Purdue’s Jetsons-like Future Fictional Football Stadium
Recently, there’s been some excitement about the renovations/expansion of Purdue’s football facilities. However, what is reality and what is complete and utter fantasy are quickly becoming conflated like a Brian Williams story. What IS Happening
The Purdue Board of Trustees approved a $60M commitment to improve the football facilities last weekend. Let’s be clear – that plan is for the expansion and improvement of Mollenkopf and to “make Purdue’s facilities contemporary with its peers across the country, especially in the Big Ten.”
But don’t get too excited. Because raincloud Burke is here to set you straight:
"It's not a silver bullet," athletic director Morgan Burke said earlier this month.
Yes, that’s right, Morgan doesn’t want you too excited because Purdue football might still suck. Maybe he’s getting resigned to that. Or maybe he is wise enough to see that when you’re aiming to be midpack in the conference, well, that’s not exactly shooting for the moon an landing among the stars now, is it?
All that naysaying said, it’s still a good thing. $60M committed to improve the facilities is good and correct and appropriate and at least makes some of us cranky alumni feel better about Purdue spending some money on an aspect of the University that is very visible outside of West Lafayette and academic circles. This could be a much large conversation, obviously, but I think it’s fair to say that Purdue’s academic reputation and the history of our amazing alums (Astronauts, Capt. Sully, many others, etc.) is not in question nor about to be forgotten. What is in need of some attention is the athletics department, specifically what should be the biggest cash engine….football. So my point is, yes, it’s great that Purdue is going to improve Mollenkopf.
What’s Probably Never Happening
I’m sure Morgan and others within Purdue are enjoying the press that came out of the announcement that the $60M was approved. Because there were tweets like this from Sports Illustrated. Yes, indeed, check out Purdue’s “new incredible football complex.” Besides the questionable syntax there, maybe there should have been an addendum of “…for which there is currently no funding.”
Because the stadium renovations are far from approved. To my knowledge, there isn’t even a detailed proposal out there. If you go to the master plan site where the renderings live, you’ll even see terminology like “Potential improvements.” This is a hoary old trick where you can say, “Well, look, we did say potential. We never promised anything.” I’m sure the recruits and fans buying tickets will appreciate that nuance.
What they’re talking about in those potentials includes:
- New sound system
- North video board
- Ribbon video boards
- Lights (clutch your pearls!)
- Brick addition to existing field wall, which is something a long-ago rendering included. Make the South End Zone patio area into a train and we’re in business.
If you click “Renderings,” you get to see the renderings making the rounds. (Incidentally, if you click “Videos,” you also get the renderings.)
So for starters, if the Stadium looks like this one day, well… damn. I don’t blame people for being amped.
Someone show that to Kevin Sumlin, amirite?
I’ve longed for years for Purdue to at least close in the south end zone. Giving the team a cooler entrance than walking across a paved road and into an open-ended stadium has never been inspiring. This south end zone rendering looks terrific. I’m not sure what all these people are in the Stadium for – maybe there’s a Taylor Swift concert or something.
I can’t help but hear the Jetsons’ car noise in my head when I look at these.
I’m not sure what’s happening with the steps there. Tiny ones for old people and big, shelf-like ones for kids to fall off of? Family friendly!
Look, I joke, but as I said earlier, I understand why people are excited to see these renders coming out of anything sanctioned by tight-fisted Morgan J Burke. The truth I want to get to, though, is that while the renovations and expansion of Mollenkopf are indeed kicking off very soon and are funded and are slated to be completed in a little under two years, these other enhancements – the ones to Ross-Ade and the actual fan experience – are nothing more than a dream in an artist’s head.
A Few Examples of Empty Promises
Following the success of the Brees Era and Joe Tiller getting Purdue back on the map and into the upper half (third?) of the Big Ten, Purdue began getting serious about Ross-Ade, which was, quite honestly, a dump. Phase I was actually completed, for $70M, and included the press box, Shively and Buchanan Clubs and myriad other niceties. Niceties that most of us don’t get to experience except when gazing at the modern structure or being gifted tickets from generous benefactors.
If you’re wondering what happened to Phase II where Purdue would add an upper deck to the East side of the stadium, well, I guess that not happening was Danny Hope’s fault.
In fact, in the afterglow of Purdue turn-of-the-century success, there was talk of a tremendous fan capacity expansion, as illustrated here (by someone using MS Paint, I guess).
In 2013, Mr. Burke talked of improving Ross-Ade and how there was money in debt reserves that could be used. He mentioned the South End Zone specifically and how there would be renderings completed soon, such as this one. What Morgantown became, of course, was a construction zone followed by a temporary-feeling…..beergarden? And with nothing in sight right now to replace it.
One of our favorite fantasyland renderings is this one, where it appears that Purdue’s fans are translucent and the ghost of Darrell Hazell is watching over the proceedings.
To be fair, in the meantime there have been renovations/improvements to the aquatics facilities, the baseball facilities, the co-rec and, of course, Mackey. No one is discounting those are wonderful accomplishments. But in the end, it all comes back to whether your football program is bringing in cash. A great facility and a good program would do wonders for Purdue. I have no doubt the donation dollars would increase and Purdue would make even more cash from this investment.
If the facility expansion will take $60M, it’s reasonable to assume these hypothetical stadium improvements could be easily twice that amount. So when you see the Board approve a nine-figure sum on top of what was just approved or you see a real timeline for completion, then you can begin to dream.
We’ll see where things go but this week has felt a bit like a bait-and-switch. Leave it to Purdue to actually make a sizable investment in the football program, but still come off as a bit sneaky and not completely honest in doing so.