When the rare chance to build a new house comes along, homeowners often prefer to super-size their surroundings.
With McLane Stadium, Baylor opted for just the opposite.
Some of Baylor’s neighbors have experienced massive expansions. Texas and Texas A&M, historically the state’s two most prominent college football programs, will both boast capacities in excess of 100,000 once Kyle Field’s current renovation project is complete by the 2015 season.
So, why 45,000 for Baylor? Why go smaller than Floyd Casey?
Honestly, because Baylor believed that was the best fit.
“Some of this is just pure economics,” Baylor associate athletic director Todd Patulski said. “Let’s make sure we sell out. Our goal is to sell out every game. Not just the Texas game, not just the TCU game, not just whatever that rivalry is that people are appreciative of. Every single game. We know, and the industry knows, that nothing sells tickets like the shortage of tickets. So don’t overbuild is good advice.”
Selling tickets to McLane Stadium hasn’t been a problem. Baylor fans have snapped up a record 28,000 season tickets. That’s not including the student section of 8,500 seats, which school officials expect to fill easily. Even with the 3,800 seats reserved for opposing fans, a conference-wide rule by the Big 12, McLane Stadium should be defined by a decided home-field advantage.
“For the first time ever, we’ve gotten on the right side of the supply and demand curve,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said.
The remaining 4,700 seats includes places for recruits, players’ guests, corporate sponsors and others. Any unused opponents’ tickets will be submitted back into the pool of single-game tickets for sale.
Baylor didn’t come by its 45,140 number in an arbitrary fashion. The school hired a consultant, Convention Sports and Leisure, to perform a feasibility study related to attendance before the first brick was ever laid. Baylor’s message to the consultant was simple: Bring us back a number that will allow us to sell out every game, while ensuring the seats are mostly filled with green and gold-clad supporters.
“How often do you build new football stadiums? But we all, myself included, think we’re experts about the size it should be,” said Brian Nicholson, BU’s vice president for facility, planning and construction. “We brought somebody in to do an analysis and help us figure that. But at the same token, we do want green and gold in the stands. When we’re playing Texas, when we’re playing Oklahoma, we don’t want a lot of orange and a lot of crimson.”
Today television allows fans to watch nearly every game from the comfort of their recliners in crystal clear-definition, a fact not lost on Baylor. McCaw said the university took note of the downsizing done by schools like Stanford, whose stadium featured a capacity of 85,500 in 2005 but is a little more than 50,000 now.
“I think there’s one thing that’s wise for Baylor to do: understand who you are,” Patulski said. “Understand you’re a private school and you’re in Waco, which is not a small town, but it’s not Austin. Understand that more often than not, private schools feed off their alumni.”
Baylor averaged 45,948 fans at home during its Big 12-winning season in 2013, so McLane Stadium’s size fits nicely with recent attendance trends.
The school has allowed itself some wiggle room, too. The stadium has the ability to expand by 10,000 seats, with the addition of a section on the berm above the south end zone and by adding onto the upper deck. McCaw said the athletic department will keep a close eye on ticket sales over the next few years, and if the school’s season ticket waiting list creeps into the 10,000 range, they’ll probably seek to expand.
For now, McCaw believes McLane Stadium is “right-sized” for Baylor.