Of course Old Dominion wants and needs a new football playpen. You don't fast-lane to the Bowl Subdivision content with a stadium built during FDR's first term and the Seven Blocks of Granite's heyday. And you don't subject fans to higher ticket prices without upgrading the fare from sodium central to haute cuisine.
And you sure as heck don't expect four-star prospects with redwoods for legs to be impressed with a stadium that's older than Mick Jagger.
Please don't misunderstand. Treacherous steps to the press box notwithstanding — my lawyer's on call for all Monarchs home games — Foreman Field has served ODU well since football's 2009 rebirth on Hampton Boulevard. Built in 1936 and predictably cramped and antiquated, the complex became serviceable thanks to a $25-million renovation in the south end zone.
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Old Dominion University, 5115 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk, VA 23529, USA
But with the Monarchs ditching the Championship Subdivision, where they made the national playoffs in 2011 and '12, and with aspirations, delusional or otherwise, to recruit against the likes of Virginia Tech and Virginia, a 20,000-seat shoebox was inadequate.
So this week's news, first reported by the Virginian-Pilot, that an ODU master development plan includes a 30,000-seat, on-campus stadium should surprise no one. Nor should the P.S., that said stadium would be expandable to 45,000 and beyond.
Hey, when Notre Dame football joins the ACC in 2030, and the conference needs a 16th school, the Monarchs need to be ready, right? I'm kidding, I think.
Now no one at ODU is talking price, but Comrade Fairbank reports that Conference USA's Florida Atlantic and North Texas opened similarly sized stadiums in 2011 that cost $70 million and $79 million, respectively.
Given the Monarchs' timetable — circle September 2017 on your calendars — inflation and the ambitions of ODU president John Broderick, athletic director Wood Selig and football coach Bobby Wilder, bank on this project approaching, or even exceeding, $100 million.
If the school can, through donations, naming rights, sagely finance such a deal, gentlemen, start your bulldozers. As long as student fees don't become onerous — they already finance about three-quarters of the athletic department budget, according to USA Today's national survey of Division I schools.
For example, North Texas students approved a $10-per-credit fee hike to help pay for the new stadium, which translates to $300 annually for full-time, 15-credits-per-semester students. Would ODU students, who already pay $45.39 per credit toward athletics, 15 percent more than two years ago, agree to a similar hike?
Feel free to summon Pew Research, but my guess is no.
When ODU announced its Conference USA move last year, Broderick and Selig guaranteed that students would not pay the freight, so barring contrary developments, let's take them at their word. The primary questions then: Where best to build? How big to build?
ODU's preferred site is the west side of campus, near the Elizabeth River. The waterside view may not rival Husky Stadium, but that's fine. Just make sure the stadium is on campus.
Sure, schools such as North Carolina State, Miami and Pittsburgh play football off campus — among that group, N.C. State draws the largest crowds. But the best option, for alumni and especially students, is on familiar turf. Moreover, on campus provides a school total control, as opposed to a partnership with a municipality.
ODU knows that deal. The Monarchs played home men's basketball games off campus for three decades, at Norfolk Scope. But the Constant Center, opened on campus in 2002, is far superior, even without the improved amenities.
As for capacity, after 35 consecutive Foreman Field sellouts — that includes six games in 2013 — 30,000 to start for the new digs sounds about right. Overbuilding saps demand and risks an athletic director's and television producer's worst nightmare: swaths of empty seats.
Virginia Tech, for example, was wise to limit Lane Stadium's capacity to 65,632 in the most recent expansion. Sure, ACC rivals Clemson and Florida State seat more than 80,000, and the Hokies certainly could draw that many for some marquee games. But not for opponents such as Western Carolina and Duke, contests that this season could end Tech's streak of 93 straight capacity crowds.
The Hokies, by the way, are scheduled to play at ODU in 2018. I look forward to chronicling from the palatial press box catered by Luna Maya, 456 Fish and Freemason Abbey.