Bobinski addresses Ross-Ade's future, other athletic facilities
Mike Bobinski is getting animated. You can hear the excitement in his voice as he discusses the future of Ross-Ade Stadium.
“There is a lot of time and energy being put into designing and developing concepts for what it might be and what we might be able to afford from an economic standpoint as we look to position the stadium as a destination ... ” said Bobinski.
Purdue’s athletic director met with GoldandBlack.com on Monday to discuss a wide range of topics. Chief among them: facilities.
The future of Ross-Ade Stadium has been a hot topic for months in the athletic department offices. What exactly is next for the 57,236-seat venue that opened in 1924?
“The stadium project is gonna have multiple iterations to it,” said Bobinski, who was hired in August 2016. “It isn’t something where you are gonna wave a magic wand and all of sudden bring that to whatever it’s ultimately going to look like in 25, 30, 35 years.
“Fans want more social space. Not as many want to sit in a seat and stare straight ahead. They want to get up, they wanna walk around, socialize and interact with people. We have to find a way to address that some how, some way.”
First up: video enhancements. The scoreboard in the south end zone is an aging monolith. And it is on its last days.
“I mean, it is literally dying,” said Bobinski. “We are hopeful we can get through this year with it not just giving up the ghost. As you are watching it, you might see individual panels just go out and never to be see again. There are no more available parts for that board. It went out of production years ago. Any parts that exist, we own. We bought all the spare parts for that board.”
Purdue plans to upgrade the massive scoreboard in 2020 with a board that is eight times the size of the current screen. And the picture will be sharp, according to Bobinski. While fans wait for that change, they will notice a new ribbon board in the north end zone this fall.
“We will put something that wraps around from the ‘P’ to the ‘E,’ said Bobinski, referring to the giant letters on the row seating in the north end zone. “It is a pretty significant chunk of real estate that will be covered by a really high resolution — they call it a monster ribbon board. And we will use that for a variety of things. It will be another clear modernization of the stadium.”
After the scoreboards are taken care of, the focus will be on major renovations proposed for the south end zone and the eastern side of the stadium. Plans are lucid, as the athletic department continues to solicit for ideas and discuss options. Bobinski expects renderings this summer. Among the plans:
• South End Zone with a nutrition center/seating area: “(Student-athlete dining) needs to land somewhere,” said Bobinski. “If it doesn’t land somewhere else, it has to land there. And some additional, more modern maybe mid-level premium seating options. So it’s not just, suites, Buchanan (Club) at big, big dollars … it’s more than a season ticket but less than the high-end stuff. All the testing and surveys we did came back very positive (for seating like that).”
• East Stands: “How do we deal with the upper deck of the stadium?” said Bobinski. “By that, I mean from the vomitories — from there down — it’s all precast concrete, which is good. From there up, it has all kinds of structural steel elements that are gonna be a maintenance issue from now until the end of time unless you do something different up there.”
One idea: Build a second level — a mezzanine level — that would be cantilevered over the top and provide an open concourse with sight lines into the playing area.
“It would give us a chance to clean up the concourse, improve the concession areas — all of those things sorta come along with all of that,” said Bobinski. “Also, update the pavilion, Shively, Buchanan, the suite areas … you want to keep it fresh.”
The athletic department sent a survey to fans this winter, soliciting ideas and opinions on a number of subjects stadium related.
“I have not yet seen it all ... ,” said Bobinski. “But what they are gonna do is provide us with a mechanism to slice and dice the info in a lot of ways and make it useful to us.”
The cost of the Ross-Ade renovation, not including the new scoreboards?
“Just a little north of $100 million would be my guess, my hope,” said Bobinski. “We would have to raise it. There is no other source for that.”
When would shovel meet dirt?
“Don’t know that yet,” said Bobinski. “It is purely dependent on dollars raised. Hopefully, we will be able to get three-to-five-year pledges from people that have the ability and the means that’ll be significant.”
Some other facility topics discussed by Bobinski:
Purdue recently had a consultant come in to look at the sound system.
“When we had the new video elements put in, the old system got effected by the bigger physical size of the scoreboard and all that, so it doesn’t perform quite the way we’d like it to,” said Bobinski. “We are trying to figure out what we can get done this year to make some progress there. And we continue to look at any other thing we can or should do.”
Aside from that, there are no changes planned for Mackey. But Bobinski did say they always are looking at other premium/club seating opportunities.
There has been discussion about building a dormitory that would house athletes, as well as students.
"We have talked about that with the physical facilities planning on campus," said Bobinski. "We have talked about it with the board, President Daniels … the most probable and realistic and time-friendly alternative would be the Hilltop Apartment area by Ross-Ade. Those structures ... probably aren’t gonna be there for the long haul. Constructing something that would have a dining component with it is something that has been talked about a lot. I wouldn’t want a dormitory full of athletes. To me, that’s unhealthy."
How soon could this happen?
"It's not way, way out (in future)," said Bobinski. "I’d like to think we will be in the next wave of (resident projects), which is probably two-three years (away). It’s in a reasonable time frame."
RANKIN TRACK & FIELD
The facility sits on prime land at the corner of Jischke and Stadium. Any thought given to moving it to the area of the current athletic complex off McCormick Road?
“Track sits right in the middle of campus,” said Bobinski. “There are no imminent plans for that to be anything but a track. However, that doesn’t mean as Purdue evolves through the years that that doesn’t become real estate that is attractive for some other purpose. The potential of the track moving out to the northwest complex … there is real estate out there. But it’s not on the boards at all.”
The proud edifice is a beacon on the corner of Northwestern and Stadium. Opened in 1937, it still is a valuable facility.
“We put a brand new track in there, dressed up the interior,” said Bobinski. “You’d like a little bigger footprint to have a bigger track. I think Lambert as it’s sitting there now is doing the job as best it can. It’s not ideal. We can’t host big-time events there. It’s limited in some ways for sure.”
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