June 24, 2009
(10:22 a.m.): After the Brian Kelly contract news conference Monday, in which we discussed the removal of the practice bubble/practice facility clause from his contract, I also wanted to talk about the future of Nippert Stadium.
I asked Mike Thomas if there was anything specific in BK's new contract regarding upgrades to Nippert (there aren't) and I asked BK if he had shifted his thinking about playing more games at Paul Brown Stadium (at this point, he'd rather play home games at Nippert). To me, it's an issue that will play a role in determining how seriously a player the administration thinks football can be in the next decade or so (whether BK is here or not).
A few months ago, during a football spring practice, Thomas and I talked for a while about the state of the stadium and what could be done to upgrade it into a facility that could generate more revenue streams. What I took from the conversation: it's going to be tough to expand the stadium past, say, 45,000 seats, and it's going to cost a boatload of money to put in club seats and private boxes. Tens of millions of dollars that would take many years to pay itself off.
In the epilogue of Bearcats Rising, (cover here, preorder it here) I talk about the possible solutions and consequences of a Nippert facelift. It seems like everybody agrees that something needs to be done to modernize the stadium. Although the relatively new and shiny Paul Brown Stadium - which still will play host to the UC-Oklahoma game in 2010 - sits a few miles to the south, a weekly jaunt downtown isn't what BK has in mind.
"There's always going to be the want and the desire to play on your home field," BK said. "However, I signed this contract because of what it looks like in five years. If Nippert looks like this in five years, I'll be very disappointed."
Thomas seems to realize that. Which is why architects continue to study ways to expand and improve Nippert and Fifth Third Arena. Of course, as I detail in the book*, the Lindner Center, to some degree, stands in the way of progress.
*Big kickoff, Aug. 20 at Joseph-Beth with special guests.
Thomas, though, hopes to have an answer soon.
"We are studying both Nippert and 5/3 right now," Thomas said. "Hopefully, some time in the mid-to-late fall we'll have good feel about what we can and cannot do with some of those projects. The cost components won't be there, but it will follow shortly thereafter. ... That's being studied right now and seeing what ability we have to do something with the stadium. Not just with the footprint, but raising the dollars to make that happen."
Something, BK said, has to be done.
"There has to be - and there is - a plan in place," he said. "Mike is aggressively pursuing options to get Nippert Stadium to a position where it ensures its long-term viability. Let's face it, they had to do a lot of work to Wrigley and Fenway Park to maintain their long-term viability. We have to do the same thing here. If we don't do it and say, `Forget it, we'll make it an intramural field and we're down at Paul Brown,' I don't think that's the case. There's an effort on everybody's part to really study what needs to be down here to keep this facility a mainstay for us. If we stay inactive on this, we'll be down at Paul Brown a lot. If we move in the fashion that I think we are, we're going to be able to play both cards. That's a good thing for this program."