Attention Dan Guerrero's Replacement: Fix UCLA's Football Facilities (Part 5)

This is what a Stadium the size of Stanford or UNC Stadiums would look like at Drake Stadium.

In Part 1 of this series, we argued that a program of UCLA's historical stature deserves first-class facilities, especially for the football team, given the primacy of football for an athletic department's bottom line. In Part 2, we demonstrated that investing money in the football program generally can improve the bottom line for the athletic department and even the university as a whole.  We also demonstrated that schools can win by putting money into the program and failing to invest in the program pretty much guarantees a lack of success. In Part 3, we looked at some of the premier facilities around the country. In Part 4, we showed how UCLA has fallen behind much of the Pac-12 in terms of athletic and football facilities.  In this post, we will propose some solutions.  As always, this community encourages all members to propose their own ideas as well.

Once again, this topic is timely as we will soon be looking for a new football coach and hopefully a new athletic director.  UCLA needs an elite coach and a top-notch AD, both of whom will rightfully insist on facilities upgrades.  Dan Guerrero is the Tom Hansen of Pac-12 ADs, presiding over an athletic department infected with resiliant and institutional rot, a diseased culture of mediocrity and an ivory tower mentality. Bruins fans are sick and tired of Dan Guerrero and the Morgan's Center's insular culture and stuck-in-the-past mindset: it's time for wholesale regime change in Westwood.

Let's address some concerns or rather some concern trolling that is sure to emerge.  Inevitably, some short-sighted people will complain that we can't do it here, or assert, without providing any evidence, that other schools have more money than UCLA.  Such arguments would be myths, or should we say, attempts at bamboozlement.

In 2007-2008, UCLA's athletic department was 25th in revenue, with $66 million, putting the Bruins' revenue ahead of Cal (28), Minnesota (29), Washington (33), Oregon (36), Louisville (44), North Carolina State (55), and TCU (57) all schools that are upgrading or have significantly upgraded their facilities.  Additionally, with significant Pac-12 revenues arriving in the near future, and a huge and successful alumni base, money is absolutely not a legitimate excuse.

I'm sure we'll also see similar concern trolling claiming that we don't have any space.  Again, this would be misguided.  UCLA is building the Luskin Conference Center.  Unfortunately, in a shortsighted move, UCLA is building the facility on the site of Lot 6, which would have been a good location to expand Spaulding Field:

Campus officials today announced new plans to advance UCLA's academic mission by building a centrally located conference and guest center where faculty and students can exchange ideas with scholars from across the globe.
 
The proposed seven-story building would be located at the end of Westwood Plaza on 4.5 acres currently occupied by Parking Structure 6. Plans call for 25,000 square feet of meeting space and 250 guest rooms, which would be reserved for those attending conferences or having business with the university. Complete details are available at a website dedicated to the project.

Lot 6 seems like, at best, a questionable location for a hotel.  Unfortunately the need to upgrade Spaulding was likely not considered when making this decision.  However, there is space if Spaulding and the IM fields were switched, or where the tennis courts currently are, or Lot 8, although at some point, UCLA will start running out of parking.  UCLA needs to start seriously considering building a new football practice and operations complex, on multiple floors, with parking underneath.

So, what are our solutions?

First and foremost, our practice facilities absolutely need to be upgraded.  We need at least 2 full outdoor 120 yard fields, with normal straight uprights.  We need to fix the drainage on the natural grass portion or make them both field turf.  An indoor practice facility is not really a necessity in Westwood, but functional outdoor facilities are.

Second, and this is something else that needs to be done immediately.  The bare minimum is Spaulding (or a replacement for Spaulding) and improving Acosta/Knapp.  We need to build a new strength and conditioning center that is at least equal to what USC and Cal are doing. If they want to make it really cool, ideas like Florida's Bull Gator Plaza provide would fit well at UCLA and could really show off the history to prospective recruits (especially since under Dan Guerrero's reign of error most recruits wouldn't even remember the last time UCLA has had a season worthy of its football tradition):

Before entering the complex, fans will see a variety of tributes to Gator greats. Every consensus All-American has an 18 x 18 granite paver in the walkway with their name and year they won All-America honors. In addition, the seven Gators who have been elected into the College Football Hall of Fame are recognized in the area. A spectacular 15-plus foot bronze Gator stands at the center of the entryway, paying tribute to the 2006 National Championship Team. This statue was funded by donations from Stumpy Harris, Hjalma Johnson, and Joe LeCompte. In addition, the names of 309 Bull Gator donors are inscribed around the base of the statue.

As we mentioned in Part 1:

While UCLA did renovate the Acosta Center, to include a 15,000 square foot weight room, 8,000 square feet for athletic training and rehabilitation, and the Bud Knapp Football Center, which includes the locker rooms, equipment room, and nine meeting rooms and a team meeting room, the facilities are not in the top of the conference or comparable programs.  As we have demonstrated, financially, football is the most important sport for the financial health of an athletic department, and spending on football and reinvesting in the football program makes a lot of sense.

Acosta is pretty nice, but a 15,000 square foot weight room just isn't in the same league as USC's 32,000 square foot weight room or as cool as Cal's larger (but not immensely larger) Student-Athlete High Performance Center.  We're not going to say exactly what needs to be done, and a good football hire might have his own ideas (a football only complex, perhaps), but these two ideas are immediate needs. 

Additionally, we've also mentioned other ideas that have been used at Stanford and Washington, such as improved student-athlete academic centers and improved training table/sports nutrition facilities.

We may also want to upgrade non-football facilities as well.  Florida made nice renovations to its volleyball practice facility:

Florida's state-of the-art athletic fieldhouse facility, now named the Lemerand Athletic Center, opened in the 1995-96 academic year and underwent an $1.4-million renovation that was completed in the fall of 2006.

The $5.61 million, 46,000 square-foot facility currently houses three full-sized volleyball courts and serves as the practice facility for Gator volleyball. The building also has equipments, training and locker room areas to accommodate volleyball, soccer and track & field It includes team meeting space and coaches' offices for soccer, softball, track & field, lacrosse and volleyball.

The Men's Gym/Student Activities Center already has a capacity of 2,000.  It may be worthwhile considering whether that facility could be renovated further and used for a more intimate setting (and better home-court advantage) for regular season volleyball, gymnastics, and women's basketball.  Wooden Center is already being used this season while Pauley is renovated.

Finally, we come to the most controversial, most long term aspect, but really, the most important.  An on-campus football stadium.  Why do we need an on-campus stadium?  Well, for one, the LSU-Bama game was worth $18 million to the City of Tuscaloosa.  Additionally, as Baylor coach Art Briles argued, an on-campus stadium really matters for recruiting:

"There is a difference between a want and a need," Briles said this summer during one of his Bear Blitz Coaches' Caravan stops. "When you're the only (NCAA Division I) university in the state of Texas that does not have an on-campus stadium, that's a need. It's something that bothers you in the recruiting world. We can tickle each other and giggle all we want, but don't think people don't use that against us. And don't think other universities don't know, because it's true. Real doesn't lie, and that's reality."

Similarly, as Drayton McLane, a longtime Baylor booster argued:

Drayton McLane, a former Chairman of the Board of Regents (2002-04) and longtime supporter, has been a strong proponent of moving football back on campus.

"When I went to graduate school at Michigan State, the football stadium was right in the middle of the campus," McLane said in an interview last month with SicEmSports.com. "It was part of the fun with college. Baylor has not experienced that. People go west to the games, and the school is on the east side of the city, so many people won't even see the campus. For a lot of people who go to Texas A&M, Texas Tech or Texas, they get to see their stadium. Baylor is one of the most upbeat and friendly places, but people don't get a chance to see it."

A stadium would fit on campus with minimal disturbance to the IM field and the surrounding neighborhoods.  In addition to the animation, below, you can also view the video (above) that shows how Kenan Stadium (UNC, capacity 60,000) and Stanford Stadium (50,000) would look on the site of Drake Stadium.  There are many other stadia with similar capacities (for example, Jones AT&T (Texas Tech, 60,000) nicely blends in with Texas Tech's campus architecture), but as this .gif featuring Stanford stadium show (which is part of the video posted above), it is quite doable.

Drake-color_medium

For an on-campus stadium, there is no doubt that there would be political opposition, but we should not simply give up.  Dan Guerrero (or his replacement) should make it his (or her) legacy, even if it takes 2, 5, 10, or more years. If Farmers Field can get special legislation easing potential legal challenges, why couldn't UCLA do the same?  UCLA, a large, extremely influential university with numerous influential alumni has political connections and can hire lobbyists, if necessary:

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday to expedite legal challenges to Farmers Field, Anschutz Entertainment Group's $1.2 billion proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

Senate Bill 292, which passed the California State Senate and Assembly less than three weeks ago, includes no exemption from environmental laws but would allow legal challenges to the stadium's environmental impact report (EIR) to be heard immediately in the California Court of Appeal, which would then come to a decision within 175 days.

The expedited process would bypass the Superior Court and avoid the protracted litigation AEG has been fearful of.

SB 292 should apply to a UCLA on-campus stadium as well:

Governor Brown recently signed Assembly Bill ("AB") 900 to expedite judicial review of certain "leadership projects" with hope that the streamlining efforts will improve the job market for Californians.  The bills provide an incentive for applicants to move forward with their projects because any challenge to a leadership project Environmental Impact Report ("EIR") under the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") will be venued immediately in the Court of Appeal.  The court will then have a maximum of 175 days to issue its decision on the challenged EIR.

To qualify as a leadership project, the project must exceed $100 million and not result in any net additional emissions of greenhouse gases.  The project also must create high-wage, highly skilled jobs that pay prevailing and living wages and provide construction jobs and permanent jobs for Californians.  As a prerequisite to receiving certification approval from the Governor, the applicant also must enter an agreement with the lead agency that all mitigation measures will be enforced and monitored.  Additionally, the applicant bears the burden of costs for any hearing or decision before the Court of Appeal.

We should also noted that California courts have held that the university regents have virtually plenary power in regulating the university’s affairs. As such, a University’s project should not be subject to municipal regulation, and should be exempt from local zoning regulations and building codes.  Regents of the University of California v. City of Santa Monica, 77 Cal. App. 3d 130 (1978).

We've also added some maps, the first one is what it would look like with just the Stanford stadium instead of Drake.

Drake-color_medium

The second one is adding the stadium, moving Spaulding to the North Athletic Field (it is to scale, for two full length football fields), adding a football training center at the north of the IM field, and putting the soccer stadium (to scale) where Spaulding was.  We've even added a ticket office even though CTO could presumably be used.  There is still a ton of space for the IM field.

Drake-color_medium

This deals with pretty much everything, except where to put the track.  But the VA has already been mentioned as a potential spot for a football stadium, so it's conceivable the track could go at the VA.  The VA would probably be open to it because it would be open to the public when there's no practice/meets, like Drake is now.

If and when we get into the actual architecture of the stadium, the smart plan would be to put a higher bowl and the media box on the west side, with a shorter tier of seating on the east side, so although it’s not an open end, the Royce Quad is still visible from where the cameras would be.

In conclusion, UCLA's facilities are falling behind and we need to take immediate steps to improve practice facilities and strength and conditioning.  Additionally, UCLA should implement a long term plan to build an on campus stadium.  It can be done, with new competent leaders for the athletic department and the football team.  Go Bruins.

(Thanks to Telemachus for providing the animations and video and all the editors for their extremely helpful thoughts on this series.  Thanks to commenters Jim Rogers and GilbyDM101 for providing some info used in this post.)

This is a multi-part series analyzing UCLA's facilities and the failure of the current regime to invest in facilities.  Facilties Part 1 is an introductory post; Facilities Part 2 looks at how investments in football can pay off; Facilities Part 3 examines some premier facilities around the country.  Part 4 looks at facilities in the Pac-12.

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