Eventually some ticket office genius figured out an economic principle that the American sporting world shockingly hadn’t exploited yet. Fans come to games at not just two wealth levels (bleachers and suites) but on a scale of wealth levels. There was big money to be gained from adding tickets at a wide range of price points. The big leagues caught on first. Both the NFL and MLB realized they were going to have to enhance their game day experience if they wanted to compete with the formidable combined force of improved television viewing and America’s love of sitting on their couch.
So all of that riveting background takes us to the South end zone at Faurot. Mike Alden and Gary Pinkel began dreaming up a new section of the stadium that would serve two needs. First, the football team would get bigger, better, and fancier offices, weight rooms, training facilities, and locker rooms that would hopefully entice new recruits to Ol’ Mizzou. Second, Mizzou could build on in-Stadium revenue opportunities. With Tiger attendance perpetually hanging around 65,000 per game, additional seating was not the top priority. Squeezing additional shekels out of fans that did attend was.
In March of 2015 I sat on a focus group panel that discussed what the new expansion (that Mack Rhoades would eventually kill and Jim Sterk would resurrect) might look like. Mizzou hired a consulting firm that had planned many previous pro and college stadium builds. One of the topics that immediately caught my interest was in the area of booze. Nothing brings in money quite like selling beer at nine dollars a pop. To this point however, beer sales have always been limited to the well heeled in the suites and private lounges. The new South End Zone expansion would try to lessen this class divide a bit and also skirt conservative SEC conference policies on drinking. The plans called for a bar to be built at field level with Plexiglas separating the drinker from the player, where anyone could enter and purchase libations and enjoy them as long as they stayed within the confines of the bar area.
This plan is somewhat brilliant. Not only does it finally allow your average drunkard to pursue his passions during the game, but it brings in big bucks to the Athletic Department in a section of the stadium that was always the least desirable and least expensive. In the world of stadium marketing, this is light years ahead of the “sit in our crappy field bleachers and we’ll throw in a mediocre hot dog” approach that preceded the strategy.
All in all, I’m happy to see Jim Sterk showing a clear boldness regarding facility improvement. Besides the hiring and firing of coaches, building the university’s infrastructure empire is certainly the most important part of the job, and arguably the most difficult part. Jumping in right away and making a multi-multi-million dollar decision like this is true leadership. Football drives the athletic program and if the new South End Zone facility is built, countless square feet of existing real estate will be freed up to help improve other important athletic programs at Mizzou. Given the recent revolving door of administrators, at this point, I’ve got my fingers crossed that Sterk sticks around a while.