TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati is only two months into the job but his biggest task is already in the works.
Donati, who replaced Chris Del Conte in December when Del Conte took the same job at the University of Texas, took questions from TCU radio announcer Brian Estridge and from fans during a 30-minute Facebook Live session Thursday night. The online Q&A replaces Del Conte’s annual town hall meetings with fans.
Before the questions, Donati addressed the East Side expansion of Amon G. Carter Stadium, a $100 million project first announced in November. The project includes 1,100 club seats, 22 luxury suites and 48 loge boxes, along with a Legends Club to match the Champions Club on the west side. Donati expects construction to begin this summer and for the stadium to be complete for the 2019 season opener. Donati’s message to potential donors Thursday night was the project is about more than football.
“This facility [will be] a touchstone, an engagement point for the TCU community and the Fort Worth community,” he said as artist renderings were displayed. “That’s a big thing going forward, how do we engage our donors? This is a way to invite them back to campus. It will be a multi-use facility that we can use for a lot of different things besides football. We’re running a business here so we have to find creative ways to provide additional resources.”
Donati said sales from the suites, the loge boxes and club will help support TCU athletes beyond just the football team.
“There are 20 other sports, there’s 520 student-athletes. We have to find creative ways as a small school to do that,” he said.
No current seats will be affected during the 2018 season but Frog Alley, the area behind the East Side of Amon G. Carter Stadium where many fans congregate before games, is likely to be altered by the construction.
“I get asked all the time about conference expansion and realignment in 2024 and will this stadium expansion guarantee we’ll stay in the Big 12 Conference?” he said. “The answer is no, there are no guarantees. It does show an incredible commitment to our football program. Football is the economic engine here. Showing this kind of commitment does go a long way. It’s great for recruiting.”
Here are some other questions Donati addressed:
Will TCU add a softball team?
In a perfect world, we’d just snap our fingers and we’d have a softball stadium and a program off and running. It’s not anything in our immediate future but I can see it down the road.
Why was the home and home series with Ohio State changed to one game at AT&T Stadium?
We run a business so sometimes decisions need to be made from an economic standpoint that aren’t necessarily the most popular with our fans. The reality is this was a mutual decision that we came to with Ohio State. ESPN approached us with an economic package to move the game [to AT&T Stadium on Sept. 15] that was really too good pass up, it really was a no-brainer.
With changing tax laws, are seating donations remaining tax deductible?
The seat donations we’ve come to enjoy as a tax write-off in the past are going away. There’s still some uncertainty out there. Good news, the capitol gifts to the East Side project will have a large tax deductable component. Please consult your tax attorney as your making these gifts.
Any plans to expand Lupton Stadium?
There are no plans to expand. We love the size of it. We’re talking about the few games a year when it’s absolutely packed and I get that. That could change. I think we can improve the experience in the general admission seating.
How many rows of existing seats will be under the overhang on the East Side. Will the view of the larger video board be obstructed?
We think it could cover up to eight rows. It will not obstruct the new scoreboard, which is 50 percent larger.
Will 2018 football season ticket prices be raised?
Prices are the same in 2018. We’ve taken a long, hard look. I’m a big fan of doing what’s fair. We wanted to give fans a break knowing we’re going to ask them to participate in the Ohio State game, which is above and beyond the season ticket package.
How do you feel about alcohol sales at TCU venues?
We’re constantly looking at this. Obviously, there’s a liability risk. We don’t have immediate plans to do it. We certainly have a watchful eye.
Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST