Florida State took a preliminary step toward renovating its football stadium during Thursday afternoon’s board of trustees meeting.
The board approved a plan to allow the Seminole Boosters to begin presale discussions about potential changes to Doak Campbell Stadium, such as changing and downsizing the Champions Club, adding varied seating options and reducing the overall capacity. Cost estimates and funding weren’t discussed, and formal board approval to start the project is at least a year away.
Here are three random thoughts on the proposal:
1. Tampa Bay has a role in it, sort of
Seminole Boosters CEO Michael Alford said that 70 percent of fans travel at least an hour and a half to Tallahassee for games. Not surprisingly, they’re coming from Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami and Atlanta.
“Those markets have venues that have various game-day experiences,” Alford told the board. “So our fans are accustomed to various experiences.”
Various experiences mean different kinds of seating options — clubs, suites, seats next to ledges, loge boxes, cabanas and so on. Those are the types of experiences that exist in some of the state’s pro sports venues; the Bucs renovated their west and east club areas in 2017-18, and Amalie Arena added loge seating as part of a $25 million renovation announced in 2015.
Those types of experiences set a standard FSU now must meet. Consider it a reminder that college football isn’t in a facilities arms race by itself. In addition to competing against Florida and Clemson, the Seminoles are also, to some degree, clashing with the Bucs, Lightning and Rays. Speaking of the Rays …
2. If you’ve followed their stadium saga, some of this sounds familiar
Back when the Rays were focused on an Ybor City stadium, they talked a lot about having different types of seating options. Team president Brian Auld had the idea of a ticket that would let you spend three innings in three different parts of the park. As our Steve Contorno wrote in 2018, the team wanted to “reinvent stadium seating. ... Think, less people sitting in linear rows, more aisles and people clustered in seats around tables.”
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The ‘Noles aren’t going that far, nor should they. But, like the Rays, they’re thinking creatively about how to change the stadium experience. Thankfully, there is no talk of a split season between Tallahassee and Toronto.
3. College football stadiums are going to keep shrinking
FSU reduced its capacity in 2016 (from 82,300 to 79,560) in the last round of major renovations. Capacity at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium fell by 1,800 fans last year. Expected renovations would make Penn State’s Beaver Stadium smaller. The same thing will happen at Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium eventually, once updating The Swamp becomes the Gators’ top facility priority.
Assuming FSU’s renovations become reality, its capacity will probably drop to about 70,000. That’s still big; in the ACC, only Clemson and partial member Notre Dame would seat more fans. And considering the nationwide drop in attendance and the trend toward smaller stadiums, expect more schools to follow FSU’s lead.
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