Bob DeCarolis not too long ago posted his thoughts in a recent Orange Perspective about the future of facilities at OSU as the final work on the new basketball practice facility was coming to a close. Most enlightening and impactful to the future of Oregon State Athletics as a respected national brand with a top notch program was his thoughts on working towards Phase 3 of Reser Stadium. As many expected, but which many people feel is atleast a couple years too late is his belief that Reser Phase 3 hopefully could be be constructed in 2019. He mentioned Valley Center improvements that are earmarked in the next couple years and thought that would slightly diminish seats in the North Endzone. In other words, until Phase 3 happens OSU could go from 45,674 currently to maybe 45,300 or less. The wrong direction.
The new Oregon State branding got quite a bit of national attention and coming off a solid year, OSU should be capable of selling 47,000 seats a game this year on average with decent marketing. People want energy and attitude that the program is ready to take a step into a bigger more high profile program, but the quaint small town ways that BDC and Riley are so comfortable with are winning out. Even with the new branding the attitude of the program is still too sluggish overall. If this continues OSU will only grow further behind Oregon. The strategy OSU ought to take is challenging Oregon more seriously and not accepting the role of little brother like BDC seems to be fine with. Erickson was not like that at all. He made the program every bit and more interesting than Oregon by injecting life and attitude in an aggressive fashion into the program. He wanted OSU to come fully alive and in 1999-2000 they were meteoric in their sudden impact.
DeCarolis in his interview mentioned that in 2019 if Phase 3 can get done, then he thinks 48K is a good number for OSU. 48K is barely a good number for Utah St. and by 2019 if Oregon State lets 6+ years go by with Husky Stadium getting solid limelight and Oregon almost for sure having another round of expansion at Autzen expected to take it to 70K, then OSU will be sealing itself as thinking small for the next 25 years after that with little else that can be done to expand seating. 48K probably reflects a west side mirror, but I always felt that ought to produce 49K in seats and expand capacity by about 3K. But if the Valley Center improvements take us down to 45,300 or less than 3K on top of that would be in the low 48,000 range so it is reasonable that we could fall in that range, even though it seems to be happy with the tiniest of growth rates from now until then and very little wiggle room after that.
Indeed all that could be done afterwards is a horseshoe bowl in, unless the reason we are ending with a kinda lowball 48K is because BDC is considering a “lipstick on a pig” approach to the west side. This would be just trying to spruce up the west side in a fashion that makes it much less structurally capable of ever being horseshoed in and OSU truly being stuck for decades as the smallest stadium in the PAC next to Martin Stadium. Right now Reser has 657 more seats than Utah’s Rice-Eccles (45,017) but Utah has announced anticipated plans to get to 55K+ seats within the next 3-4 years. If OSU is going to have to wait until 2019 for a cohesive and truly premium stadium on both sides then it had better get to the 50K mark I consider the threshold for any program wanting to have repeated national impact amongst the big boys. Stanford has 50K and the stadium does not appear that large. OSU is plenty capable of supporting that number and most importantly whatever we build had better be capable of eventually getting to that Reser Final Phase design that supports 55K because to not have that level in say another 20 years is just thinking incredibly small. Texas A&M is expanding to over 100K and all it took for them was a nice injection of excitement of what energized, big time football is really about.
That isn’t making it quaint and not having fireworks for big games, or coming up with Randy the Logger. Instead it is capitalizing on momentum from things like rebranding and taking a clear and noticeable step forward and letting the college football world know you are going to be serious about getting some attention and running a strong program that feels like it belongs in the Top 20 year in and year out. OSU as a campus is expanding at atleast a 3.3% growth rate every year for the last decade so why does BDC limiting OSU’s potential and losing seats at OSU until 2019 in the next couple years and then maybe after that making it so we may not even be capable of future growth. Adding only maybe 2,300 seats at last in 2019 means BDC wants OSU to be worse than a snail. Do the math, 2300 divided by 6 years until it gets built equals an average gain of 383 seats a year, and that divided by the current 45,674 capacity equals growth of only .00838 which is well under 1% growth for this “expansion” effort until it happens and then maybe no possible growth afterwards for decades to come if the wrong plan is chosen or BDC screws this up.
BDC’s term runs out in 2016 and if OSU wants to be a serious contender against Oregon bolder leadership with a more aggressive vision for OSU’s flagship sports program is desperately needed. OSU can’t be 20K+ seats behind Oregon and think of itself as every bit UO’s rival. The programs have always been much closer in the past and BDC seems too willing to let that gap get wider and sell OSU as the Pac-12’s Utah St. Beaver Nation needs and deserves more. When Gill Coliseum was built it was the largest basketball facility west of the Mississippi. Where is that vision to be great and a leader with purpose now? Oregon St. at the bare minimum must get a true mirror that will make the stadium look like a gem. That structure will allow future expansion when appropriate and until then will produce a Flushing Meadows like look that will get the stadium in the upper half of the conference as far as attractiveness. I mean ASU is putting a futuristic shaded roof over their stadium and the arms race will not end in 2019 just because BDC hopes he can get a 3 year extension to his contract and retire as OSU opens its grand expansion of .8 of 1%.