Is Vanderbilt serious about renovating football stadium? Here are some affordable ideas

Adam Sparks
The Tennessean
Vanderbilt Stadium has not undergone a major renovation since 1981.

Is Vanderbilt serious about upgrading its football facilities? If so, there are some affordable ideas around college football.

Last week, the Vanderbilt administration broke its silence on the matter by issuing a statement that said it would “contemplate … efforts to raise funds” for football facility upgrades.

Vanderbilt has an ongoing $600 million capital project that includes no athletics facilities. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt Stadium has not been renovated since 1981, but all other SEC stadiums have been upgraded at least once since 2006.

While Vanderbilt ponders upgrade options, other schools are breaking ground or already enjoying their newest renovations, and that’s not just in the prosperous SEC. Here are a few recent or upcoming upgrades to football facilities at reasonable prices by non-SEC schools that Vanderbilt could consider:

Artist rendering of renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium, home of the TCU Horned Frogs

TCU renovation focusing on luxury, revenue

Cost: $100 million

Project: TCU’s renovated stadium won’t be huge, but it will be lavish. Set for completion in 2019, it will include two levels of luxury seating with a Legends Club, 1,000 club seats, 22 luxury suites, 48 private boxes, two private clubs and an event area and balcony for year-round use by the university and corporate sponsors.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: TCU has catered to prime donors and corporate sponsors to generate revenue, which is why it’s had two major renovations since 2012. TCU’s new stadium capacity will be 47,000 in the Big 12. Vanderbilt Stadium’s capacity is 40,350 in the SEC.

More:How Vanderbilt administrators undercut fundraising for football stadium

Artist rendering of a new Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium, future home of the Old Dominion Monarchs.

Old Dominion asked fans what they wanted

Cost: $65 million

Project: Set for completion in 2019, Old Dominion is replacing both grandstands to its 81-year-old stadium. Chairback seats, bleacher seats with backs, extra legroom, new restrooms and concession stands are being added.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: Old Dominion asked fans in a survey what they wanted most in a stadium renovation, and that’s precisely what it will build. Like Vanderbilt, Old Dominion has an old stadium with no need to enlarge capacity. It’s making its current stadium much nicer for fans with simple amenities.

Wallace Wade Stadium, home of the Duke Blue Devils

Duke built ‘boutique’ stadium

Cost: $100 million

Project: Duke opened its 40,004-seat facility in 2017, which athletics director Kevin White called a “boutique” stadium. It wasn’t big like other ACC stadiums, but it had the charm of an Ivy League-type school. There are chairback seats on both sides from goal line to goal line, and a classy upscale look that matches the rest of campus.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: Duke is a prestigious, high-academic private school with a moderate football fan base like Vanderbilt. It didn’t take an SEC-level fortune to build a classy stadium, but rather an affordable attention to details.

More:SEC Network's Jordan Rodgers, former Vanderbilt players criticize stadium shortcomings

Canvas Stadium, home of the Colorado State Rams

Colorado State sold naming rights

Cost: $220 million

Project: It’s a high price tag for a new stadium. But Colorado State sold the naming rights to Public Service Credit Union, now Canvas Credit Union, for $37.7 million over 15 years to help fund the construction of Canvas Stadium. The 41,000-seat stadium opened in 2017.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: Naming rights pay big bucks. Kentucky recently became the first SEC school to strike such a deal, changing Commonwealth Stadium to Kroger Field for a 12-year agreement starting at $1.85 million annually. Would Vanderbilt consider taking a corporate name to fund stadium renovations?

The end zone expansion at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is closer to completion.  
May 29, 2018

Louisville team facility has recruiting in mind

Cost: $63 million

Project: Louisville added 68 private boxes and 12 field-level suites to Cardinal Stadium, but it also kept the product on the field in mind. In the Howard Schnellenberger Complex behind its end-zone structure, Louisville built a 20,000-square-foot locker room, 5,000-square-foot players’ lounge, meeting rooms and three training rooms with hydro-therapy pools and other amenities.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: Some former Vanderbilt players like SEC Network analyst Jordan Rodgers think money would be better spent on a team facility that would attract better players and improve the team. Indeed, an everyday team facility often attracts recruits more than a stadium.

More:Vanderbilt can't raise money for football? That's ridiculous.

An artist rendering of the proposed MTSU athletic plaza, leading into the new football team facility.

Middle Tennessee connecting athletic facilities

Cost: $100 million

Project: A proposed capital project includes a new football facility with a locker room, offices, equipment room and multi-sport indoor practice facility, as well as a new basketball center and renovations in the adjacent Murphy Center arena.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: MTSU’s approach is connecting its athletic facilities with functional and aesthetic improvements that benefit multiple sports programs. Vanderbilt already has a multi-sport indoor facility. Despite being land-locked, it could consider building a football facility or fan platform to better connect Hawkins Field, Memorial Gym and Vanderbilt Stadium.

Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium, home of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky improved everything a little

Cost: $50 million

Project: Completed in 2008, Western Kentucky built a new side to its stadium and a football facility. New additions included the Jack and Jackie Harbaugh Stadium Club, weight room, locker room, equipment room, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and an athletic training room.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: Western Kentucky needed upgrades across the board, so it made minor improvements to everything. Vanderbilt could do small improvements in several areas like better WiFi for fans, chairback seats, new restrooms and concessions and an updated club level.

FAU Stadium, home of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is surrounded by palm trees and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

Florida Atlantic made most of its location

Cost: $70 million

Project: FAU Stadium, a small but beautiful facility, opened in 2011 and now hosts the Boca Raton Bowl. Six years before Lane Kiffin came to campus, the Owls already were selling style. FAU Stadium is surrounded by palm trees and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: Location matters, and FAU knew that. Vanderbilt is in Nashville, a tourist hot spot and the largest city with an SEC school. Surely, Vanderbilt could find a way to capitalize on being in Music City in its stadium plans.

Houston opened space for fans to breathe

Cost: $125 million

Project: The University of Houston’s 40,000-seat TDECU Stadium opened in 2014 with an open layout. Two-thirds of the concourse has an uninterrupted view of the playing field, and there are 160 concession points of sale throughout the stadium.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: The current format of Vanderbilt Stadium feels closed in. The concourse is cramped, and the field seems distant from concession areas. A more open layout, perhaps including a family fun zone for kids, would improve fans’ gameday experiences. However, it likely would require a shrinking of capacity to create space.

Yulman Stadium, home of the Tulane Green Wave

Tulane put mid-level boosters first

Cost: $75 million

Project: There are 4,500 chairback seats in the Glazer Family Club and Westfeldt Terrace in Yulman Stadium, which opened in 2014 with a capacity of 30,000.

Why it matters to Vanderbilt: Tulane built a new stadium club to appeal to the tastes of its biggest donors. Vanderbilt has plenty of wealthy alumni, who may pour more money into the football program if amenities made them interested. Several upgrades are needed at Vanderbilt, but adding more chairback seats in the club level or elsewhere would be a good start.

Reach Adam Sparks at and on Twitter @AdamSparks.