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Students’ reaction to stadium renovation project mixed

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 13:02

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After UNH’s recent announcement of its plans to build a new athletic complex at Cowell Stadium, students expressed mixed feelings. The $25 million football stadium has some students asking questions.

“Why make a bigger stadium when you’re not filling the current one?” sophomore Matt Kimball said.

The current stadium seats about 6,500  with approximately 750 students attending each game. The new stadium would be able to hold 10,000 people.

“I don’t think building a bigger stadium will bring more people,” sophomore Shaina Maciejewski said.

Belinda Bechtold, sophomore, agreed. She said that she believes it won’t make people enjoy the sport or the game any more than they do now.

“Just because they have nice seats doesn’t mean you’re gonna watch football if you don’t like football,” Bechtold said.

Not everyone agrees with this though. Some believe that the football stadium can help to attract more students, current and prospective.

“I think if they have a better stadium it could increase the popularity of the games,” sophomore Tim Zaremba said.

Others think this way as well, saying that it’d be good not only for the university, but for the team as well.

“I think it’s a good idea because the team is doing well now,” sophomore Mia Burnes said. “They’re earning it.”

Lindsay Hydorn, sophomore, thinks that a new stadium can help to improve what the student body thinks of the team. 

“I think many times people don’t take the football team seriously,” Hydorn said. “[Cowell Stadium] looks like a high school stadium.”

Matt Kaplan, a senior football player going into his fifth season next year, also thinks that the stadium could look better. He said that the rest of campus is “beautiful” and “top of the line” and that Cowell Stadium doesn’t meet these standards. Kaplan said that with increased TV coverage, people might think that all of UNH looks like this and that it will deter prospective students.

Brad Prasky, who is also a senior football player going into his fifth season, thinks that the new complex will be great for the team and the football program. He said that teams from the past have worked hard to make UNH proud and to gain community support so that future players could have more than teams in the past did. He said that he believes the new stadium is the next step towards achieving that.

We are already looking forward to large turnouts under the lights next season, and I can only imagine the atmosphere in a new stadium,” Prasky said. “I just hope that everyone else is looking forward to it as well.”

Kaplan hopes this as well and said that the new stadium will be beneficial to the campus and community.

“This new facility will make the sports complex on par with all the other facilities on campus,” Kaplan said. “With a state-of-the-art facility, what student or community would not enjoy watching one of the most elite teams in the country?”

Some people are wondering about the money though and if this is really a necessary investment. UNH said that $20 million of the cost is coming from cash reserves and that the other $5 million will be raised through contributions.

Allen Zou, sophomore, thinks UNH should slow down on spending money on things that are supposed to draw in new students and make the university more modern.

“I think it’s unnecessary because they just spent all that money on the new logo,” Zou said.

He said that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

“A lot of students need financial aid and that outweighs the benefits of a new stadium,” Zou said.

Maciejewski also had ideas for other things UNH could spend the money on.

“If we’re focusing on anything it should be academic buildings,” she said.

Prasky doesn’t want people to see the stadium or the football program as a financial burden.

“I hope that the student body and the community can see this as a positive thing, and that they are looking forward to seeing our team play in it because our goal has always been to make this university proud, not to be an expense.”

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10 comments

Current student
Mon Feb 17 2014 02:08
I could post about the many benefits the stadium would bring like other people. One number that sticks out to me

UNH 1991-2014 =681 million in all buildings facilities roads ect...
4 million of that has been to athletic and recreational facilities.....We cant ignore our piece of garbage football stadium and other athletic facilities any longer. We need to remain competitive amongst our peer institutions and have the athletic facilities reflect the rest of our beautiful campus.....

Anonymous
Fri Feb 14 2014 14:37
Amen to Jim Egan's comments
Grad Student
Fri Feb 14 2014 07:52
Hi Jim,

I don't know that there won't be an incremental boost in alumni donations, but I'm not sure that there is any proof other than anecdotal evidence to justify this investment either. I don't see the football field generating as much non-UNH related revenue at the Whit either.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/schools/finances/

If you follow that link, you will see that for 2012, the UNH Athletics program was subsidized by $16.5 million dollars from the students and the school. If you consider there to be about 600 athletes, you are looking at a subsidy of $27,500 per athlete in subsidy.

I see the value in athletics for publicity potential (in good years). I just think that with the exorbitant year over year cost increases in higher education, this is one area that truly need to be examined and questioned as to whether athletics is fundamental to the UNH's mission.

And using anecdotes, the two largest donations made in UNH history (for Paul College and for the Carsey Institute) had no mention of the role that athletics played in their decision to donate, but rather their desire to increase the visibility and performance of academics in those two areas.

I think its a discussion to be had and that people are resistant to question/examine prickly topics like this.

And I think the quote from Scarano doesn't show proof of anything, because obviously he is going to be biased towards athletics as a whole, as most people would be, because he wants job security.

Anonymous
Thu Feb 13 2014 21:10
As I have said again and again in regards to this project, this will be worth well more to the University and to the State than its $25 million price tag. UNH football is consistently broadcast to all of the major media markets throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. For the past decade potential students and athletes who may have never even have heard of the State of New Hampshire now associate it with a fantastic football team that plays a unique brand of football. I live near Philadelphia and there were as many articles on the UNH football team published in the Philadelphia Inquirer as there were on Villanova, Temple, and Rutgers. Unfortunately, when hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of people tune in to watch UNH football on Saturdays, they see a decrepit stadium that couldn't even compare to the local high school's. This naturally leads people to assume that the State of New Hampshire cares little for the appropriate funding of its flagship university. That is not a very good representation for both the University and the State. Whether people like it or not, college athletics is an integral part to the vitality of a college campus. It engages the students and the alumni in a way that no other single thing can. That being said, football has the greatest potential of all the sports to create the vitality that I referenced. I don't want to diminish the proud heritage of the UNH hockey program, but few outside of New England even know that college hockey exists. Only football can create the broad branding power that can generate interest in a university to a wider market. UNH needs to be marketed to a wide market in order to attract out of state students, this can only help.
Jim Egan '72
Thu Feb 13 2014 15:12
Hi Grad Student, is that your opinion that there won't be an incremental boost in alumni donations or are you privy to actual data? Are you sure that with its declining attendance that hockey isn't now also a net expense? But regardless athletics at this level aren't played for profit.

And I didn't say the donations would offset the cost of the project. I said donations would be made to support academics as well as athletics. I hope to bequeath money to be used for scholarships, but I do hope to be around for awhile longer. The more people that do that, the more financial aid can be given. You've got the Baby Boomer Generation aging and the more of us that are involved with UNH then the more that might donate.

Homecoming has had attendance over 10,000 for the last five years or so. And I can honestly say that in many of those years the crowds out in Boulder Field were almost as large as this year! Attendance has been over capacity for about the same time period. Big games like this past season against Maine and the 2005 playoff games were well over capacity with people standing anywhere they could. Reunions tend to be consolidated with Homecoming. What are your more effective ways to engage alumni? Have you talked to the Alumni Association about what has been successful and what hasn't? As for me, for 40 years it has been Athletics that has brought me back to campus (and most of my alum friends). In the past few years because I donate above a threshold, I've been invited to events like the President's Luncheon Series which I have attended, but previously I've never once returned to campus for a play, a lecture, an art exhibit, a concert, etc. as the main reason to return. I'm really curious what you think will engage alumni more than Athletics. BTW, I never donated about that threshold level until the past decade when I got more involved with UNH Athletics. For the record, I am not a former varsity athlete. But I am trying to provide the opinion of someone not currently enrolled at UNH to provide another perspective, one that most current students haven't experienced yet.

I even found an article to support my opinion. Take a look at the quote from Alumni Director Donovan about the increase in donations. I'm not saying Football is the only reason, but it sure is a significant reason.

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20131222/NEWS04/131229848

And add in this quote from near the end of an article a couple of years ago:

But when it's all said and done, Scarano believes, it all comes down to football.

"The fact is, it drives a lot of things culturally,'' Scarano said. "A successful football program sets the tone for the entire athletic program.

"When it comes to mobilizing alumni, friends and benefactors, nothing duplicates it. Hockey doesn't duplicate it.''

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/sportslocalsports/919430-222/changes-put-unh-sports-in-tough-spot.html

Concerned UNH Alum, class of 1998
Wed Feb 12 2014 15:01
This is not spam, I encourage anyone to fact check this with the available public information. I encourage TNH to do an actual article on this. File a right to know and get salary dollars, and actual real budgets. Find out how much UNH spends to recruit students, bring them to campus, and then have them not attend? Students pay almost $1000 a year in their activity fee to fund athletics. On top of that, the dirty secret is they pay a lot more than that in tuition dollars each year to also fund athletics (which has around a $25-$30 million dollar annual budget). The students do not recoup this money in any way as athletics is a poorly run organization that runs in the red every year. $30 million for 600 varsity athletes? Now they are asking for an additional $25 million from students to fund athletics again? Wow. Again, this all going to support 600 varsity athletes? When will students find their voices to say enough. Let's look at who really donates money around here - it is academic and research folks! Spend the 30 million on something that supports all students at UNH - give money back in the form of a tuition break since the state doesn't really help, proactively support and recruit our minority students (25 million dollars would go a long way with this!)academic classrooms/buildings, technology, highly developed rec-sports, adaptive programs, cultural events, heck, the Hamel rec center which supports 1000's of students. Spend it to bring in top notch professors and research program which brings in the type of academically motivated and focused students UNH should be recruiting rather than an elitist group.
Anonymous
Wed Feb 12 2014 13:24
I am an alum and the only time I go to UNH now is to go to football games. There were 2 standing room only games last season out of 5 games being Maine and Homecoming which sells out every year. If there is night games next season such as the Dartmouth game that too will sell out. The football team is the attraction.

The stadium no matter how you look at is a disgrace. The press box is in shambles and the stairs to it are a disgrace. It is time to move forward and get this done.

I plan on catching up with my roommate from Stoke Hall this season who I have not seen in 30 years during a football game. When you leave college friendships kind of move away. Football games for me at least are a perfect way of catching up with old friends.. I hope this happens it is long overdue.

Anonymous
Wed Feb 12 2014 12:03
As an alumni and two sport season ticket holder I feel this project is long overdue. Although some have worthy intentions, many of the quotes against this project seem to be unrealistic, if not uninformed, to me:

"Why make a bigger stadium when you're not filling the current one?" - According to the official box scores from this past season the home games averaged 8,745. Even if you remove homecoming as a potential bias the average is 6,811. Since the article states that Cowell has a capacity of 6,500 my real question is: Why did TNH published this quote?

"I don't think building a bigger stadium will bring more people" and "Just because they have nice seats doesn't mean you're gonna watch football if you don't like football) - Using the success of the Whittemore Center as a guide, I think it will definitely attract more people. When the Whitt was new, it was the "place to be seen" in Southern NH. Many people had to wait years to get season tickets. This project may not attract non-football fans consistently, but a real football atmosphere will attract more real football fans (and there are plenty in the area). Our current atmosphere, is bench seating, a card table or French Fry cart as your concession options, 10-15 minute wait for the bathroom (across the field house), and home fans must look into the sun!

"A lot of students need financial aid and that outweighs the benefits of a new stadium" - Obviously the tuition at UNH needs to be addressed, but I really feel this is an unrelated topic. With the $20,000,000 of UNH funds, you could give every undergrad currently enrolled at UNH $1,561 in financial aid, then it's gone. Then the average student would leave with an average debt of $32,500 instead of $34,000 (avg UNH student debt in 2011). These numbers don't impress me and I would be much more offended if the money was spent in this manner. UNH is a hub for the southern NH community; putting money into assets is an investment that will benefit a lot of people long period of time. I think that far outweighs the benefits of what can be done using strictly as financial aid.

"If we're focusing on anything it should be academic buildings" I agree academic buildings are of the utmost importance at a University; but UNH has been focusing on academic buildings! Wasn't there a brand new business school just build? Many of the universities technical buildings (which become outdated the quickest) including Kingsbury, Parsons, Demerit, and James have all gone through major renovations in the past 7 years. The major stains to academic buildings are Hamilton Smith and Paul which are both tabbed to be renovated. Cowell was not only outdated but one of the most visible UNH facilities on campus. As I said, it hosts an average of 8,745 people per game including parents, alumni, opposing fans, and perspective students; it also is the first thing you see when entering campus from the West. This is a major problem for a University that has an otherwise beautiful campus!

Grad Student
Wed Feb 12 2014 07:51
Hi Jim. I think you raise a valid argument that football games help with alumni relations, but I think there might be more cost effective ways to engage alumni. The football team (and almost all the teams except men's hockey) are net expenses to the system. I just don't see the incremental boost in alumni donations offsetting this cost. I think fostering nationally-ranked academic programs and producing top-level graduates would serve the university much better in the long run.
Jim Egan '72
Tue Feb 11 2014 11:17
One area not addressed by the article is the impact on keeping alumni involved and donating. UNH Athletics and especially Football have kept me involved with UNH and visiting campus since graduation. Homecoming was an annual event for 10-15 years after graduation and now for the past 10 years. Attending over 90% of all UNH Football games (home, away and playoff) the past ten years has been a major reason why I've significantly increased donations to not only Athletics but also to Academics. And it is why I'm researching bequeathing money to UNH. You know, money that will assist financial aid in the future. Of course Academics are more important which is why I donate to both. But Homecoming this year brought over 18,000 people to Cowell and Boulder Field when the team was 1-3 on a cool, cloudy day. What other event on campus can do that? Even back in my day when there was a Winter Carnival Weekend, it never drew the crowds that Homecoming did.

More seats along with better concessions and rest rooms at Cowell will attract more alumni and fans. The new press box and modern connectivity will help obtain home playoff games. There will be no more negative recruiting due to the Dungeon. All of this will help the program stay viable in the CAA and nationally. Adding lights this year helps gets more games on TV too. Every game on TV means UNH gets to run those commercials where students and faculty tell the UNH story. The intangible benefits from football and an improved Cowell Stadium are numerous and substantial. And I have to assume this new Cowell Stadium will provide a better venue for the graduation ceremony too.





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