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A-1 lead story in the T-U is an Iorizzo story. No online link yet


$38M game plan for gridiron glory

Vision for $20M addition follows debut of new $18M facility, drawing questions

By Pete Iorizzo






In September, the University at Albany football program moved into its new $18 million home. Now the school is talking about building a $20 million addition.




It’s part of the university’s push to raise the national profile — and win totals — of the Great Danes, who finished 1-11 this past season.


The school foresees a team competing for national championships and fans flocking to fill a stadium that would have a capacity of 24,000, making it among the largest in its conference, the Colonial Athletic Association. This season, the team averaged 6,800 fans in the 8,500-seat stadium.


In addition to more seating capacity


, the expansion would include building locker rooms adjacent to the field, among other improvements.


Athletics administrators say the improvements will help build a nationally known football program, which they say would bring more recognition to the school and foster a deeper connection with the city.


Others say that the school already has spent too much money on sports.





As of this past fall, UAlbany had spent $18,389,899 to reshape its athletic complex, according to records provided by the school in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.


The centerpiece of the project is the soccer and football stadium, called Bob Ford Field after the school’s former longtime football coach, but UAlbany is upgrading its track and field facility and building a synthetic turf field for intramural and recreational sports.




The school expects to spend a total of $24 million on the first phase of the football stadium, the track and field complex and the intramural field, with $18 million coming from state funding and $6 million in private donations.


Director of Athletics Lee McElroy said it’s too early to say how much of the additional $20 million for an expansion might be publicly funded, but he said the money will come from some combination of state appropriations and private donations.




He also said the school soon will decide in the coming months whether to push for the expansion right away or to wait a few seasons.


“The best thing is, we have the concept already,” McElroy said. “Is there a time frame? We are sitting down, coach (Greg Gattuso) and I, and going through what his goals and priorities are. The next thing is, we’ll put a time frame on that and put an amount on the investment.”


Expanding the football stadium would be the latest piece of the school’s


effort to give more prominence to the football program, which has a long tradition of success at lower levels but now will compete with more well-funded programs.


UAlbany doesn’t compete in the same tier as schools such as Auburn and Florida State, who played for the Bowl Championship Series national title in January.


But this past year the Great Danes moved into the Colonial Athletic Association, which is one of the premier leagues in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), essentially college football’s second tier.




And Gattuso, the new coach, said on his first day on the job that his goal is to bring the school an FCS national title.


UAlbany’s president, Robert Jones, also called athletics “critically important to the mission of the university.”


But not everyone at the school is waving pomspoms.


Bruce Svare, a UAlbany professor of psychology and neuroscience, said some faculty members have raised concerns that too much money is being spent on sports at the expense of academics.


“The amount of money that it takes to keep up with the Joneses is something that drains finite resources from greater needs,” he said. “Those greater needs are on the academic end of things.




“The larger context of all this is, we have more pressing needs in higher education. We have more pressing needs in terms of infrastructure. We have programs being cut back, whole majors being eliminated. It’s poor prioritization of what our needs really are. To me, it looks like there’s going to be a


blank check for this.”


Supporters counter that the improvements are necessary for the sports programs to be competitive; this past season the UAlbany football failed to win a game in its new conference. The new stadium also replaced a crumbling facility, University Field, that was built in the 1960s.


Before the improvements, the track team couldn’t host meets, because its facility didn’t conform to NCAA rules.


Though the new stadium includes high-tech flourishes, like a 39-foot wide video board, and


high-end finishes, like upscale cabinetry in the luxury suites, it represents a scaled-down version of what UAlbany had hoped build when it first began talking about a new stadium a decade ago.


Then, UAlbany was pushing for a stadium of about 25,000 seats that would have cost between $50 million and $60 million. But the plans fizzled in the midst of the recession, and UAlbany settled for a significantly smaller structure.


The $18 million spent on the new stadium is less than fellow SUNY school


Stony Brook spent on its stadium in 2002, when it built its 8,300-seat facility for $22 million.


Still, UAlbany’s stadium was built in such a way that it could be expanded. For instance, the elevator shafts go all the way to the roof, making it easier to add another tier on top of the upper deck.


Expanding seating capacity to 24,000 would make UAlbany’s football stadium double the size of the league average of about 12,000 seats.


The school also hopes to raise as much as $6 million over 10 years by


selling naming rights to the new stadium. Money from the naming rights would support UAlbany’s athletics budget, which for the 2012-13 academic year was almost $16 million. Stony Brook, another CAA member, spent about $20,300,000 on athletics the same year.


“We want to make sure we continue to grow our resources,” McElroy said. “We want to make sure we’re staying in touch with our peers in the CAA.”


• piorizzo@timesunion.com • 518-454-5425 • @ peteiorizzo















The university has spent more than $18 million upgrading its athletic facilities, including building Bob Ford Field, an 8,500-seat soccer and football stadium. Here’s a look at some of the costs associated with building the stadium:


Video scoreboard and sound system $1,043,493


Field lighting system $486,000


Synthetic turf football field $380,000


East-end bleachers (annuallease) $148,919


Chairback seats $109,245


Furnishings in luxury suites $8,020


Refrigerators in the luxury suites $4,291

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"He also said the school will decide in the coming months whether to push for the expansion right away or to wait a few seasons."


Right away, please!!


Question: is there any precedent for similar (24,000-seat) stadiums being used for other events--not just men's soccer. Meaning could we become a location for concerts, festivals, other traveling sports events, etc? That seems like it would make it an easier sell to the community. Although it also might mean we're competing with the Times Union Center in warm weather.

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"He also said the school will decide in the coming months whether to push for the expansion right away or to wait a few seasons."


Right away, please!!


Question: is there any precedent for similar (24,000-seat) stadiums being used for other events--not just men's soccer. Meaning could we become a location for concerts, festivals, other traveling sports events, etc? That seems like it would make it an easier sell to the community. Although it also might mean we're competing with the Times Union Center in warm weather.


Yes! Absolutely the idea.


We can't even have graduation in the current stadium. Too small.

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Saratoga Performing Arts Center has only 5,100 seats and limits lawn seating to 20,000, which would put BFF in direct conflict with them for summer concerts. Our location would have more traffic/parking/neighborhood concerns than SPAC, unless we get use of the Harriman Campus lots.


The end of the article answers some of our old questions about some of the costs (leasing the bleachers, etc.)

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Like everything with the stadium process, I'm sure this will take a while. Great to see the public conversation started even if some of it will oppose.


Jammaster makes a great point that this could be a good thing for the city and area overall. I wonder if we get to a point where it would be better to outsource running the stadium to an outside party, for booking other events, etc? Maybe it's apples and oranges but it's worked pretty well for the TUC.


Sefcu upgrades have to be on the table at some point in the future. Hopefully there is an overall plan integrating both Sefcu and the stadium. I'd like to see one high quality concessions and merch area shared by both buildings that two separate decent ones.

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That's awesome! But would we be able to fill a 24,000 seat stadium?

We'll never KNOW until it's built.


But at 24K it'll be too small to get a home game against Syracuse or other BCS team, which is what I think we'd need to prove that we're a 'real' Division I team to the skeptics. Still, small steps. I think 15K could be reasonably well-filled at this level. Just be ready for a full build-out if a new FBS league in the northeast starts getting together.

Edited by UAalum72
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As someone who has worked closely with PR and marketing folks, it'd be very strange for Jones to comment on this and then not push it through.


Him talking about the critical nature if sports and how this stadium expansion is a big goal would make him look very weak and ineffectual if this weren't a very real and likely event.


I would t be surprised if this were a done deal but holding back anything official for now

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The ambiguities around going after funding this year or future years so to me like trying to set yourself up for an out if Cuomo rejects us. We say well we didn't commit to this year.


I love the plan but after losing the $60M initial ask I thought our plan was to phase it out. If you can get it all great but I'm just a bit concerned $20M may get us unwanted attention that 4 years of $5M each wouldn't.

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