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Stadium expansion an early success

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There's one thing that bugged me about the critics of expanding Rutgers Stadium last year: they didn't seem to actually be looking at the numbers. Expansion was not predicated on immediate sellouts. Per athletic department projections, all they had to do was meet the 85%/75% threshold. It was based on the exact same revenue model that Rutgers uses to build another new facilities, like dormitories. You issue a bond tied to future revenues.

Rick Malwitz from Gannett is usually the point man on these topics, and he's dropping knowledge yet again.

During the first season played in the expanded Rutgers Stadium – which grew over the summer to include 52,454 seats as part of a controversial $102 million expansion project – ticket revenue is projected to be $10.7 million, a fivefold increase since 2005.

Combined with $2.5 million in fees required to purchase club seats, located on the eastern side of the stadium between the two decks, spectators paid $13.2 million to see Rutgers at seven home games.

Ticket revenue alone will be more than enough to pay the $6.9 million in annual payments to finance the stadium expansion.

Let's recap: the state of New Jersey bailed on Gov. Corzine's promised $30m in aid for expansion, even though they had no problem with authorizing reportedly over $500 million in subisides to build the new Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands Complex. A project still struggling to find PSL owners. The $100m Rutgers Stadium expansion ideally will be fully funded by ticket sales, although the University did have to guarantee that debt (and the state pays about a quarter of the school's budget.) It's just mind boggling the utter lack of perspective and proportionality. Expansion wasn't a luxury (like the privately-funded recruiting lounge arguably is), it's necessary for future growth. Getting people to show up for bad weather or bad teams would be nice, but step one is selling those tickets.

Now, it's important to recognize that everything isn't completely hunky dory. Between a weak economy (season ticket sales were down nationwide), another ticket price increase in '09, and a lackluster home schedule, there is some fan discontent right now. There should be; in spite of those concerns, ticket sales were up 15% over 2008. They have higher expectations, and are hungry for a winner. It's important to have a big year in 2010, and it's up to Coach Schiano and his charges to deliver. Tom Savage isn't going to be John Elway overnight, but everyone is expecting him to take it up a notch now that the "he's just a true freshman" caveat is out the door.

There's no other possible spin here; the football program and athletic department have a lot to hang their hat on with this news. Now, go get us a good soccer coach, and somehow fix men's basketball, and it may just be time to rename the stadium after Pernetti.