FSU unveils proposal for major improvements to Doak Campbell Stadium
If all goes according to plan, Florida State's Doak Campbell Stadium might not only be in line for a facelift, but a tummy tuck and a complete head-to-toe makeover.
All within the next three years.
During the FSU Board of Trustees meeting this afternoon, Seminole Boosters CEO Michael Alford is asking permission to begin pre-sales discussions to determine the viability of a project that could be completed as early as the 2024 football season.
The proposal is "extremely preliminary," Alford told Warchant.com in an interview before his presentation. He said the concepts are a result of fan feedback from a survey conducted last year, as well as market research and guidance from consulting firms CSL and Populous.
More than 95 percent of survey respondents said they wanted to maintain or upgrade their current seat locations, and more than 90 percent said they would like to see stadium enhancements. Alford said the responses were overwhelmingly in favor of improved concourses and restrooms, better seat comfort and leg room, more concession offerings, improved WiFi and other amenities.
"We had one of the highest return rates of a survey that CSL has done in the collegiate market," Alford said. "Our fans were very engaged ... And our fan base is really telling us that they want a different experience.
"Seventy percent of our fan base comes from over a hour-and-a-half away [on game day]. Well, where are they coming from? Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Miami. And what are they experiencing there? Professional stadiums. They go into these other venues, they see those amenities and that they can choose their experience -- where they have about 10 different options -- and they're wanting us to provide that experience."
Among many proposals, the concept calls for building eight founders' suites, adding field-level club suites, loge boxes and chairback seats to the west stands, a variety of new seating options in the south end zone, improved concourses and other amenities, and "right-sizing" the Dunlap Champions Club.
The Champions Club premium seating area, which was unveiled in 2016 with about 5,900 seats, could see a reduction in about 2,000 club seats and feature about seven different types of fan experiences. Everything from club seats to loge boxes, sofa chairs, ledge seats and cabanas, and even standing porches.
"What we're really talking about there is giving different offerings," Alford said. "Right now it's a club seat, and that's it. Let's have the right number of club seats, let's introduce a new product, ledge seats, loge boxes and have various price points throughout the club with different experiences."
Even with Board of Trustees approval, the project is not set in stone. Its viability will largely be dependent upon thousands of one-on-one meetings and sales calls that FSU plans to conduct with boosters and season-ticket holders.
Then after that demand is determined, Alford said he will come back to university officials for final approval.
"There may be an appetite for it, there may not be an appetite for it," Alford said of the overhaul. "But we've heard from our study that, overwhelmingly, the answers were, 'We want a different experience.'"
Because many seats in the west stands would be impacted by the changes, Alford said existing ticket-holders will have to choose whether they want to consider new options in the same location or if they want to look at other spaces in the stadium.
Alford explained that FSU is well aware that changing seat locations is a sensitive topic. He said that's why the school is planning to invite everyone impacted to meet in-person at a "preview center," which will be constructed to help with the decision-making process.
Those individual sales calls will start later this summer and be conducted over the next year or 18 months.
"We will sit down individually with every person this affects, one by one," Alford said. "You're not going to get something in the mail that says, 'This is what's happening.' We'll sit down and show them, 'Here's what's coming. Here's how it affects you. Here's your options to move forward.' And you will have the first right to stay there. We're not saying you're gone.
"Now, your experience may change. But you have the opportunity to stay there. If you choose not to stay there, you will have priority to relocate at the next available time."
Alford said discussions are still being had about what changes could be in store for the east stands. At the very least, he said, they will look at renovating the concourse areas and adding "cooling zones," where there will be improved concession offerings and a place where fans can get a break from the heat during afternoon games.
By the time the renovations are complete, the stadium's capacity would be reduced to about 70,000 seats. That would be about 10,000 less than the current capacity, which was reduced from 82,300 during the Champions Club construction.
Alford, who helped the University of Oklahoma with a similar renovation as well as the construction of the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium, said this is in line with trends at sporting venues around the country. Faced with challenges from the improved home-viewing experience and ever-growing competition for fans' entertainment dollars, sports stadiums are seeking to provide more comfortable seating, better amenities and a wide variety of ticket options.
Those beliefs were accentuated by FSU's survey results.
Though Alford, the former athletics director at Central Michigan and a top administrator at Oklahoma and Alabama, has only been at FSU since last summer, the idea of renovating Doak has been a hot topic of conversation for years.
The stadium, which was constructed more than 70 years ago, has some infrastructure issues that also would be addressed during these renovations. Alford said those repairs, along with the other stadium enhancements, would be funded by the revenue from additional premium seating.
He believes the project will actually more than pay for itself over the long haul, and any excess revenue will go to fund other facility improvements.
"This will really be a driver, financially, for other venues and other programs," Alford said.
None of the prices for those new areas have yet been determined, according to Alford. That likely will happen in the coming months -- with the help of CSL, which has access to pricing models at other similar venues across the country -- and those numbers will be available when the one-on-one meetings begin later this summer.
In a best-case scenario, FSU would begin construction toward the end of the 2023 season and have everything in place for kickoff in 2024.
No changes are expected before that time.
Proposed South End Zone changes