Pac-12 Football Programs Look to Turn Stadium Renovations into Championships

Sept 3, 2011; Tucson, AZ, USA; A general view as the Arizona Wildcats unveil a new high definition video board in the south end zone of Arizona Stadium during a game against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. The Wildcats won 41-10. Mandatory Credit: Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE


Contractors all along the West Coast are hard at work constructing lavish homes for those intent on keeping up with the Joneses.

No, it’s not a new housing boom. And the football programs of the Pacific 12 Conference hope to inflate a bubble that, unlike the collapse of the housing market in the West, returns on the investment.

Last year, it was about uniforms. And there is indeed still some of that prevalent in the conference. The next step is a much riskier endeavor. Millions are spent on facilities, whether it be stadium upgrades, locker rooms, weight and fitness centers or specialty auxiliary buildings.

Sometimes, these upgrades face contentious battles from the academic community. Students and taxpayers feel the pinch with the ever-rising cost of tuition. With student loans becoming a hot button political issue, football programs spending big bucks draws plenty of public scrutiny.

Further, new facilities do not necessarily translate to on-field success, which becomes the football equivalent of going underwater on a mortgage. Upgrades cannot always translate to on-field success, because nearly every program is upgrading.

Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State are all buying into the college football cold war that is facility upgrading with the hope of competing with conference forerunners Oregon and USC.

UO’s rise to national prominence presented a blueprint for success. It’s no coincidence that the more Nike mogul Phil Knight invested in Duck football, the more successful it became. Athletic Taj Mahals appealed to recruits and fans alike, attracting both to Eugene and Autzen Stadium.

Arizona: Mike Stoops’ unofficial exit interview after he was dismissed as UA’s head coach summarized the program’s struggles as the result of woeful facilities. Athletic director Greg Byrne began addressing the issuing immediately after his hire, first with the introduction of the largest video board in the West. The mammoth screen on Arizona Stadium’s south side was christened last season.

Construction has commenced since season’s end, primarily focused on a complete overhaul of the stadium’s north side. It was previously a set of small bleachers and the stadium’s primary scoreboard. Forthcoming is a concourse and club seating costing nearly $73 million.

Arizona State: Almost immediately after he was announced as the university’s new athletic director, Steve Patterson introduced plans for a major overhaul to Sun Devil Stadium. Included in the athletic program’s vision for a revamped home is a canopy over the field, and reduction of seats from a little over 70,000 to “somewhere between 55,000 and 65,000.” The seat reduction is to make way for sections with seat backs and more leg room — and presumably, higher prices.

Cal: The Golden Bears were displaced from Memorial Stadium throughout 2011, playing their “home” games at AT&T and Candlestick Parks in San Francisco. Memorial Stadium’s retrofitting and athletic facility expansion sparked outrage within the Berkeley community. Proposed renovations encroached on an oak grove in Strawberry Canyon, prompting protests.

The upgrades were ultimately approved in 2008, which coincided with the beginning of a steady decline for Jeff Tedford’s program. The investment of $321 million made in facilities has upped the pressure on Tedford to produce.

Memorial Stadium has stood since 1923, but with the installation of HD video screens and earthquake-proofing, it’s moving into the 21st century in style.

Oregon State: Perhaps no Pac-12 university feels the need to improve facilities quite like Oregon State. With rival Oregon spending money like a Kardashian with an AMEX Black card on Rodeo, OSU is under immense pressure.

The university boasts:

$115 million in fiscal improvements completed since the 2005 season, including installation of a state-of-the-art video board, the largest in the Pac-10 Conference at the end of the 2007 season. The east side of the complex houses some of the finest amenities in all of college and NFL football, and was completed prior to the 2005 season.

But keeping up with the Joneses is a never-ending endeavor, so OSU is examining possibilities for Reser Stadium.

Washington: The Huskies will call the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders’ home, CenturyLink Field, their home in 2012 while Husky Stadium goes under the proverbial knife. Husky Stadium is getting new concourses, but the football upgrades are part of an overall athletic investment made by the university. The football venue will be the mantle piece of an athletic village.

Sacrificed with Husky Stadium’s creature comforts is the undeniable advantage the old field offered. While an upgraded Dawg House will continue to host some of the more boisterous fans in the conference, the old field literally shook when decibel levels reached the right pitch. The old lighting and track running around the field also made for a haunting atmosphere at night.

Washington State: One of the smallest venues in the conference, Martin Stadium is undergoing a massive overhaul in two phases. The first, current phase adds a revamped press box, loge section, and club boxes.

The addition of new athletic training centers is the highlight of the second phase.

USC has been the gold standard of West Coast football for any considerable sample size period, but even Trojan football is not resting on its laurels. USC inducted the McKay Center, described as revolutionary and state of the art.

Topics: Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Cal Golden Bears, Stadiums, USC Trojans, Washington, Washington State

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