Where Are We? #6 Facilities and Conclusion

via www.buffalo.edu

First I wrote about the track around the field and our recent track record on the field.
Next, I analyzed our tradition and compared our stadium to our competitors
Then I looked at the effect of our close proximity to a NFL franchise
Finally I'm wrapping it up with our Facilities.

Mike Williams infamously said: "UB was good, but when I went to Syracuse everything just blew up. They have twice what UB has."

Football facilities are vital for a team to recruit and develop players in today's game.

I looked at the construction year and the cost in 2012 dollars of:

1) A dedicated Football Facility (DFF) and
2) An Indoor Practice Facility (IPF).

For DFFs, I used the eye test. Ohio revamped their existing in stadium facilities, but I cannot allow that as a DFF in comparison to the freestanding buildings popular in athletic departments today. I would consider UB's proposed Athletics, Recreation and Wellness Center as a DFF.

For IPFs span the gamut from expensive beautifully crafted permanent structures (UConn), to the utilitarian golf dome bubble (EMU), to a removable bubble over the outdoor practice field (Temple). The indoor facility is important for Buffalo as we have a cold climate, and we get much more snow than most cities and a lot of rain during football's fall and spring practice seasons. When I was at UB in '06 the stop-gap solutions were:

1) Practice outside when it snows in October. Not much gets done.
2) Practice at the Alumni Arena triple gym. Not much gets done.
3) Practice at the Ralph Wilson Field house, good practices, but you waste 60-90 minutes in transit.

The IPF in Buffalo is vital for the team to be able to practice and prepare to win. The DFF is vital to up our competitiveness in recruiting.

No Facilities - 9 teams (Troy, Ohio, Ball State, Middle Tennessee, UL Monroe, Buffalo, UAB, WKU)

Out of the 33 teams in the sample, only 9 had neither a DFF nor an IPF. Out of those 9, 5 can safely be considered southern teams, (UL Monroe, Troy, UAB, UTSA, Middle Tennessee) with less need for indoor facilities. (USC has survived with neither, but it rarely rains in Southern California, although they have just built a 100 million dollar football facility because they had the cash laying around.) Buffalo is the only team in the sample to have neither facility and a the track around the stadium.

Adding in the date of last stadium renovation, the five worst places to play would be UAB, UTSA, Middle Tennesse, UL Monroe and UB. Add in the weather component and it is easy to see why out of these teams only UAB (worst in facilities) and WKU (first 5 seasons in FBS) have lower winning percentages in the last 5 years than UB, (also WKU was 7-5 last year).

DFF? or IPF?

15 Schools have either a DFF or an IPF.

DFF Only: 12 Schools: Average Build Date: 2006*, Average Cost in 2012 dollars: 11.9 Million*
(Ark State, Texas State, FAU, FIU, GA State, Idaho, Miami (Oh), Nevada, NIU, USA, USF, UMass)

As expected most schools with just a DFF are in the south with no real need for a Field House (FAU, FIU, GA State, Arkansas St, Texas St, USA, USF). After already showing that tradition really has no bearing on success at this level, new to FBS schools Texas State, Ga State, USA and UMass are investing now to up their competitiveness, (Danger, in a few years UB could be worst than 4 schools that just started playing FBS!).

IPF Only: 3 Schools: Average Build Date: 2003, Average Cost in 2012 dollars: 8.4 Million
(Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Toledo)

Also expected, northern schools with smaller budgets would choose an IPF over a DFF. When I think of northern and limited budget, I think MAC, therefore all 3 schools are in the MAC.

Both IPF and DFF Built Separately: 5 Schools:
Average IPF Build Date: 2005 Average IPF Cost
in 2012 dollars: 10.9 million
Average DFF Build Date: 2005, Average DFF Cost in 2012 dollars: 10.8 Million
(Bowling Green, Boise, Marshall, UCF, Temple)

5 schools have both a DFF and an IPF as separate buildings built at separate times. This population has grown their departments over time as success and finances have increased. The average build date shows that by 2005, most schools had both facilities built. Overall the total average cost was 21.7 million for both structures.

IPF/DFF Combination Facility: 4 Schools:
Average Build date: 2002 Average Cost
in 2012 dollars: 37.4 million
(WMU, CMU, Akron, UConn)

UB's Student Athlete Wellness Center is planned to cost 25 million dollars and would be considered a Combination facility, a DFF and a IPF under one roof. UConn of course built a 57.6 million dollar (2012 dollars) facility in 2002 which brings the average cost way up. Without UConn, the 3 remaining MAC schools spent 30.6 million for their facility on average.

How does UB stack up.

Overall the 24 teams that had facilities spent on average, 18,271,976.44 on facilities in 2012 dollars. UB's facility would exceed this, therefore increasing our competitiveness. The IPF is vitally needed for recruiting the south and for installing and developing our team during the winter when conditions make practice unproductive. However the choice of the combination facility is troubling, at our price point we would be building a facility half as nice as UConn and about 5 million dollars below the level of similar MAC facilities.

Conclusion

The positives for UB's program are:
1) A recent Conference Championship and Bowl Appearance
2) Long Football Tenure and Tradition
3) A plan to improve Facilities
4) Close proximity to NFL teams seems to not be detrimental to success, if the college program has good facilities

The Negatives for UB's program are:
1) Lack of sustained success in the past 5 years in comparison with competitors
2) An outdated stadium without fan amenities
3) Tradition and Tenure are not very significant factors in success
4) We do suffer slightly due to proximity to the Bills
5) We are one of 9 teams without a DFF or IPF. 1 of 3 MAC teams harsher Buffalo climate** becomes a recruiting and competitive disadvantage.
6) The Student Athlete Wellness Center as planned may not be enough
7) The Student Athlete Wellness Center as planned may increase the cost of improving the stadium in the future.


To Improve UB Must:

1) Improve the amenities and atmosphere of UB Stadium (aka Remove the Track)
2) Improve facilities

UB's current plan solves #2, but not #1. In fact the Wellness Center as planned anchored behind the track would make it more expensive and more difficult, if not impossible to remove the track and keep the Wellness Center's ability to hold suites for gameday. (We would have to remove the track, slide the field 25 yards north, then tarp off the south side of the East and West Bleachers, then move the south bleachers up 50 yards.)

Thus the current plan is unsatisfactory. But we have two alternatives.

Plan A: Raise more money

Complex in it's simplicity, instead of raising 25 million dollars, we raise $32,989,047.71. Ohio removed the track from their field for a cost of 3.6 million in 2012 dollars. Texas state relocated their track to a brand new track facility (to make room for football stadium expansion...in anticipation of being better than UB once they enter FBS) and it cost them 4.4 million in 2012 dollars. We use the extra money to do just that, build a new track facility and remove the track from UB stadium. Then with the remaining 25 million we will build the Wellness Center right on the edge of the north endzone. Closing off the north and hopefully closing off the south end zone, the stadium will retain more sound than ever and fans will be closer than ever. The deep pocketed fans will enjoy better amenities in the Wellness Center suites and also experience great views of the game. Improved amenities like concessions can be included to improve the gameday experience for fans. 8 extra million dollars and all our problems are solved.

I know, this is where Tim says, "Easy for you to say we can barely raise the money we need for the field house", and he's right to that end, there is an alternative solution.

Plan B: More Steak, Less Sizzle

The Wellness Center is a lot of Sizzle, it looks impressive its more than we could imagine UB having or affording. It's not real and honestly it's not necessary yet. What do we need most? Is a plain bare-bones field house so we can actually practice and become a better team. So here's what we do, figure out how much space is needed for the Football Complex,and measure from the north endzone to the end of the Football Complex, and build a field house there. In this scenario we'd need half of the money, so only 12.5 million to have the Indoor practice facility we desperately need.

After the field house is built, focus on getting the 8 million dollars needed to remove the track and build a new track facility, leaving a giant space between the new north endzone and the new field house.

Then Mr. White can go back to the phones and get 12.5 million more, and he can then build the Dedicated Football Facility on the north endzone completing the project.

The three phase project would help get things done while money slowly trickles in. It would also allow the team to get what it needs to succeed first, then the fans get a little reward for being loyal fans, and finally the team gets the final part it needs to bring the competition to the next level.

We need to work on plan A or plan B, and we need to do it now. Texas State isn't waiting, UTSA isn't waiting and UMass isn't waiting. If we delay, we'll go from watching them struggle to watching them dominate, as we did with USF, Temple and WKU. We have a new Athletic Director, lets hope we go in a new athletic direction.

*Does not include Arkansas State and Texas State, could not get reliable financial information.

**weatherbase.com comparisons for Football months (Mar-Apr, Aug-Dec):

School Ohio Ball Buffalo
Avg. Temp 52.2 54.7 47.9
Rainy Days 68 66 100
Precipitation (in) 21.7 20.4 23.6
Days of Extreme Heat 11 9 1
Days of Extreme Cold 77 73 77
Snowfall (in) 7.5 8.9 49.3

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