To Expand Or To Not Expand – Is $150+ Million Worth It For Oregon Ducks Fans? YES

If you are an Oregon Ducks fan or not, you cannot help but see pictures that pop up everywhere about the completion of the new Casanova Center and small improvements to Autzen Stadium and the Mshofsky Center. In total, our old friend Mr. Phil Knight ended up spending just about $68 Million for these latest improvements. The money shows to. Like business, money talks and the rest walk. We have all seen pictures of the maple locker rooms that look amazing. Well they should look pretty amazing if you are spending $30,000 for each one. I would expect a few amenities like what is offered. $30,000 is more money than some people make in an entire year working and trying to raise a family.

It is obvious that Phil Knight is not just wanting Oregon to build a great facility, but more likely trying to build the next national powerhouse of football in his backyard. I am sure your business wouldn’t find shaking hands with Phil Knight and accepting a check for $68 million. I’m sure there is a lot you can do with that kind of chump change that Phil Knight is throwing around. After all is said and done though, what is next for the Ducks? You now have the best facilities in the world of college football and probably envious of some professional teams as well. I am not sure Buffalo Bills players have 55-inch flat screen televisions and leather easy chairs for every player, iPod charging docks in every locker and then connecting facilities with a double-decker sky bridge. The next step as many have noted, would be a stadium upgrade to bring larger games to the area and packing more fans into an already great crowded stadium.

Let’s look at a few key reasons of why an expansion is deemed appropriate at this time. The first is obviously sellouts. The University of Oregon has one of the highest sellout capacity in the entire NCAA, averaging almost 60,000 fans to a game. The only team consistently above Oregon is Alabama and they are not that far ahead. Both teams bring in just about 110% of what their stadiums currently hold. The most recent expansion was completed back in 2002 on the south side of the stadium, which brought capacity from 42,000 up to 54,000. Season ticket holders are at an all-time high with over 40,000 season ticket holders … giving recreational fans only about 14,000 opportunities to purchase tickets. When, not if, the time comes to officially renovate/expand, do not expect anything less than the best from Phil Knight. He spent $68 million on a practice facility, $80 million on expansions back in 2002; I have no reason to suspect that these next renovations will be big, on the verge of $150+ million. Welcome to the house that Phil built. As the past few years have shown, the duck culture has grown from expectations of just getting to a bowl game, to Rose Bowl games, and now to national championships.

If you are a true die-hard Duck fan, you probably hate the Washington Huskies, so why are they getting a new stadium and not us? I am afraid to be honest and tell you that the Washington Huskies will have a much nicer looking stadium then us Duck fans. Although Washington does not have the great practice facility like we do, their stadium is better. When was the last time you bought a house because it had an awesome new Jacuzzi bathtub, but everything else was a ‘80s/’90s décor house?

Autzen stadium is loud; there is no doubt about that. But one of the main reasons it is so loud is because of how small our stadium is; there is no secrete about that when you compare our stadium to even some of the high school football stadiums down in Texas. #56 in the ranking of college football stadium capacities is where Oregon stands with a capacity of 54,000. If you are wondering, Michigan has the largest with 109,901. Second is Penn State with 106,572. Third is Tennessee with 102,455 and then there is Ohio State, Alabama, and Texas rounding out the over 100k group.

For your reading pleasure, here is a breakdown of just the Pac-12 stadiums…

Rank Capacity School Built Expanded
1 93,607 Southern California 1923 2008
2 72,542 UCLA 1921 1949
3 72,500 Washington 1920 2013
4 71,706 Arizona State 1958 1998
5 62,717 California 1923 2012
6 54,000 Oregon 1967 2002
7 53,750 Colorado 1924 2003
8 51,811 Arizona 1928 1988
9 50,000 Stanford 1921 2006
10 45,674 Oregon State 1953 2005
11 45,017 Utah 1998 None
12 32,248 Washington State 1972 2000

From the looks of things, it looks like our Pac-12 powerhouse of Oregon, has the 5th largest stadium in the Pac-12. Not impressive for a national contender in my opinion. Let us not get ahead of ourselves though as there is a number of BUSINESS related questions that have yet to be answered and I don’t think the duck fans may like some of the answers.

The first question is obviously money for building. Can the university raise at least in the range of $150+ million? The answer is probably yes to that. Between fundraising and Phil Knight, I would not expect them to have any issues with raising the capital. There are a few subsequent questions though in funding. Are you going to expand to just add straight up seating or are you going to offer for some to purchase “suites” in this new expansion? I am sure you would have a few calls from the rich folks around that would not mind having their own suite at duck games.

The other question is that can Oregon CONSISTENTLY sell out a 70,000+ stadium for crappy games against Portland State and other no name teams that come to play at Autzen for a paycheck and exposure? Having a streak of sellouts like Oregon does is great, but you must be able to put a butt in every seat to show success and the television crowd that you are a legitimate football organization. The old adage of build it and they will come is long gone. This is forever evident in the expansion just down the road at Oregon State stadium and their incorrect assumptions about supply and demand of ticket sales. We have all heard and read reports that big name colleges will not waste their time coming out west because it just is not worth it to them and our little stadium. There is some truth that unfortunately. People were excited to hear that we were going to have Tennessee come out and play us on our home turf. Well that is great, but Tennessee is not the team or powerhouse that it once was. They are near the bottom of THE most dominant conference in college football. There are pros and cons on that.

Construction is set to begin soon on the north side for exiting and accessibility improvements, which is never a bad thing. I have been to my fair share of duck games and it is not always the easiest getting in and out with even the large crowds of 54,000 people. An expansion of the stadium also brings up another issue of parking. Where the hell is all the parking going to go? This is one absolute FAIL when it came to the new basketball arena at the University. Parking is more than horrendous, along back alleys and side streets. Just build a garage and be done with it will you Oregon? I am not a huge fan of walking back to my car in a back ally in the middle of a night after a basketball game that I paid Portland Trail Blazers prices for.

So as Duck fans forge ahead with thoughts of a national championship appearance, possibly winning, and Heisman hopefuls on the list, it is never too early to start planning for the future. For heaven sakes though, please offer adequate parking for fans!!!

About Arran Gimba