When a booster walks in unsolicited with a proposal to take care of much needed stadium issues and privately finance the stadium, administration at any school has to listen.
Recently, Stephen Ballard of S.B. Ballard construction did exactly that with a proposal to demolish a majority of the current stadium and turn the remaining portion into a state of the art 25,000 seat stadium.
One of the first things mentioned by the Old Dominion Monarchs administration when announcing the decision to jump from FCS to the FBS was their stadium issue. The football stadium, built in 1936 and renovated in the 2008-09 years by S.B. Ballard construction, has risen in capacity from 17,500 to 20,118 at its current capacity.
The current stadium ranks the Monarchs only above Florida International (20,000) and Charlotte (15,300). The construction proposal would immediately jump Old Dominion to the 25,000 capacity range, ranking them still only 11th in the conference. The plan would also include an ability to jump as high as 35,000 if the school wanted to go that route in the future.
Despite hosting the third smallest stadium in Conference USA, the Monarchs have sold out every single football game hosted as Foreman Field since football started in 2009. That could change if the stadium is expanded, but tickets to see the Monarchs are hot right now, so why not take advantage and increase capacity?
Not only would the plan add much needed seating to the updated stadium, it would also include 60,000 square feet of classroom/flex space. That would allow the stadium to become a true multi-purpose stadium that can host sports, academics, and any other events Old Dominion would like to bring to the area.
Considering the fact that S.B. Ballard Stadium has been sold out for every home game since the football program was reinstated for the 2009 season, this construction is incredibly important. The only major question among fans and those around the program is whether the Monarchs need the capacity to be closer to the 35,000 range than 25,000.
In addition to having a state of the art FBS level stadium with a bigger capacity, Old Dominion would pay much less than what it would be expected to cost at the riverfront location. The estimated cost of the S.B. Ballard model is expected to be under $130 million, much less than the $200+ million projected cost at the other site.
So, what's next?
The waiting game.
Old Dominion administration has not publicly commented on the stadium proposal yet. The Board of Visitors is scheduled to meet in April with some possibility of discussing the proposal. The board would not hear a presentation from the proposal until early June.
Even if the proposal turns out to be the best option for the university, there is still another step in the process. ODU would then allow others to submit their own proposals, a process that could take several months, something that could sidetrack this proposal.
Time is the biggest issue for S.B. Ballard construction in building the new stadium. The goal for S.B. Ballard is getting the stadium ready to go for the 2018 season opener versus ACC foe Virginia Tech. The company has given Old Dominion a timetable to make a decision. If ODU makes the decision to go with the plan by July 8, then the construction will be complete in time for the 2018 season. If not, the timetable would be moved back to the 2019 season.
It has not been determined where the Monarchs would play their homes games if the proposal were accepted by the university.
Expect to hear much more about the stadium proposal in June when the board gets an official presentation for the project.