To the left, Johnson Hagood stadium stood open, exposed to the elements of a light drizzle outside as The Citadel athletic director Jim Senter met with the media on Tuesday.
In plain sight from the 4th floor club level of the stadium, the east bleachers continued to endure the weather, which over the past year helped rule the visitor’s section unfit for football consumption. Senter says the bleachers will undergo renovations, but a look at the timeline for its completion leads to more speculation than it does answers.
“That’s the 64-million dollar question,” he said.
One element of the expensive task is how the Bulldogs’ program plans to raise the funds necessary to reconstruct the east bleachers. Since The Citadel typically sees a healthy visitor’s section at games, the east side works as a source of revenue for the school, a fact that heavily weighs in on the project’s timeline.
“Here’s what I do know and what I can tell you,” Senter began, “last year we sold $176,000 worth of tickets on the east side of the stadium, which means we put people there. It’s a valuable part of our footprint, and we need to continue to find a way to accommodate our fans and our patrons and the visiting fans who come and enjoy Johnson Hagood stadium.”
The stadium, which was built in 1947, has seen its fair share of Citadel football games over the past several decades. As a result of this use, the facilities are due for an upgrade with paint flaking in every direction on the seating area. The Citadel is looking to turn the project into another revenue booster for the school.
“I’m not talking about putting lipstick on a pig like some paint job,” Senter said. “Everything from restrooms, concessions and some seating amenities and some of those kinds of things. While it has served Citadel well over the years, I think we can do better and need to have a plan that will address that.”
Senter also likened the stadium renovation project to constant maintenance that an old car undergoes, citing the constant balance between pouring additional funding into a stadium that could blow a tire at any time. In curbing the unstable nature of this particular car, The Citadel has received several quotes on the bottom line cost of the project.
“We just recently, as early as this week, got back some bids and some contractors on doing the type of work that would need to be done on the east side stands,” Senter explained. “And obviously it’s a big footprint. It would take a lot of bodies and a lot of people to get it done between now and Furman, and I don’t know if we can rally that group of people in that short of a period of time.”
With the construction industry booming in and around the Charleston area, finding a crew with the time and manpower to complete the job has proven difficult. That led The Citadel athletic department to consider alternative options, including a potential volunteer opportunity in which those working would learn what the term “sweat equity” truly means, Senter suggested.
The Citadel’s goal for the project is to make the stands look as presentable as possible in a quick, timely fashion. The final date, though, is as murky as the shade of light gray slowly growing across the east stands.