Fix Your Danged Stadium Already! (No. 2: Kent State University)

Tobi WritesAnalyst IOctober 23, 2009

Halloween is a day nearer, so here is the second in my series on problem stadiums that haunt programs at the FBS level.

These recommendations were originally conceived in a thread I wrote a few years back at Collegesportsinfo.com.

For every FBS program, football should be the university's No. 1 or 1A revenue generating sport. 

Potentially, football revenue and football-inspired alumni donations could pay for all of the other sports.  If you blow football, you will lose massive amounts of money on sports.

At the bottom end of the FBS, stadium troubles often cause a lot of issues.

With Eastern Michigan discussed, I turn my attention south to another MAC school and it's stadium problems.

No. 2 Kent State University

For years, Kent State has barely outpaced Eastern Michigan for the title of the worst-attended program at the FBS Level.

Kent faces a variety of factors that will prevent them from ever aspiring to become a school with BCS-level attendance.  20-22,000 is probably about as grandiose of an attendance goal that is reasonably attainable.  That is about double what they drew last season.

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Kent is only 10 miles from the University of Akron, which probably hurts both schools a bit. Additionally, Kent is only 35 miles from FCS power Youngstown State.

Kent doesn't only face college competition.  They are a mere 45 minute drive away from the Cleveland Browns. They are in the Brown's NFL Killzone, if arguably on the edge of it.

In spite of this, Dix Stadium has as much or more to do with their attendance problems.

Didn't they just try to fix Dix Stadium? Again?

They certainly tried.

I can't fault the leadership there for their effort.  The last two renovations have been inspired and conceptually dead-on.  They just fell a little short.

A little History on Dix Stadium

Dix Stadium was built in 1969 as a replacement for Kent's old home, Memorial Stadium.

Dix Stadium has a very large western grandstand that probably seats just under 15,000.  They used to have three other grandstands that sat about 5,000 each: one on the east sideline and one in each end zone.

The 2003 renovation tore down the east grandstand and replaced it with a narrow student grandstand that stretches between the 15 yard lines.  On either side of that grandstand are "party tents."

(Photo by Jon Ridinger used per wikipedia usage guidelines)

It was really a pretty neat idea, except that grandstand simply does not seat enough. It seats about 4000, and one-sixth of that is the band.

Last year's renovation tore down the south bleachers to reduce the number of empty seats in the stadium by 5000 while replacing the scoreboard.  Again, great moves, but moves that did not go far enough.

How does this stadium hurt them?

Despite all of the improvements, Kent State still faces the same problems that existed when this picture was taken.

(Picture hosted at the Kent State band page.  The large western bleacher is at the top.)

The remaining north end zone seats too many people and the student section on the east seats too few.  There are simply not enough good seats for the students.

Things aren't much better for the alumni. It is awkward to sit in such a large western grandstand opposite such a small eastern one.

The end zone seating is far too large, easy outpacing demand for end zone seating and adds to the discomfort of fans in the western grandstands.

My Suggestions

As with my EMU suggestions, I will try to be as cost effective as I can with my suggestions.

Again, I have an ideal recommendation and a more cost effective recommendation.

Option One: Demolish the remaining end zone section and expand student seating

This is really the best plan.  While it would certainly be upsetting to demolish the last remnants of historic Memorial Stadium, perhaps the benches could be removed and worked into an expansion of the student section.

Demolishing the northern end zone bleachers would remove 5,000 seats.

The student bleachers could be expanded upwards, doubling capacity along that sideline to say 8000, creating a stadium with a capacity of 24,000.

At that point you could keep the band there and still get about 7500 other students on that side of the field.  With great seats and the proximity of the party tents, it seems that Kent might do pretty well pulling in students.

The elimination of empty end-zone seats, the greater balance between the height of the stands, and the increased energy brought to the game by a larger student turnout will energize the locals and alumni and keep them coming back.

I think this could bump up attendance 3000 or so in a year or two based off student gains while driving up slow growth of a local and alumni fan base.  By 2025 or so, you might be hitting your attendance goal.

Option Two: Tarp most of the end zone seating and move the band.

Another option would be to have tarps with the school name and logo made to cover some or all of the end zone seats.

It you covered some of the end zone seats, you could designate the end zone seating for the band.  I don't know how much that would impair the acoustics and the game feel, but it is an option.

If you covered all of the end zone seats with tarps, the band could sit in the big western grandstand.  Again, acoustic questions come into play, but it could be workable. 

Kent State probably has the band sit on the student side make the sound level right for older alums.

Maybe a band section could be partially walled off to bring the volume down to an acceptable level?  I claim no expertise in the art of band placement.  I leave that to much smarter people.

Regardless of where you relocate the band, moving them opens up about 600-800 seats for other students near the party tents.

Ultimately this plan gets the stadium capacity down to an effective capacity of about 20,000.  It focuses more on using scarcity to drive sales. 

While that does usually drive up attendance—it doesn't provide as much of an opportunity to leverage your student body to excite the alumni and the local fanbase.

Articles in this series:

1) Fix your danged stadium already, Eastern Michigan University!

2) Fix your danged stadium already, Kent State University!

3) Fix your danged stadium already, Rice University!


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