It started out as a $28 million dollar project back in late January. Tom Green of AL.com reported on January 27th that a proposal was brought forward to give Jordan-Hare Stadium a “facelift.” Inside this article, the proposal read, “Over the last several years, the Athletics Department has been developing plans for improving Jordan-Hare Stadium to enhance the game day experience for fans, students and players. As a result of this detailed planning effort, two of the highest-priority projects for the stadium are the development of a larger and greatly improved recruiting facility and enhancements to the home team locker room for game day support.”
Then, on the eve of the annual spring game, it was reported that those renovations had ballooned to $40M. Just what would be done with this massive price tag?
For starters, new club boxes, expanded TV and coaches boxes, relocated press area, renovated locker room and a new reception area for recruits that will house some of Auburn’s most coveted sports memorabilia.
Every year, a survey about their football game day experience is sent out to donors and fans. They can also make any recommendations. Being one of those fans, I take that opportunity to voice my thoughts and concerns. Among my yearly recommendations are: increased seating footprint (let’s be honest, the seat assigned to you isn’t big enough), improved restrooms that are serviced more regularly (though, one may question if they are serviced during games at all) and more affordable and better concessions.
In my talks with the average fan, most everyone has the same ideas and concerns. I think everyone would agree that the state of JHS restrooms doesn’t need to be spoken about at any length. The lines are long, and they frequently obstruct traffic around the concourse, especially near the concessions. Most importantly, the restrooms are downright disgusting. While some of that is on the fans, it sure wouldn’t hurt for the restrooms to receive regular cleanings.
Regarding concessions, it is typical for fans to complain about the prices of food but not about both the price and quality. Concession food is expensive in most every sports venue. Feeding a family of five on just hotdogs and hamburgers is going to cost $60 or more with drinks, and there are no free refills. While most fans are willing to accept that, they aren’t willing to accept that Jordan-Hare’s “premium” concessions are simply awful most of the time. It’s a sad state of affairs when a $4 hotdog is the most value-oriented item on the menu.
What is even more infuriating that essentially every other Auburn sport has phenomenal food, despite the fact that football pays for essentially all of those sports. That’s some food for thought. You want deep fried Oreos or Snickers? Go to softball. You want a terrific Philly Cheese Steak? Go to baseball. You want loaded french fries with every topping you can dream of? Go to basketball. You can’t have any of this at the premier sport on campus, that has more fans in one game than the other sports have all year, combined. If you want $12 BBQ nachos with cold cheese, bad BBQ meat, a bag of chips, and “sorry, we are out of jalapenos and sour cream” after you pay for said nachos, then football concessions are for you. Oh, and refills? Forget about that. Despite selling over 100,000 drinks a game, don’t expect any free refills. However, go to any other sport, and a souvenir cup is good for one most of the time.
Of course, none of this is an issue for the premium seating areas, which have dedicated concessions included. I understand that the vast majority of the money being used for stadium upgrades comes from the donors who benefit from the upgrades. It’s understandable for these fans to expect a return on their donations.
While what happens to the press doesn’t concern me, it is worth mentioning that while the average fan doesn’t seem to have a voice, the press does. Many of press members have already voiced their displeasure. I am not sure it is a good idea to alienate them.
I do take particular issue with the expansion of the locker room and the new recruiting area. Auburn hasn’t had any recruiting issues, especially after the last round of coaching hires, for which I give Jacobs a lot of credit. Basketball is recruiting at an all-time high level, as is softball. Baseball is doing some very good things. Nor has football had any recruiting issues.
Getting premier recruits on campus hasn’t been an issue for any sport. Turning recruits into wins has been. None of this requires a recruiting center or improved locker rooms. I’m not being crass about taking care of recruits or players. I certainly believe in doing what has to be done to get those recruits and taking care of them as players, but it just doesn’t seem that the potential returns in this area are there.
There is also an issue with fans not being able to see memorabilia from some of Auburn’s greatest achievements.
It’s interesting that the goal is “to enhance the game day experience for fans, students and players,” but two of the three listed aren’t going to see much in the way of enhancement. That’s striking, considering that fans keep telling Jacobs what they really want.
That doesn’t mean that Athletic Director Jay Jacobs and the people involved have ignored every request from the majority of average fans of the most popular sport on campus. They did spring for extra TV’s to watch the game as you wait in line for those “premium” concessions, and there is the occasional water dispenser, if you can find it. And, of course, there is the scoreboard.
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