also just recently opened. It hasn’t always been this way. Our administration, from the university president to the athletic director on down, have made a real concerted effort to leave this campus and program better than they found it. As coaches, we will always make do with what we have, but facilities have become the center-stage effort for programs all around the country. If you want to attract the best talent, you need to have some of the best facilities to go along with that program as well.”
What is the trend you’re seeing for the American Conference? What are you hearing from schools looking at these decisions?
Dan Leibovitz, Associate Commissioner, American Athletic Conference
“The emphasis on indoor practice facilities/operations and training facilities being combined into one focused area on campus — close to where the student-athletes live — and updating the campus master plans has been a big focus for a lot of our universities. Involvement from the top down and collaboration early on in the process has been a critical to the success of those projects and campaigns. You don’t have to look very far, even in the short term, to see the success that schools like SMU have had with their renovation of Moody Coliseum, or Tulane finally bringing football back on campus after almost 40 years being at the Superdome. Memphis, Houston and many other schools recently are taking advantage of this momentum.”
From the perspective of an executive concerned with corporate sponsorships and ticket sales, does it make a difference to you building a new arena versus renovating one?
Bob Beaudine, CEO, Eastman & Beaudine
“Anytime you get a chance to build something new, or renovate the existing facility you have, it allows you to take the fan experience and revenue generation to a new level. The way my generation grew up watching games is completely different than this next generation. That means not only do you have to think of new and creative ways to keep your fans interested and coming back, but you need to always look for more opportunities to advance your sponsors and cultivate new fans. Both options have their pros and cons. I can tell you that the emphasis in the last few years has definitely moved away from the days of cramming as many seats into a venue as possible. We are now looking for more unique ways for your fans to consume the game from beginning to end. People are not just planted in their seats during the entire game. The addition of clubs and party areas is on the rise.”
In summary, having heard what we just heard and knowing what I know, I would advise any client to find the right fit … the right architectural and construction team. Collaboration from everyone involved — from the owner, architect, contractor and others — not only helps early in the communication process but also allows for everyone to set expectations and goals for short-term and long-term success, regardless of if you are designing a new facility or arena or renovating your existing facilities.