WestZone Moving at a Predictable Pace

Clemson's plan to move the football program forward with regards to facilities is moving at a steady, solid pace as we head into the new ACC. Granted, this feeling is not shared by some who think that the Athletic Department has stumbled and bumbled its way through this process.

From the start of the WestZone campaign, raising money has been a problem. In defense of Clemson fans, the campaign started in earnest in the midst of back-to-back 7 win seasons that included some embarrassing losses at home. The original goal of selling all 2,000-club seats in one year was scaled back to 1,000 when it became apparent that the larger number was not going to happen.

Feeling the need to evaluate the process after the sluggish sales, Terry Don Phillips called a time out on the process in order to explore the possibility of privatizing the WestZone in order to speed up the process of attaining enough money.

This week, Phillips admitted that the privatization idea was basically dead because of the complexity of issues in having private money pumped into a public institution like Clemson. While privatizing the WestZone would have generate enough money to complete the entire process in 1-½ years, there were enough concerns with the legality of the process that Phillips felt the need to pull the plug.

So, we are back to the original plan of raising the money and completing the project in 2 phases. Phillips said Tuesday that Phase I will include the 1,000 club seats and also calls for new locker rooms, a training room, an equipment room and a media room. The estimated $28 million that is needed to complete this phase has already been raised and groundbreaking is planned for the week after the South Carolina game in November and should be completed by the start of the 2006 football season.

Phase II will include 1,000 more club seats along with new football offices and meetings rooms, and a "One Clemson Center," devoted to the history of the school and its athletic programs. The estimated cost of Phase II is $27 million, which has not been raised at this point. A capital campaign to raise this money will be started soon in order to have the funding in place in 2006 when Phase II will be scheduled to start.

All of this is predictable, and admittedly frustrating. Clemson fans have bemoaned the fact that Tommy Bowden was promised facility upgrades when he took the job in 1998. Clemson fans have also scratched their head at why the upgrades to Littlejohn and Doug Kingsmore Stadium have been pushed ahead of the completion of the Death Valley renovations. And finally, some frustration has been caused because aesthetic renovations have been done to Death Valley for the fans while the players, coaches, and recruiting upgrades to Death Valley have been left unchanged.

With all that being said, the pace of these renovations is running at a predictable and fair pace.

I don't have a huge problem with Littlejohn and Doug Kingsmore being renovated before football, although I understand the frustration that some have in those regards. Both venues were in dire need of upgrades and deserve the facilities to keep them up to the standards in those sports.

The aesthetic renovations to Death Valley also open itself up to some criticism because they are for the fans only. Death Valley looks beautiful, inside and out, since the brick facades have been constructed. Are those looks more important than the recruiting advantages of having a weight room and heritage center? Hard to say, although that surely can be argued.

Many of those decisions were not made by Terry Don Phillips, but by his predecessor Bobby Robinson. Phillips inherited the baseball and basketball renovations and the start of the football renovations. Whether Phillips would have proceeded in the same order as Robinson is up for debate, but a moot point.

Phillips has the hand he was dealt and now he must place his bet. You can't build things without money, and Phillips does not have the money he needs. That money can only come from the Clemson family.

If you want to argue that we need better fundraisers, I will listen to your argument. However, the notion that we should start building and be damned the consequences are not the way a fiscally sound Athletic Department should run. Phillips cannot, and should not, start building unless he has a plan and within that plan a solid financial baseline to implement his plan.

And Phillips does not have that. Whose fault is it? You, me, Bobby Robinson, and the lackluster 2001 and 2002 seasons are probably all equally to blame. And the combination of all of that makes for a tricky situation for Phillips, who desperately needs to get the renovations moving in order to keep pace with his peers in the new Atlantic Coast Conference.

And if you thought any of the above snags are abnormal and unique to Clemson University you need to think again. The path for these renovations has hit bumps, snags, potholes, and loopholes.

And none of that was unexpected if you understand the complexity of such a huge undertaking as the Clemson University athletic facility upgrade.

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