Expansion is VITAL if we want to survive!

Found this from the premium board, from a guy who is on the “inside” in regards to expansion. He wouldn’t say how far inside he is, but I get the feeling he has first-hand knowledge on what is happening:

Why expand Martin Stadium?

Consider:

– Our stadium is BY FAR the worst in the PAC-10, in every way. We were tied for last with Reser, but now, it’s a whole new ballgame. After last weekend, we have officially been left in the dust. Fewest number of season tickets, smallest venue, worst concessions, smallest TV market, most remote campus, you name it. The school studied this for a whole year, not only doing surveys of our ticket holders, but also soliciting opinions of atheltic departments of not only the Pac-10 but also the Big 10 and Big 12, and the list of things that they see as lacking is, well, overwhelming.

– I was listening to V Lane the other week and he said point blank that if given the opportunity, he has been told that at least 3 other Pac 10 teams would vote us out of the conference TODAY because we are a drain on overall conference income – which is due partly to our small stadium (he wouldn’t come out and say who, but it was implied USC, UCLA, and UW). Conferences, right now, are very unstable and given the recent issues with the Big East and the ACC, that could just be the tip of the iceberg. There have been some swirling rumors just in the last few weeks that, if tomorrow the BCS/NCAA blew up, which is not all that far fetched, and there was massive conference re-alignment, WSU would be left out in the cold playing Nevada and Idaho as conference foes – not just the non-conference games everyone likes to complain about. The WAC or a lesser conference would snatch us up in a second, and those larger Pac-10 schools truly believe that is where we belong. I know that’s hard to hear, but you know what? On the accounting reports that are available, on all 10 schools in our conference, we’re way behind.

– There are at least 2 home games each year where WSU could sell at least 40, and up to 50K tickets (Apple Cup, USC, Oregon, UCLA/CAL/ASU). Yes there may be empty seats at those games today, but basically all the seats we have for the Apple Cup, USC, Oregon, and which ever of UCLA, CAL, or ASU who happens to be good that year or is dad’s day or homecoming sell out with plenty of demand left over. I know for a fact that last year for the Oregon game, there were thousands of requests that were denied due to the fact the game was sold out, but if you were there last year, you know that there was slightly under a “turnstile” sellout (as a note, we count butts in the seats, while every other school in the conference counts tickets sold. Not sure why we do that, it just makes us look even worse on paper at the annual AD meetings.)

– For the majority of games in the last 4 years, any seat that hasn’t required a $50+ donation have sold almost immediately when released for general sale, showing the demand for affordable, quality tickets.

– New college stadiums today include very few “Luxury” boxes – WSU’s new stadium would not be an exception. Instead of “Luxury” boxes the best revenue earner is Clubs/Lounges that are available to anyone with season tickets who donates a certain amount. This is what OSU and Oregon have built and they have done a fantastic job of increasing the size of donations – why? Because with the in-stadium Club/Lounge concept you actually get some real value for you donation – a warm, dry, comfortable place to watch other games that are on the TV, eat, and go to the bathroom. Better said, a dry, warm, happy alum is more apt to spend MONEY in the lounge vs. hiking up the stairs in the cold and rain and stand in line at one of our handful of concession stands, hoping they haven’t run out of coffee in the 3rd quarter (happens ALL THE TIME!). The Reser expansion has been a huge success, obviously OSU is happy but even though we lost on the field, it was very important that we were able to play them in Corvallis this year. Jim was giving tours of the facility before the game to some “select donors” around this weekend. Plus, it was a perfect chance to show off how nice an option the lounge is when the weather is spotty, as I know of several people that retreated during the sporatic rain fall during the game yet still didn’t miss any of the action. The whole experience was very positive and it was important to have these check-writers get to reach out and touch, taste and feel what a Cougar Football Saturday experience could be like if we are able to raise the required funds to break ground on phase I!

– Between Whitman/Latah county, Spokane, and the Tri-Cities (all within a reasonable 2:30hr driving radius) there are plenty of people to support a larger stadium (and some of these areas are growing rapidly). It is pretty difficult today, however, to convince people to pay for a ticket and make the drive to Pullman for a big game when there are no seats available. Further, what is available isn’t exactly appealing when you consider having to battle the elements in late October and all of November. I know that sounds like we are all a bunch of softies, but I hear from fans all the time complaining about how we need to do something in regards to making the conditions better for fans, which would include a Cougar Club lounge ala Reser.

– And this is by far the most important – BOTH the university president and athletic director think enlarging our stadium is critical for success of WSU as a school and ALL the sports programs at WSU. The football program is the cash cow, the kingpin, the #1 driving force of the entire athletic departments on the west coast, PERIOD. Lane and Jim, they are the two people given the responsibility to ensure that WSU academics and athletics succeed now and in the future. They seem convinced to the point that, to be honest, they are quite worried if we don’t act soon – I think we might want to trust them. Go Cougs!

What do you guys think? What is the answer? Is there a reasonable answer? It would suck to be outed from the Pac-10, and I know there were rumors about that a long time ago, but above all else, money talks. If we are a constant drain on the conference in general, and if the drive to raise money for this thing fails, who’s to say they wouldn’t band together and vote us out, and reach out and invite a program like Utah? Utah has a better stadium, better basketball program, in a bigger, better city and they would be a huge asset to the Pac. You don’t think those LA schools wouldn’t just love to not have to trek into Pullman anymore!??! It sure would make sense on their part. It’s not that far-fetched, fellas, when you look at the numbers and the fluid nature of conferences right now. The NCAA has shown they have ZERO problem allowing teams to move around as we saw last year with Miami and VA-TECH dumping the Big East.

The bottom line? I agree with everything that guy said. The biggest thing is, I believe, the mid-level donor. Every school has a few whales that write big checks on a yearly basis, but it’s the mid-level guy that makes or breaks the donor levels. SELL THE IDEA OF A DONORS CLUB THAT IS ATTAINABLE FOR A LOT OF DONORS! If an average Joe like me is willing to buy season tickets for my family, plus an extra $100 donation per seat, then I want to feel like I’m appreciated. Let me in to an exclusive area where I can take my kids, where it’s warm and dry and has good food and facilities. Let me meet up with my old college friends during the game and chat about what we see so far, have a drink, things like that. MAKE ME FEEL LIKE I MATTER. If you do that, then I’m more than willing to make the trek over the mountains and buy food, drinks, souveniers, etc, instead of running for the car with kids in tow as soon as the game ends and sitting in traffic for two hours to get the hell out of there without opening my wallet!

It’s becoming more obvious, and for this post to show up, it makes me nervous that we are in a lot worse shape than people let on. We aren’t talking expansion just because it looks cool on TV or we can have a bigger number on paper for game attendance. We are now talking expansion to survive in the Pac-10! OSU going forward with what they have done is a huge wake-up call to everyone that we are far, far behind.