When Scott Carr was hired in early December of 2021 as Athletic Director, it was known that he would be taking on a massive task of not just reshaping athletics, but starting from the floor in building a foundation for FIU.
Nine months into his tenure, he’s laying the groundwork for a strategic plan that includes various upgrades across multiple programs and facilities. Carr sat down with UDD following the opening of fall practice to talk about what’s changed since last December — and what to expect in the near future.
“We’re looking at January as a target date when we’ll actually have the full strategic plan done, so in the meantime the goal for the first year has been what are some of the smaller projects that are going to make an impact,” said Carr. “Our student athletes are always going to be important to me and doing things to enhance their experience, so for not just football but other sports we’ve made upgrades and spent about $200,000 for things I knew we could get done immediately. Those larger projects that might have a seven or an eight figure price tag to them, those are going to be a part of the strategic plan that will be a little bit more long term.”
Of particular focus for the immediate future has been upgrading the atmosphere and experience at FIU Stadium on gamedays.
“We really want to work hard to sell those stadium club seats and that’s on us to give fans a reason to want to buy those tickets,” said Carr. “We’ve upgraded the basics with new flooring, LED lighting and furniture because we really want to create more of a VIP experience in those sections.”
Fans at FIU Stadium have opined on social media about a desire for different food and beverage options on gamedays. Enhancing the in-game dining options for both general admission and premium seating has also been a point of emphasis for Carr.
“We’ve partnered with Chartwells (Compass Group) to make sure we have a great experience there and one of the things that I’m most excited about is we’re constructing a full in-house kitchen at the stadium,” said Carr.
Compass Group provides in-game dining for Power Five programs such as Ohio State and Michigan State — along with owning Wolfgang Puck Catering and Levy Catering, who provided in-house dining experiences across several venues nationwide.
“It likely won’t be ready for this season, possibly late-November or December, but I’m this project is one that was on the higher end of the budget and we want to do it right. Where you cook your food is where you want to eat your food. So, for concession stands for the premium seating areas, the food quality is really going to go up.”
With under a month left till the start of the season, FIU has eclipsed last season’s mark for season ticket sales and while emphasizing that his goals are much larger, Carr is excited about the direction that sales are going and is expecting a strong August leading into week one.
“Right around 2,000 season tickets is where we are and obviously my goal is to be higher than that, we want to keep going on that number but still excited when comparing to last year,” said Carr. “August is typically your best sales month, just because as you’re leading up to the season. We’re really trying to push both our season ticket sales and our stadium club tickets.”
During Carr’s introductory press conference, he made numerous mentions to his time at the University of Central Florida, where Carr served as Associate and Interim AD prior to taking the FIU job. With that, it’s not much of a surprise to see that influence in Miami, continuing with the hire of Daniel Forcella as Senior Associate Athletics Director for Brand Advancement in June.
Forcella spent eight years with the Knights as part of a communications and social media department that has drawn rave reviews, especially over the past five seasons. He believes that there is a high trajectory for FIU once they have the foundation set.
“Scott made building out and creating an FIU brand in digital and social media an emphasis and that’s allowed me add a couple of bodies to make sure that we’re increasing our social media presence and our video, creative video and live video,” said Forcella. “The sky is the limit in terms of what we can do from an in-house social media and content standpoint and my background from UCF really helps in that regard.”
While their former school has experienced an unprecedented level of on-field success, Forcella asserts that things can be done to create fan engagement and excitement while the football program is being rebuilt.
“Of course, winning is the biggest key and when Coach MacIntyre has the team rolling, things will take off, but that’s where you get creative. We have excellent Olympic sports already in-place here, sports like soccer and then when you have a guy like (Tyrese) Chambers, that’s a huge help,” said Forcella. “But it’s just like football, we want to make sure we have the basics. Identify what are the things that make up a good quality social and content plan — then you have the ability to take a step back and get very creative, get outside the box, and start thinking of the ways that you can make noise on a greater stage.”
In continuing with the theme of moving forward, Carr ended the conversation by joining the players on the field as Mike MacIntyre brought practice to a close.
“As you can tell, I’m excited about the future, but I’m also excited about this year and it’s a new day not just for us in athletics but for our Panther family in the tri-county area,” said Carr.