BY: CAITLYN LAWRENCE
Duke is a school that prides itself on excellence in education, leadership opportunities, research, and athletics. In athletics, this excellence has been expressed by having won 12 NCAA championships. Now, in effort to continue this legacy, Duke has started the “Duke Forward” campaign, an initiative to raise $3.25 billion for the university from now until June 30, 2017. Of this $3.25 billion, the Duke athletics department is looking to raise $250 million that will help change the face of Duke Athletics by addressing the need for restructuring certain athletic facilities.
Perhaps these goals for change could not be coming at a better time as Duke is facing low attendance at their home football and basketball games. During the 2011 football season, an average of 24,393 tickets were sold per game, translating into only 71.87% of the stadiums full seating capacity. This was the lowest football attendance in the Athletic Coast Conference and ranked Duke 79th in attendance for the nation. Maybe this is expected, with the Duke Football program on the decline; they have not won a conference championship since 1989 and their last winning season was in 1994.
However, Duke’s basketball attendance should be a different story considering its success. Duke has reached the Final Four fifteen times, appeared in 10 championship games and has won four NCAA championships, the most recent being in 2010. Yet over the past five years, student attendance at their games has dropped, causing the athletics department to increase the sale of general admission tickets to fill the student section at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Is it possible that facility changes could increase the popularity of Duke athletics?
The changes planned are not only geared towards the high revenue sports, mainly football and basketball. Duke is hoping to help every student-athlete through these advancements. The first stage of the plan is to help Olympic sport student-athletes by building a new track stadium. This stadium will include a new track allowing them to remove the current track that surrounds the field at the Wallace Wade Football Stadium. This new facility will also include an infield with sport-specific throwing lines, grandstands, and a press box.
The development of a new track stadium will also help with the transformation of the Wallace Wade stadium. By moving the track to a separate facility, they can remove the track from around the football field, allowing them to lower the field and extend the stands closer to the action. The current press box will also be removed and a new tower will be built that will include premium seating. With these changes, it is expected that the capacity of Wallace Wade will increase from the current 33,941 seats to 43,915.
Since Duke is already having trouble filling the stands, they have said that they do want to wait to complete the expansion at Wallace Wade until they are sure that game attendance will consistently have almost 44,000 people. This will require immense football growth; growth that usually comes from Championship success. Perhaps Duke is looking to create that success this year. They are starting with a current record of 4-1, the best Duke start since 1994. Furthermore, they beat Wake Forest for the first time since 1999. Both of these are indications that there is a change in the atmosphere of Duke Football that could potentially boost its attendance and popularity.
As for the Cameron Indoor Stadium, no changes are being made to the seating. However, Duke plans to construct a connected grand entrance to the football and the basketball stadiums. This includes a three-story pavilion that will include ticket offices and a team store for the public, but also offices for the athletic department, new training rooms, and a weight room for Olympic sport student-athletes. In addition, Cameron will have new locker rooms and player/coach facilities, plus a new special access club room, and a Legacy Room.
The Duke Forward campaign is looking beyond facility enhancements and is also hoping to increase Duke’s athletic endowment. Currently, about 30 percent of their athletic scholarships are endowed, but there is hope that by the end of the fundraising campaign this percentage will rise to 35 percent. Duke is also hoping to raise $100 million for operating expenses to help cover a wide range of expenses, from un-endowed scholarships to equipment maintenance.
If these changes are made possible, will the face of Duke Athletics be changed? It is very likely! With the excitement associated with facility enhancements, it is possible that the school will see a renewed spirit. As the school grows not only on the athletic side, but also in the world of academics and research, new pride will be fostered and will hopefully be expressed by supporting Duke Athletics. This will hopefully lead to increased home game attendance and increased revenue for the institution. These changes may even lead to more NCAA championships. More student-athletes may look to attend this institution after seeing the emphasis put on success in athletics. The wait won’t be long to see if the changes will help move “Duke Forward” since they hope the first changes will be implemented in the spring of 2013.