What should Clemson build (a new baseball stadium)? What should $31 million buy?

NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – In working on a story for tomorrow’s Post & Courier on college baseball’s facilities arms race, I surprised at what a relative value baseball facilities are compared to basketball arenas. I suppose 700-ton roofs are expensive.

I found the construction costs of new baseball parks in South Carolina interesting:

*The Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ park cost $12 million in 1999

*Flour Field was built in Greenville in 2006 for $15 million

*Riley Park was constructed in Charleston in 1997 for $19.5 million ($28.2 million in 2013 dollars)

*Carolina Stadium was the most expensive of the four, costing $36 million in 2009. But in 2013 dollars Carolina Stadium ($38.9 million) has the same pricetag as Littlejohn Coliseum’s 2003 renovation ($38 million adjusted for inflation).

All four stadiums range between 5,600-6,600 capacity with Carolina Stadium being the largest.

(Better value: Carolina Stadium or Littlejohn Renovation?)

Consider those construction costs then consider that the Colonial Center cost South Carolina $65 million, and a new 8,000-seat basketball arena would figure to cost Clemson around $80 million.

Yes, arenas can host concerts and conventions, they can generate revenue year round, they are different animals, but what program has more tradition and history of success Clemson/South Carolina basketball or Clemson/South Carolina baseball? What does it mean to have a facility that can allow a program to recruit the best baseball players year after year and consistently make CWS appearances? There is tremendous value and exposure in that.

I find it interesting for a third of the cost of a new basketball arena you could give Clemson a state-of-the-art baseball home to rival South Carolina’s. For the cost of Clemson’s $31 million renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum in 2003 it could have its own Carolina Stadium. (Would it be great to give every program state-of-the-art facilities, yes, but I’m operating under the assumption Clemson has limited resources).

Now Dan Radakovich says Clemson has no plans to build an entirely new baseball stadium. So this blog is really just a thought experiment, but I’m enjoying it so I’ll continue.

Radakovich’s wish list appears to be figure out a fix for Clemson basketball and get Clemson baseball a new clubhouse/players’ complex. He wants every program to have competitive facilities.

Moreover, Clemson has put in new seats at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, it will put in a new field after the season. It’s certainly not a bad place to watch a game.

“Doug Kingsmore is a phenomenal facility,” Radakovich told me. “It is in a great location. It is not something in our thought process of changing. I think there are significant pieces of that stadium that are still incredibly serviceable. We just need to keep it relevant.”

And to keep it relevant, Clemson coach Jack Leggett has been pushing for a new clubhouse but Clemson is still $300,000 short of the $3 million goal in private funding for such a facility. (IPTAY will match with another $3 million). Radakovich also noted the cost of such a facility could exceed $6 million.

Radakovich said football will often be first on the facility priority list at Clemson. After all it is football that creates most of the athletic department’s revenue. This makes sense.

But should more dollars should be allocated to baseball? It is a program that Leggett has led to the College World Series six times. It is a program that has produced two national players of the year since 1996. It is a program that has been a proven winner.

I’m not sure how many dollars should be allocated to baseball. Maybe $6-$10 million is all it requires. But the bigger cost would be letting the program slide too far behind South Carolina.

WAS THE LITTLEJOHN RENOVATION A GOOD VALUE?

Today in the print edition we examined whether Clemson got its money’s worth in its 2003 renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum, which cost the school $31 million dollars.

We ask because 10 years after the renovation Clemson is looking at two studies:  the feasibility of building a new arena and the cost/benefit of renovation Littlejohn…. again.

What is clear is Clemson had to do something in 2003. Its basketball facility was woefully inadequate and Clemson’s program did improve following the renovation.

But did Clemson get enough for its $31 million? As we mentioned above, Clemson could have had its own Carolina Stadium for $31 million.

Then project manager Paul Borick, who is now a projects manager at Wake Forest, believes it was a necessary project.

“I don’t want to call (the renovation) a stopgap, but at the time compared to what Littlejohn was, it was a major improvement,” Borick said.

Borick also noted that facilities change so much in 10 years that it’s hard to project and second-guess decisions a decade ago.

I get that, but I still come back to the value question. Did Clemson get value?

Even the Sports Business Journal back in 2002 questioned Clemson’s decision to not install premium seats, and Littlejohn’s lack of premium seating has stunted revenue potential.

Another $50 million could have given it a new arena in 2003.

Instead Clemson paid for a stopgap. And, yes, perhaps it was a stopgap that was needed. But if Littlejohn is deemed insufficient by these studies, that’s an expensive stopgap.

Maybe what we can learn from this is that it’s always better to go quality over quantity. Instead of trying to give to programs moderate upgrades, give one a great update and wait on the other program

Clemson gave Littlejohn a $38 million facelift (2013 dollars) 10 years ago. USC got a gem of baseball facility for the same price in 2009. I’d rather have Carolina Stadium. Would you?

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