Just recently, Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete Boone revealed a $150 Million-Dollar plan to improve the Athletic Facilities on the Ole Miss campus, namely Football and Basketball. The big plan is to tear down the 45-year-old C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum that hosts the Ole Miss men’s and women’s basketball games and to build a new state-of-the-art arena. This may be the only positive thing in the improvement plan since a new arena is much needed due to recent events. The latest incident being during a women’s Basketball game last February between Ole Miss and Tennessee, play was stopped due to a water leak that was coming through the vents because of a rainstorm occurring outside. The game was cut short because Tennessee was holding a large lead at the time. Even Pat Summit, head coach for the Lady Vols, said she had never seen anything like this in all her years of coaching.
On the back-end of the new arena, it will increase capacity to more than 10,000, about 1,000 more than the “Tad Pad” currently holds. This is more of a question of “Why more seating?” Ole Miss barely averaged half of its current capacity this past year and it has been extremely rare that a game ever sells out. Even when Ole Miss upset Final Four contender Kentucky this past year and the majority of those fans being in Kentucky-Blue (fans that otherwise cannot see them in Lexington because it is always sold out) there were about 1,000-1,500 seats that were empty in the 9,000+ seat stadium. The women’s team can barely fill a high-school gym these days and admission is free to those games.
The next biggest thing is “bowling in” the North End Zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (which will complete its bowl shape of the stadium), which will improve seating capacity to more than 70,000. They intend to add more premium seating with the expansion of the stadium and much-needed repairs to the concourse areas. The stadium has sold out for the entire season just one time (back in 2009) with the stadium currently at a capacity of 60,580. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is currently the largest stadium in the state of Mississippi, but is the third-worst stadium in terms of capacity in the SEC. (Mississippi State at 55,082 has the second-worst and are both ahead of Vanderbilt’s 39,790)
The one thing that always bugs fans is the “premium seating.” Premium seating is normally offered to those that are big advertisers with the clubs that get free tickets or to those that donate a lot of money to Ole Miss Athletics. Most of those type of people just drink and socialize instead of watching the actual game – the reason why those seats are there. The premium seating prices are going to help and eventually payoff the $150M in improvement plans. It bugs the actual fans who cannot pay such high prices for tickets that have them go over there, sit there and talk to the person next to them for 60 minutes.
The expansion to 70,000+ is not necessary since Ole Miss rarely ever sells a game out (aside from the 2009 season where Ole Miss was preseason ranked in the Top 10) – even to SEC games. The fact that expansion to 70,000+ should excite OPPONENT fans rather than the Rebel fans. Many who wind up with tickets eventually find their way to fans like the SEC West opponents that play Ole Miss every year like Alabama who have fans that can’t get tickets to their own home games, LSU and Arkansas who are in much of the same boat with Alabama, whenever Florida or Tennessee visits Ole Miss it is the same way because of their large fanbases. The Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State hasn’t sold out in VH-Stadium in the last at least 4 times it has been played at Ole Miss. There are seemingly always more Vanderbilt, Auburn, Mississippi State and other fans than what should be allotted number of tickets allowed to a school.
Next is a Ole Miss Hall of Fame building to feature the best players and coaches in Ole Miss history (like Archie, Copper & Eli Manning, John Vaught, Micheal Oher, Deuce McCallister, Dexter McCluster, Devin Britton and such) – I believe all schools should have their own, it is just surprising it took them this long to build one up.
Other things that are included in the Improvement plan is improvements to the Gilliom Sports Center where Ole Miss plays its Volleyball games, which is always good to sporting venues that do not normally receive attention.
The major improvements they have planned are not going to help Ole Miss in the long run – they just do not have the fan base to fill it up consistently and be loud, never have and never will. When Boone fired David Cutcliffe in 2004 after his only losing season in six seasons (and remains as the most controversial firing of the decade), the football program has never really found a solid footing in terms of having a solid fanbase, only selling out when Ole Miss had a possible Heisman Trophy candidate and was ranked as high as 5th in the country. He dragged the Basketball program too far into the ground before firing Rod Barnes – suffering its fan base to death. Current Ole Miss Basketball coach Andy Kennedy has done a fair job trying to recreate its fan base but his teams continue to reach the NIT Tournament rather than the NCAA Tournament, preventing him from having a more solid fanbase even with the students. These “improvements” are not to the fan’s advantage but to their disadvantage as they are going to deal with more and more fans of opposing teams to the point where there will not be a home-field advantage for Football or Basketball (if there is one now).
And Boone wants all the fans to be “all in” to this – why would they want to be all in if they are not even paying $50 for a football ticket and attend a game? These fans don’t even want to pay $10 for a basketball game; off a year where Ole Miss clearly had one of its worst athletic years in school history.