Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Extra Basketball at CPC

About  a week ago, it became official. The WNBA's Tulsa Shock will relocate to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. While that in and of itself doesn't qualify as a topic I'd normally put in this blog, a minor detail about the move does. Come June through September of 2016, College Park Center will be their home.

This season, each WNBA team will play 17 home games. That means when there isn't much going on during the summer months, there will be activity on campus. It also means that for the first month or so of the fall semester, there will be team sports on campus. No longer will volleyball be solo at CPC. This will remedy one of my bigger problems with the fall profile on campus. I mentioned in one of my earliest posts that adding women's soccer would help alleviate the lack of activity in the fall. A WNBA team playing on-campus would do the same.

Of course, this whole turn of events brings up one big question from the UTA perspective. What does this mean for the University?

I don't have all the answers, but I'll tell what I know, or what I think I know and ask what I don't. Unfortunately, I know far less than I'd like at this point.

One of the biggest pluses I see right off the bat is exposure.CPC is a well known commodity to those in the know and has already received numerous awards and accolades for being the outstanding venue it is. However, it is still a large unknown to those not in the know. Nationally televised games on the ESPN networks as well as those attending CPC for the first time will see just what a gem this is and by proxy, UTA as well.

Now what does mean in measurable terms? I don't know. Any exposure is a good thing, we know that, but what's it worth to the University? Will it mean enrollment grows? My gut says no. Many predicted UTA  would lose enrollment after dropping football, but UTA grew eight years after the sport was dropped and still without it have hit a decade and a half of rising, record enrollment. So I don't know that anything but quality academic profile or convenient location plays a role there.

What about athlete recruitment? I would say almost certainly. Imagine if your are coach Gerlich. "Hey we'd like you to play for UTA. Oh and by the way, you'd play in a venue shared with a pro team. Who knows who might see ya play." I have never recruited an athlete nor been recruited by a coach, but I think that would be one attractive recruiting pitch.

I can see that working for Coach Cross or Seymour too. "Our venue is so state of the art that we rent it out to a pro franchise. No other area college can make that claim." It may not be a make or break proposition to a recruit, but it sure adds another angle or pitch to build the UTA case.

Now the biggest question I don't know yet, the financials of the deal. Certainly UTA is going to reap some benefit. There's no way CPC is being used as a goodwill gesture. How much is the team going to pay for the space? Who gets the concession revenue?  Will parking be charged and if so, who gets that revenue? Will any of the funds be split between the team and UTA?

Did anyone in Arlington City Hall sweeten the deal? It is not much different then the Cowboys or Rangers and Arlington was certainly involved with those teams. Any help from the City could potentially trickle down to UTA as well.

After that has been established, which part of the University will see the money? For example, as counter intuitive as it sounds, the Athletic Department pays the U to rent out its office space at CPC. In essence, one part of the U sends its money to the another. That leads me to believe revenue will head to Davis Hall rather than the Athletic Department. That in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but I sure would like athletic related money to go to the athletic department, as UTA's athletic budget is approximately 85% subsidized. I'm sure the basketball coaches would agree. And of course the contingent that wants UTA to revive a football team is already loud on this front.

Finally, I'd like to end with a little bit of homerism. This shows the value that CPC brings to UTA. I've heard a few times how small CPC is at 7,000 seats (usually from folks who's school plays in a more inferior arena). I've always countered with it creates a more intimate setting. More schools should do what UTA did. And now that strategy is being replicated by the Tulsa Shock franchise. The median average attendance for the WNBA in 2014 was 7,348, not to far off from the 2013 mark. Coincidentally, Tulsa was near the bottom of the list.  Now consider this, Tulsa averages in the mid 5,000 range, or 1,500 or so less than CPC seats. Not that big of a deal, but remember, the owner is not going to relocate a team unless he thinks there is greater revenue potential. Certainly part of that will come in the form of greater sponsorship opportunities, but some of it has to come from increase in attendance. That signals to me that the owner thinks there is a good chance to sell out the building often.

In the initial article I linked to open this post, Eddie Sefko writes this:

Cameron said that the idea to choose Arlington over perhaps SMU’s Moody Coliseum or American Airlines Center was that the sports heartbeat of the area has continued to pulse stronger in Arlington than Dallas.

“We are thrilled to join one of the most prolific sports regions in the country,” Cameron said, “with a fan base that has a genuine love for their professional sports teams.”

I don't buy that at all. CPC was chosen because it has the amenities a modern professional sports team expects and will provide the owners more revenue. The AAC is more expensive to rent and would likely seem half empty most game days. CPC is more modern that a recently renovated Moody Coliseum, though I must admit, despite its age, I wonder if Moody might not have been a bad choice. 

Bottom line, CPC is now home to a pro sports team. The UTA community should be proud.

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