As Athletics Director Chris Del Conte kicked off his department’s town hall meetings Tuesday night in the Brown-Lupton University Union Ballroom, he painted Amon G. Carter Stadium as a monument to the university’s uniqueness and can-do spirit despite concerns over the planned renovations.
“In 1930, when that stadium was built, we were coming through the [Great] Depression,” Del Conte said. “In the hardest times in our nation, they decided to build something special at TCU. We’re going through pretty tough times right now, aren’t we?”
The Athletics Department arranged two town hall meetings to address fans’ worries about seating and parking changes before construction begins next month on a $105 million renovation to the university’s football stadium. At Tuesday night’s meeting, Del Conte gave the first details of how stadium operations will change in 2011 and 2012 as the stadium is constructed.
Parking lots 1 and 2 will both close during the 2011 season and fans with reserved spaces will be relocated to lots on the west side of campus. Lot 1, the lot closest to the stadium where many donors have their parking spots and patios, will not exist after construction is complete. Lot 2, which lies at the bottom of the hill where the marching band practices, will be used as a staging area during construction in 2011.
Del Conte said 3,120 spots would be within 500 yards of the stadium next year, compared to 3,700 this year.
As for seating, the stadium’s upper deck will close for the 2011 season. Seats on a new deck in the north end zone and the student section are expected to accommodate fans until the upper deck is ready in 2012. The 2011-12 renovation will only be on the north and west, or home, side of the stadium, while the student and visitor’s sections on the east side will be updated in a later renovation.
The new stadium design also will eliminate the seats under the overhang of the upper deck, leaving no covered seats in the stadium.
The nearly 500 fans in attendance at the town hall meeting spent the second half of the meeting asking questions of Del Conte, Associate Athletics Director Davis Babb and TCU Frog Club Director John Denton. Some, like 1962 TCU graduate Leonard Stansbury, were concerned ticket price changes would drive out longtime fans.
“I’m still concerned about the fact that the people with money [benefit from the changes] and ordinary people won’t be able to get seats,” Stansbury said.
Del Conte said no one would be out of a seat, though that seat may be in a new location. Pricing won’t be announced for seats until the spring, like every year, he said. One option the department has begun to consider is the inclusion of a seat donation in season ticket prices, which would guarantee a seat for the ticket holder. The seat donation would be used to help fund scholarships for student-athletes.
Others said they were worried about being priced out of good seats before they paid for them. The athletics staff said it would determine where fans buy season tickets in the new stadium by the Horned Frog Priority Points system.
According to a flyer given to fans last night, the system, developed in 2006, provides donors and season ticket holders with a transparent process for distributing high-demand tickets. In the system, donors are awarded points for annual contributions to the Frog Club, capital project gifts, athletic gifts and season ticket loyalty.
The more points an account holder has, the earlier they get to pick their seats. Many of the crowd’s questions involved the system’s fairness. Two points are awarded annually for consecutive years of season tickets purchased, but one point is awarded for every $100 donated to the Frog Club or athletics annually.
Some feared the donation rule could have negative effects. Andrew Blake, a recent graduate of the university, asked if the points policy will draw donations away from education programs in the short term.
Del Conte said the program’s original intent was to build the Frog Club’s membership, and that if other university departments used a points system, athletics donors might invest elsewhere.
TCU alumna Laura Wood said that while she was glad the university gave fans a chance to be heard, she wished money wouldn’t factor as heavily into the department’s future plans.
“The problem is, money does drive a lot in athletics,” Wood said. “But then you talk about how great and unique TCU is. Well then let’s be the leader and do it different. We don’t have to do it the way [other universities] do it. We’ve come this far without doing it the way they [did it.]”
Features of the new stadium
-Americans with Disabilities Act compliant
-Elevated concourses so field can be seen while on the way to restrooms or refreshments
-All new sound system designed for the new stadium layout
-New video board in the north end zone
-Stadium will be louder thanks to “horseshoe” design
-Redesigned seats through most of the stadium, many with padding and seat backs
-Escalators and elevators to the upper deck