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Autzen Stadium Expansion: Challenges and Benefits

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Autzen Stadium Expansion: Challenges and Benefits

Jack Heffernan
Reported by Jack Heffernan on July 11, 2014
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| 4 Comments

 

Autzen Stadium Expansion: Challenges and Benefits

What would you think if Autzen Stadium, already known for being loud, expanded and became a cradle for eardrum-splitting noise?

Silly question. You’re a Northwest sports fan, which, by default, means you are always seeking acknowledgement as the most raucous fan base in the country. Just spend five minutes witnessing a game at the Rose Garden (Moda Center) or CenturyLink Field, if you’re confused.

For years, Autzen Stadium has been widely recognized as loudest stadium “per capita” in the nation. In 2003, then-Michigan Head Coach Lloyd Carr said, “Autzen’s 59,000 strong collectively makes the Big House (then housing some 105,000 souls) sound like a pathetic whisper. It’s the loudest place I’ve ever been.”

Autzen already has the most raucous fan base in the country. Will it soon be louder?

Kevin Cline

Autzen already has the most raucous fan base in the country. Will it soon be louder?

Just imagine, as I’m sure you already have, expanding the stadium to compete with the capacity of Alabama, Michigan or Florida. This would eliminate the need to add the phrase “per capita” when calling Autzen the loudest college football stadium in the country, creating an atmosphere that would likely rival CenturyLink.

Naturally, the temptation to increase the noise level has been present for decades. In 1985, for instance, many pushed for a dome to be placed atop the stadium, nicknamed the “Duck Dome,” which would have increased the noise levels through the extremely large stadium roof.

Significantly expanding the stadium would be tricky, however.

While Rob Mullens, University of Oregon’s athletic director, has expressed interest in renovating Autzen, he has also stated funding and the risk of negatively impacting the game-day atmosphere as significant obstacles.

“We have an outstanding atmosphere already,” Mullens said. “I don’t ever want to lose that. And a lot of people don’t think stadium expansion would cost us anything. We have 3-4 games a year where our demand far outweighs our supply. Then, we have 1-2 (think Nicholls; South Dakota) where our supply outdoes our demand and its a challenge.”

This issue, however, would be negated by the price reduction that an expansion of the stadium would create. In recent years, ticket prices have soared, which has undoubtedly driven many fans away from attending games. Last season, a standing room only ticket cost at least $40 at the cheapest, though most games saw prices closer to $80.

With additional seating the demand for tickets would be less strong, which would allow Oregon to sell tickets at a much cheaper rate. It would also accommodate the rising number of students attending the University of Oregon, as well. Since Autzen was last renovated in 2002, enrollment has increased by more than 4,000 students. Four sections in the stadium is simply not enough for what is becoming an extremely large student fan base.

Another question surrounding stadium expansion is where the additional spectators would park. Anyone who has driven to Autzen on game day would concur that both traffic and parking are outrageously difficult. It’s hard to imagine the City of Eugene approving a large parking structure in addition to the stadium.

Upgrades such as the new garden on the north side of the stadium have been frequent in recent years.

Gary Breedlove

Upgrades such as the new garden on the north side of the stadium have been frequent in recent years.

Multiple vacant parking lots sit on the east side of the University campus. Oregon could look into utilizing these lots at least on game day and establishing a shuttle service to the stadium. Though this wouldn’t completely solve the congestion issue, it would be a start.

As discussed, expanding Autzen Stadium would be extremely complex. This doesn’t even include the whopping amount of funding that would be required for the project. The State of Oregon would likely rather spend taxpayer money on other issues. Even Phil Knight would probably not be able to pay for the upgrade by himself.

While a stadium expansion should not be expected soon, the University should be looking into its feasibility at least once a year.

Meanwhile, Duck fans should certainly be proud to be called the “loudest fans in the country,” even if the “per capita” label comes with it.

Main photo by Gary Breedlove

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About Author
Jack Heffernan

Jack HeffernanJack is a journalism student at the University of Oregon. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Jack has been interested in sports journalism since middle school. He wrote for his high school newspaper, as well as two high school sports websites (prep2prep and Patch). In college, Jack covered both high school and college sports for Lane Today. He aspires to be a beat reporter covering a major professional sports team.View all posts by Jack Heffernan →


 

 

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  • MAITAIDUCK

    Phil Knight, I’m sorry but WHY wouldn’t He alone be able to fund the whole thing. Hes worth a estimated 19 Billion Dollars and with that amount of Money he could not only be able to fund it himself while also purchasing the Blazers and bringing TWO Titles to Oregon. Oregon needs to at least Expand to 70 thousand because it would still sale out. Paul Allen has brought a Championship to Seattle of all places but he hasn’t been able to here, not to mention he lives up North and just like he Knight that is RICHER than Allen who already owns 2 PRO Teams. That makes NO SENSE that Phil couldn’t pay for it all. Need to more research before you say certain thing’s. Thank you Phil Knight because with out you funding all the xtra’s here in Eugene we wouldn’t be a TOP 10 Team every year.

    • fairweatherfowl

      But WHY should he? All the money he’s spent on athletics at Oregon has
      been to promote player recruitment. He’s never spent anything on fans.
      He’s interested in team success and he puts his money where that goal
      is furthered. “College Game Day” doesn’t care how large the stadium is,
      and TV is the driver for the sale of Oregon jerseys and swag
      nationally. How do you think he got that $19B?

      If fans want
      cheaper tickets maybe fans should start a fund to expand the stadium.
      Economics for the university at this point says keep raising ticket
      prices until PAC12 games stop selling out.

      • headsupjg

        why? cuz he can!

  • http://twitter.com/morganducks Paul Morgan

    Expansion is a pipe dream. There isn’t the population to support it. We live out of town and can’t make all of the games. Selling tickets has become impossible. Last year we had to give away our tickets to the fricking Civil War because we couldn’t sell them. The last thing UO needs is a bunch more unsold seats. Just look at Matt arena. Mostly empty.

    As a season ticket holder on the north side, I would much rather see real improvements to the amenities and egress on that side. The whole north side is a terrible bottleneck. Taking a leak at halftime takes 20 minutes. UO insists on using high school student groups to staff the concessions, which means really long waits that further exasperate the bottleneck.