Over the weekend, Duke University announced plans for a $250 million athletics initiative, with $100 million earmarked for athletic facilities renovations. Part of that $100 million will go to a major upgrade to 83-year old Wallace Wade Stadium that will increase capacity to 43,915.
Moving the track opens the door for the first stage of Wallace Wade's transformation. The track that circles the field will be removed and the field will be lowered. The stands will be extended closer to the field.
At the same time, the press box will be demolished (with Duke Sports Medicine, which shares the facility, moving to a new location) and replaced with a new tower that will include premium club seating, loges and suites.
Also on tap is a new pedestrian plaza connecting Wade, Cameron and the Yoh Center. It will serve as a grand entrance to both the football and basketball stadiums. As part of the project, Duke will construct - adjacent to the Murray Building - a three-level pavilion that will feature new ticket offices and a team store for the public, offices for the athletic department, new training rooms, and a weight room for Olympic sport student-athletes.
The final phase of the Wade project will be closing in the open end of the horseshoe to turn the stadium into a bowl. The new seating capacity is projected to be 43,915.
At its current capacity of 33,941, Wallace Wade Stadium is the second smallest football stadium in the expanded ACC (including Pittsburgh, Syracuse and kinda Notre Dame), ahead of only Wake's 31,500-seat BB&T Field. The capacity increase to 43,915 will bring Duke closer to, but not surpass BC's 44,500-seat Alumni Stadium.
Here's how the ACC's stadiums will rank when Duke completes the renovation.
1. Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State - 82,300
2. Memorial Stadium, Clemson - 81,500
3. Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame - 80,795
4. Sun Life Stadium*, Miami - 76,500
5. Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech - 66,233
6. Heinz Field*, Pittsburgh - 65,050
7. Kenan Memorial Stadium, North Carolina - 62,980
8. Scott Stadium, Virginia - 61,500
9. Carter-Finley Stadium, N.C. State - 57,583
10. Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech - 55,000
11. Byrd Stadium, Maryland - 54,000
12. Carrier Dome, Syracuse - 49,250
13. Alumni Stadium, Boston College - 44,500
14. Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke - 43,915
15. BB&T Field, Wake Forest - 31,500
* NFL digs
While Duke won't surpass BC with these announced renovations, they come darn close. And I'm sure the difference in seating will be negligible when compared to all the fancy new renovations described above.
So what's the point of this post? How does it relate to Boston College football? Glad you asked.
I still maintain that for Boston College to compete at a high level in the ACC, Alumni Stadium needs a similar extreme home makeover. Here's what I wrote a year ago in a post entitled Fixing Boston College Football:
2. Expand Alumni Stadium by (at least) 10,000 seats. To this, I say to hell with the neighbors. Alumni Stadium is simply showing its age and is now a sub-par facility for a program with as much history and tradition as Boston College. BC is a top tier college football program -- at least historically -- with bottom tier facilities. Alumni is currently the 10th largest stadium in the ACC and will become the 12th largest after Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the fold. The Yawkey Center is a start, but Alumni is in desperate need of a makeover.
Close in the end zones or expand the stadium vertically on the Shea Field side of the field as part of the school's Institutional Master Plan. Either way. Boston College's football facilities are standing still while everyone else in the ACC is either investing in their stadiums or planning to build on-campus football only practice facilities. If BC wants to continue to compete in the ACC, it cannot afford to stand still in the college football facilities arm race.
Of course Alumni has long been rumored to hold more than 44.5k, but the point stands that the stadium could use a face-lift that's more than a just some prefab brick and new carpet. If President Leahy and the next A.D. are truly serious about turning the school's failing football program around, they could do a lot worse than announce a multi-million dollar Alumni Stadium expansion. That would be a strong signal to student, fans, players and recruits that the school is serious about turning Boston College football around.
As for those that don't subscribe to the voice in Field of Dreams, consider that Duke is averaging a little under 26k a game for the first three games of the season. While those games may have been against just Florida International, N.C. Central and Memphis, that's still only a little more than 76 percent capacity. Last season, the Blue Devils averaged 24,393 fans (71.8 percent capacity) for a home schedule that included no. 7 Stanford, no. 21 Virginia Tech, no. 23 Florida State and Georgia Tech.
In the ever escalating college football facility arms race, it's If You Build It, They Will Come. Not the other way around.