Monday, May 11, 2015

An Affordable Option

If this site has focused a little too much on the inertia that is the Multi-Sport Facility,  it's not from malice. It's a story that was buried amidst 15 recruiting classes and some 20,000 undergraduate alumni who have spend their entire college years walking past a construction site posing as an athletic field and collectively coming to the same conclusion: "Georgetown doesn't care, why should we?"

What we have is not a failure to care. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Having been the bridesmaid for every capital project at Georgetown for a decade, including most of the buildings which surround it, it's a fair question: what will it take to get this proverbial bridesmaid to the construction altar?

In a decade where the soft bigotry of low expectations for football at the Hilltop threaten to obscure any meaningful progress in players, coaching, or approach, it may be hard to see an opening in the clouds where the MSF has an opportunity to move forward. But surprisingly, that time is now, nut not for the reasons you might think.

Stadium...ummm, "facility" projects generally fall into three categories:  they are aspirational, they are confirmational, or they are simply te result of a gift at the right time and place.

Mercer University, heretofore unknown in football circles, joined the ranks of Division I-AA with a brand new 10,200 seat stadium--a significant bet on a program that had not played since the 1930's. It was at 98% capacity this season for an undergraduate school of 4,500.

Confirmational projects don't seek to set the world on fire, but make a statement of where they are. Unless you're lost in western Maryland, chances are you'll never see Kenneth Gill Stadium, home of McDaniel College, a Division III school in Maryland.  Once known as Western Maryland College, the school does not have aspirations for the big time, but chose a facility that states its case to confirm where they are.

"This gets us to a level where we are not only competitive in the Centennial Conference, but this stadium will compete with those in the Patriot League and the Ivy League," said athletic director Paul Moyer. "It definitely compares favorably with any place that I've been."

And some stadiums are an outright gift, and that's OK too.

West Liberty University will not be confused with Georgetown: a small state supported school in the rugged West Virginia panhandle. And it was that hardscrabble, rural environment that propelled Gary West into the welding business, where his firm is now the largest private distributor of welding supplies in the United States. West has been generous to his school: the business school is named after him, and he has served on the school's trustees. When the school needed a much needed upgrade to its football field, West made the $5 million gift that turned West Family Stadium into a reality:

What lessons do these projects have for Georgetown?

For one, each of these projects were completed for less than $15 million. Clearly the cost of Georgetown's high-dollar contractor firms isn't the rate in rural Maryland or the outskirts of Wheeling, West Virginia, but these projects aren't at the bloated $40 million price tag once floated by some senior Georgetown administrators, either.

Next, they are not monuments but community spaces. For those that never knew, the original MSF was always more than a football field--it was seen as a place for speeches, for concerts, for commencements.

"The new field will continue to function as an open recreational space for students when games or practices are not being held. The four entrances to the MSF at each end of the facility allow for mid-campus walks. The four gothic entry pavilions will create a strong threshold experience which echoes the architectural fabric and traditions of Georgetown. The proportions of the pavilions, colonnades, detailing and features in the design all reflect the American Gothic character of the campus."

That's not a fan talking, that was Georgetown University talking, in a 2005 press release.

Finally, these three projects stress the possible. There is not a Kyle Field or an AT&T Stadium in the lot. Affordable, right-sized projects, that can fulfill what Bob Benson implored nearly two decades ago: "Build a new facility with all the tradition of the past in mind. Place it in the center of campus. Create a new school spirit among our students, faculty, and the community, and bring an environment with a wonderful aura of history and tradition to the Georgetown campus."

Mercer Stadium cost $14 million. Can we not aspire?

Kenneth Gill Stadium cost $8 million. Can we not confirm a place for football?

West Family Stadium was built on a $5 million gift. Is there not such a benefactor out there?

And the confluence of these ideas lies in the capital campaign, the campaign that left the MSF out of its plans. In 14 months, the campaign will have concluded and all gifts received to date will be part of the total, regardless if they have been expensed.

Is this not the time to reengage the athletics community and get some serious MSF commitments in the door and under the campaign wire? Because if you think it's tough to raise money during a $1.5 billion campaign, try raising it when the fundraising team has scattered after one.

We don't have to build a $40 million or $60 million or $100 million stadium. But we have to build something.

We can aspire. We can confirm. And some can give. But first, Georgetown needs to ask.