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Cessna: Expectations rise with Kyle Field expansion - Aggie Sports: Football

Cessna: Expectations rise with Kyle Field expansion

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Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 10:29 pm, Wed Jan 8, 2014.

Texas A&M will spend $450 million to lay claim to the country's best venue for college football. Truth be told, many already thought Kyle Field had the game's best atmosphere before officials made plans to expand seating to 102,500.

Now the challenge is maintaining a program good enough to annually demand that many seats.

A&M right now could sell 150,000 tickets for each of this season's eight home games. And as for that game against defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 14, the state of Rhode Island isn't big enough to hold the number of Aggie fans who want to see Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel try to duplicate last year's victory over the Crimson Tide.

There's no doubt Manziel's exploits, A&M's move to the Southeastern Conference and an 11-2 finish under first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin factored in to the decision to add roughly 20,000 more seats as opposed to expanding to "only" 95,000 with the possibility of adding more seats later.

It's safe to say A&M's 2015 home opener will be a sellout along with the rest of the games that season. But what about when the newness wears off? Will there be a Johnny Football II? And if Sumlin goes Chip Kelly on the Aggies and leaves for the NFL, will the next head coach be able to put butts in seats?

You have to go back only a couple of years when -- other than the Texas game -- sellouts were few and far between. The current string of 14 straight sellouts is impressive, but many of those games included discounted tickets. And maybe that's the plan. More seats could mean more pricing options.

So who knows? Maybe A&M attendance is about to skyrocket or at least continue to grow. A&M averaged 87,183 fans two years ago and 87,013 last year. And that was accomplished with A&M playing SMU, Idaho and Kansas in 2011, and South Carolina State and Sam Houston State last year, along with Arkansas and Missouri, which were name schools but bringing bad teams to Kyle Field.

A&M also could add a marquee home game in nonconference play with the country's best venue. Notre Dame or Oregon would draw better than North Texas or New Mexico.

Bigger also could be better in that SEC teams travel well, which is why visiting teams are allotted 7,000 tickets. You figure programs like Alabama and LSU wouldn't mind buying a few more thousand tickets.

Local merchants have to be salivating about 100,000 fans coming to Aggieland for three or four weekends.

All A&M has to do is win. That might be enough to sell an extra 15,000 tickets per game.

A&M president R. Bowen Loftin joked during Wednesday's press conference that "no one wants to lose."

Actually, no one can afford to lose.

Loftin talked about his time as a student "when it wasn't much fun" as A&M went 8-23 in the three seasons after his freshman season. As a freshman, Loftin watched his Aggies shock everyone by winning the Southwest Conference, make the Cotton Bowl and beat Alabama. Then came the tough times.

Loftin said even during the dry spell, he and his classmates proudly still stood by the team.

That's still the case today, at least in spirit, but paying $85 for a ticket along with a grand or so for a licensing fee so the coach can be paid $3.1 million a year makes losing seasons intolerable. And throw in donations adding up to $450 million for the state's and SEC's biggest and best facility ... well, then the program better reflect it.

A&M will replace Tennessee as the SEC program with the largest stadium.

Neyland Stadium's latest additions and upgrades were part of a $136.4 million series of renovations from 2004-2010. That came after Peyton Manning played from 1994-97 for the Vols and Tennessee won the national championship in 1998. Those were pretty good times.

The Sporting News, by the way, ranked Neyland Stadium as the nation's best football stadium in 2001. And in 2004, Sports Illustrated ranked the venue, the UT campus and the surrounding Knoxville, Tenn., area as the best college football weekend experience.

All that, and in the last five years the Vols are 28-34 with four losing seasons, which is why Butch Jones is Tennessee's fourth head coach in six seasons. He understands if they build it or renovate it, you better win in it time after time.

That's the challenge facing the Aggies.

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1 comment:

  • jim '78 posted at 9:01 pm on Thu, May 2, 2013.

    jim '78 Posts: 1414

    Build it and they will come! We should have enclosed both endzones when the zone was built. Looking good!

     
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