Monday, September 2, 2013

Addendum to the Last Post

In the last post, I chronicled what I thought were many of the reasons that led to the football programs demise. There is another reason I thought attendance was a little suppressed, but it came after Maverick Stadium was opened, and really didn't seem to fit the flow of the post.

I think the location is poor. I received  a Masters Degree from UTA in City Planning. One of the fields of planning is how we lay out the built environment, things like cities, urban areas, shopping centers, subdivisions, etc. There are so many factors that come into play, and many are unique with the project.

Most of the athletic venues are labeled on this map...and isolated from the rest of campus.

In the case of Maverick Stadium, it is obvious that the location was chosen because it was either the cheapest option or the easiest, maybe both. Somewhere more visible, like Cooper, Abrams or Division Street would have been better but I have suspect there was an feeling that we couldn't get rid of a parking lot on the major streets because we need those for students as a commuter school.

UTA had a tendency to put athletic facilities wherever they could fit. Clay Gould was put where it was because that's what UTA acquired in the late '60's to early '70's. They purchased the land at the edge of campus (and even edge is used a bit loosely), demoed the homes that were there and put up a field. It is well over a mile away from the edge of the heart of campus, and completely invisible from it. Alan Saxe was put next to it using the same thinking. The intramural fields were added there as well.

But look at the map above and see just how non-contiguous Maverick Stadium, Clay Gould Ballpark and Alan Saxe Field are from the rest of UTA. East of Davis Street, there is a large section that seems to be one big, contiguous section of the UTA campus. East of Nederman, it is a virtual square. Moving west and it becomes obvious that Maverick Stadium and the Clay Gould/Alan Saxe section are basically square parcels that touch the adjacent part of campus at the corner.

UTA built Maverick Stadium on the old football practice fields. It was the easiest location. At that time, most of the campus-owned land between Nederman and the stadium were not part of the everyday use that students would take a part in at UTA. It was virtually invisible.

When comparing UTA to other Universities and the lack of planning the location of athletic facilities
becomes even more noticeable. Most often, all the athletic venues are at the same place.

This is TCU. Notice how every athletic venue is clustered around Stadium Drive and then to the west. The campus also is quite contiguous. Most of the venues are visible from the portion of campus the students use and occupy everyday.

College Park Center works, even though it too is on the edge of campus. However, it is on the eastern side, integrated into the campus, visible and was part of a bigger plan to build residences, retail and other amenities. If you look back at the UTA map, you'll clearly see the eastern edge of Arlington is a line that ends on Center Street. There are multiple ways to get there, it can be seen, is on one of the more well used streets. It fits nicely into the campus and is the best integrated athletic facility at UTA.

Basketball attendance has increased from a rough average of 800, to 2,000 during the first full year. A proper venue, which Texas Hall really wasn't helps, but so does the location.

In 1985, when football was disbanded, UTA averaged 5,600 the last year of the program. Counting all the students dorms, campus-owned apartments and nearby non-University apartments, there were more students on and near campus than football attendees. Much of the reasons were detailed in the previous post, but a better location, say on the South 40 parking lot which is located on the southeast corner of Cooper Street, would have increased the attendance.

I'm not saying the program would have been saved or attendance would have shot through the roof if the stadium was on Cooper, but it would have been better than in a stadium no one sees when they are on campus. Memorial Stadium was in a prominent, visible place on campus and UTA commonly had standing room only for the games. Knowing and seeing the stadium are two different things.

This leads to other considerations. For the existing sports, increased signage, getting rid of dead ends to increase connectivity on the western part of campus to the main section and a marketing effort increase awareness of the far flung sports.

In the football revival effort, a serious question could be raised over whether Maverick Stadium, which will need some renovations, is the proper venue. I ultimately think it should be renovated, for reasons other than location. But it will need help for the mainstream student to know it is there.

Some have suggested that that a new stadium be built for football and Maverick Stadium be renovated for track and field as well as soccer. That could easily be done too, but I think it is more expensive and land gobbling.

Either way, something would have to change from the current for the sport to gain visibility on its own campus.

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