Florida State Football: Plan in Place to Improve Doak Campbell Stadium

Bob Ferrante@@bobferranteContributor IJune 6, 2014

Fireworks go off just minutes before FSU's home game against Miami in November.
Fireworks go off just minutes before FSU's home game against Miami in November.Phil Sears/Associated Press

Just five months after winning a national championship, you can’t blame Florida State for wanting more. And not just another title.

Coach Jimbo Fisher has rebuilt the program from a struggling, fading dynasty into a national champion. And now, FSU administrators and the Seminole Boosters are working to fund a plan that will improve the look of FSU football, including dorms, locker rooms, coaches' offices and Doak Campbell Stadium.

In the next few years, pending approval from the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors this month, plans are in place to build a premium club seat section in the south end zone of Doak Campbell that will help to fund some of football’s facility needs.

Picture an indoor/outdoor experience, where fans can hear the roar of the crowd from cushioned chair back seats and enjoy the comfort of air-conditioned spaces with views of the field. Think “great rooms” where friends can gather, talk and watch football games from around the nation, while eating and drinking and keeping an eye on the field below.

Doak Campbell Stadium looks impressive from the outside, a picturesque building that was decades ago called an "erector set" before it received a stylish brick facade in the early 1990s. Judge a stadium by its cover, and it’s certainly attractive. Inside, a football team that is 45-10 under Fisher is a compelling reason in itself to show up seven Saturdays each fall.

But flip open the first page, and the introduction is less than appealing. The concourses under Doak Campbell are mostly gray. There is rust, there are old bathrooms, there is no way to escape the extreme heat with a cool zone.

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College football fans have choices on Saturdays. One of them is simply staying home and watching games on HDTVs, saving hundreds of dollars in gas, food and hotels.

So, school officials and boosters decided to put a plan into action. And buoyed by the success of the product on the field, Doak Campbell will get some needed improvements that will modernize the stadium and also improve the fans’ experience.

The campus, especially the areas close to Doak Campbell, have already changed in the last year. FSU completed the construction of Fisher’s longtime No. 1 wish, an indoor practice facility, in August 2013. The IPF was used frequently to keep the team’s practices on schedule when thunderstorms hit the area. And the boosters opened College Town, a mixed-use development that generates additional money for FSU athletics. Finally, the boosters broke ground on an apartment complex to house the football team. The complex, now named Champions Hall, will also house other FSU students (in compliance with NCAA rules).

The next phase was to address the football team’s facilities, specifically the locker room, players' lounge and coaches' offices, and that work began in late April after FSU's spring football game. FSU isn't adding square footage to these areas as part of the remodeling. But at $5 million to $6 million, FSU should get plenty of bang for its buck.

"With a championship comes many expectations," FSU senior associate athletics director Monk Bonasorte said. "When you're trying to recruit the best athletes in the country and our recruiting has gotten to where it is now, you've just got to stay at that level and maintain that level in all areas of your department. The locker room and the players' lounge, players' meeting rooms, coaches' offices, it's just the total picture of the program as being an elite program."

One of the most striking locker room displays will be statues that pay tribute to FSU players that have retired numbers. Jerseys for players like Chris Weinke, Charlie Ward and Deion Sanders will be displayed and permanently lit. The goal is to display the jerseys like works of art but also motivate current players to strive for individual and team success.

Names and numbers of those who wore that specific number will be on current players' lockers to remind them about FSU's football history.

"The number will always be lit," Bonasorte said. "And that's the belief behind the fact that you're sharing a locker with all the great players who have played here at Florida State."

Minor repairs to Doak will take place this summer but the heavy lifting—sandblasting, removing rust, welding, replacing steel plates, priming and painting—will be put off until money to fund those projects has been secured. Boosters plan to launch the "Champions Campaign" this summer, which will address all of FSU football's facility needs, according to Jerry Kutz, Sr. Vice President of Seminole Boosters, Inc.

"The first stage of the Champions Campaign will address all areas within our football program that coach Fisher and athletic director Stan Wilcox have identified—areas where our players live, work and play," Kutz said. "The second stage of the Champions Campaign will come this fall after the athletic department's comprehensive needs assessment for all sports is complete. Wilcox will prioritize that needs list and the boosters will add those priorities to our Champions Campaign fundraising efforts."

A key component of the Champions Campaign's fundraising efforts will be the Champions Club premium seat section, as the project will require a capital gift to qualify for a seat purchase. Those gifts, as well as the revenue generated by the club seats themselves, will fund many of the improvements needed in other areas of the stadium and within football facilities.

"We're looking to build the Champions Club in the south end zone of Doak because there are natural synergies to be realized with the existing University Center Club amenities, the large rooftop decks, and massive spaces under those decks which lend themselves to a 30,000 square-foot air-conditioned club with views of the field and of campus," Kutz said. "Our architects plan to turn an undervalued piece of the stadium into beachfront property."

The two rooftop areas that flank the University Center Club, with temporary tents on game day, will be modified to have a permanent cabana roof with bathrooms, bars and televisions. An extension of that covered, outdoor deck would add more deck space and a dozen rows of wide, cushioned chair back seats with extra legroom, replacing what is currently the 300 section of the stadium. A second tier of club seats of similar size will replace the 200 section.

Club seat holders on both levels will have access to eight diverse indoor and outdoor experiences. In addition to outdoor club seats and the rooftop cabanas, they can enjoy gathering in the 30,000 square foot air-conditioned club on the fourth floor, which features a long glass wall with a view of the game, plus another 25,000 square feet of air-conditioned space on other floors.

"We've surveyed our Seminole Booster members, ticket holders and former ticket holders, asking them what improvements they'd like to see us make to Doak. Those are the guidelines they gave us and we passed on to the architects who drew the conceptual drawings," Kutz said. ''Our members want chair back seats with leg room, where they can be a part of crowd, hear the Warchant and see the pageantry of Osceola and Renegade but be able to escape from time to time to enjoy air conditioning, adult beverages, elevators and upgraded bathrooms. The architects returned a plan to us that incorporates all of those things plus movement between experiences without losing visual contact with the field."

Kutz envisions fans enjoying the club for more than just game days, seeing the possibility for them to enjoy the club area Friday-Sunday on game weekends.

"Champions Club seat holders can entertain guests on Friday for any number of events, perhaps a meet-and-greet happy hour with former players or a party with live entertainment," Kutz said. "Our club seat holders will also be able to entertain guests on Saturday before and/or after the game or for Sunday brunch. That’s a huge feature that’s unique in college athletics."

Granted, the improvements affect less than 10 percent of the seats in Doak Campbell Stadium, reducing capacity to about 80,000. But school and booster officials believe that the Champions Club, if successful, will become an important revenue driver to improve all the seats within the stadium.

While the seat on the couch is always a comfortable option, the improvements will make for a better game day experience; one that could make the trips to Tallahassee more worthwhile—and enjoyable—for years to come.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter

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