SJS athletics gains power of Spartan stadium!

The "buzz" continues to swirl around information about the city of San Jose's plans to bring back a pro soccer team, the recruiting of an NBA team, and the potential concert hall at the fairgrounds to support the house of blues inc. But AD Tom Bowen and University Pres Kassing keep inching forward with SJSU's plans.

As Bud Geracie stated in saturday's Mercury News:

"If the SuperSonics moved to San Jose, would the airport's noise restrictions force them to change their name?".

The "buzz" continues to swirl around information about the city of San Jose's plans to bring back a pro soccer team, the recruiting of an NBA team, and the potential concert hall at the fairgrounds to support the house of blues inc.

And while all this stadium and venue "buzz" continues to swirl, SJSU athletic director, Tom Bowen, and University president, Don Kassing, continue to bring SJSU athletics to the forefront.

One quiet step at a time...

Here is a story written by John Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News on this topic.

The San Jose State football team will no longer be a visitor in its own stadium.

University President Don Kassing has shifted operational control of Spartan Stadium to the athletic department, a move that has substantial benefits for the football program and SJSU athletics.

The stadium had been run by Spartan Shops, a not-for-profit arm of the university that runs commercial ventures such as food service and the bookstore.

Under the new arrangement, the athletic department will receive all revenue from concessions and parking, it will control the game-day operation -- get ready for more food options -- and football coach Dick Tomey won't have to sneak his team into the stadium to practice onside kicks, as he did last fall.

``We didn't have keys,'' said an employee who requested anonymity, ``so the Earthquakes let us in through their locker room.''

Only at SJSU -- literally.

San Jose State was the only athletic department in the Western Athletic Conference -- and the only one in Division I-A, school officials believe -- that did not control its own stadium.

``The move is rooted in . . . the program working like all other athletic programs,'' Kassing said Thursday. ``You can't have a guy like Dick Tomey jerking around with these kind of problems.''

The other beneficiary is Spartans soccer. For three years, the men's and women's teams have played about half their games on the Tenth Street field. Next season, they will play them all in the stadium, which should aid recruiting.

Under the new arrangement, the university will handle stadium maintenance, pay for capital upgrades and receive any revenue generated from non-SJSU athletic events in the stadium, such as international soccer matches.

Athletic Director Tom Bowen declined to discuss the financial benefits of operating the stadium, in part because so much depends on the football team's performance.

But based on information obtained by the Mercury News, the athletic department will net approximately $70,000 next season if there's a modest rise in attendance over the 2005 average of 12,506.

But because operational costs are essentially static, profits could jump well into six figures if the Spartans draw close to 20,000 per game.

``Spartan Shops did a great job running the stadium,'' Bowen said. ``But our big thing is to have an enhanced day-of-game experience.''

The stadium generated approximately $1 million above costs annually for Spartan Shops, according to a school official, but much of that came from the Earthquakes, who shared the facility with SJSU during their 12-year existence.

Controlling the stadium for athletic events has been a priority for Bowen since he arrived in December 2004. He spent months formulating a business plan.

``This dialogue started before the Earthquakes departed,'' Kassing said. ``But we'd sensed their departure for a couple years.''

Shifting operational control of the stadium is the latest in a series of moves by Kassing to turn SJSU football into a successful, money-making operation.

Since becoming president in September 2004, he has replaced Chuck Bell with Bowen, replaced Fitz Hill with Tomey, who has 161 career victories, and raised student fees to provide cash for athletics.

``I feel very strongly that a Division I athletic department here is fundamental,'' he said, ``and it is because spectator sports . . . particularly football, bring alumni, students and the community together.''

At the same time, Kassing has mollified the faculty by agreeing to reduce the University General Fund money allocated to athletics from 3 percent to 2 percent.

Bowen has partly offset the decrease in General Fund money by energizing fundraising efforts that had sagged under Bell. The athletic department's donor base has more than doubled in the past year, from 630 to 1,400.

``But we're still not close to what we can be,'' Bowen said.

And what if the football program starts winning, attendance increases and the cash starts rolling in?

``We need an artificial surface field that's lit, inside or outside the stadium,'' Bowen said.

• Asked about a professional soccer team playing at Spartan Stadium or in another facility on the South Campus, Kassing said:

``Our first priority is a Division I football program. . . . If there's a synergism between Major League Soccer, the city and us -- and I'd argue that's extraordinarily complex -- we'd be in the conversation. But it could break down in the second round.''

In other "stadium" related news:

City will buy land for ballpark


By Barry Witt-Mercury News

San Jose has reached tentative purchase agreements on two more properties in the area where city officials hope to someday build a new ballpark for the Oakland A's.

The agreements, whose terms were released Friday and which are slated for city council approval Feb. 28, will cost taxpayers a total of $11.9 million for two separate properties, each about an acre, just south of the Diridon train station.

The purchase price of $135 per square foot is about 4 percent more than the $130 per square foot the city agreed to pay in November for the nearby Stephens Meat plant.

One of the parcels about to be acquired, located at the southwest corner of San Fernando and Autumn streets, is owned by the Butcher Brothers Partnership and now houses an Amtrak office.

The other, at the fork of Autumn and Montgomery streets, is owned by James Mieuli and houses Pacific Blue Traders.

City officials said they have made purchase offers on two other small parcels but not on the three largest and most complex properties: a PG&E power substation, an AT&T facility, and the former studios of KNTV (Ch. 11).

In total, the city has targeted 11.4 acres of private property, which would cost $68 million if the city paid an average of $135 an acre.

However, the cost for the substation could be substantially higher because of the need to relocate the facility, which provides power to downtown. PG&E has not provided the city with any cost estimates yet, said John Weis, deputy director of the redevelopment agency.

``Until we know that, I don't really want to put any numbers out there'' on the total cost to acquire all the properties, Weis said.

At present, the agency doesn't have enough money to buy all the land it has targeted, but it expects to raise the funds from the pending sales of three downtown properties.

City officials are scheduled to release a draft environmental study on a ballpark development next week with an eye toward finalizing the study by June in order to prepare for a potential November ballot measure.

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