Citadel plan for Johnson Hagood Stadium calls for 3,800 seats, office/residential space

8 August 2017

For five or six Saturdays a year, The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium comes alive with the sights and sounds of Bulldogs football — and with the purchasing of tickets and concessions.

Now, however, the military school is considering ways that the football stadium might produce revenue all year long.

On Monday, The Citadel's Board of Visitors approved a plan that would add 3,800 seats to the east side of the stadium, which was demolished earlier this year. The plan also calls for about 40,000 square feet of "office, education and/or residential space" on the east side.

The motion, approved unanimously by the BOV, requests that The Citadel Real Estate Foundation "develop detailed specifications, pricing and recommendations to finance and fund the cost of the new East Side facility" and update the board at its September meeting.

So yes, in a few years, people could live in apartments or work in offices on the east side of Johnson Hagood Stadium.

"The thought is, what kind of opportunities are there to drive revenue, inside the stadium and outside the stadium?" athletic director Jim Senter said. "That's some of the expertise that The Citadel Real Estate Foundation has.

"Certainly, when you look at all the activity that's going on downtown and in the peninsula, there's a lot of opportunity for educational, residential and office space. Who knows what (the foundation) will come back with on what the proper mix looks like."

The S.C. National Guard already occupies office space on the west side of Johnson Hagood, where renovation was completed in 2005.

Inside the stadium, the new plan calls for an initial 3,800 seats on the east side, which would bring the stadium's capacity to about 15,500. That's down from 21,000 before the aging east side structure was demolished.

The new plan also includes possible future addition of 2,400 seats on the east side, if needed.

The Citadel averaged 12,987 fans for five games at Johnson Hagood in 2016, when the Bulldogs went 10-2 and won a second straight Southern Conference title.

"We'd much rather have a smaller stadium and pack it consistently," Senter said, "so you create a home-field advantage and it feels dynamic ... When we had 10,000 seats on the east side, for the most part we had 7,000 empty seats. We want to change the way that looks and feels."

A new east side could also enhance game-day revenue with patios, loge seating and tailgating canopies, Senter said.

"A suite on the west side has 16 seats, and we sell it for $25,000," he said. "And we are sold out except for one suite. If we can go on the east side and figure out different loge box concepts, club levels with four to eight seats that you could sell for $5,000 or $10,000, we could sell more of those. It's all about we can create different price points and amenities for fans.

"Tailgate canopies and cabanas are very popular right now. Those are all different things we want to do. People are going way out there now to create space so that fans go, 'That's cool, let's rent that for the night.'"

How much would all this cost? That remains to be seen, Senter said. But Citadel President Gen. John Rosa said the stadium project would not impact on-going campus academic projects. The Citadel has received a $6 million gift for Bastin Hall, which will be the home of a new business school. The Citadel also is planning to renovate Capers Hall.

"As we flesh this out, we'll get down to the nitty-gritty and really determine what kind of expenses we're looking at," Senter said of the stadium project.

Johnson Hagood Stadium was built in 1948, and The Citadel purchased the stadium from the city in 1963. The Altman Athletic Center behind one end zone was opened in 2001, and the west side underwent major renovation in 2005.

• The Citadel football team practiced in full pads for the first time on Monday, with some position battles brewing on the offensive line.

True freshman Jon Barrett Lewis (6-2, 300) has been running with the first team at left guard, and coach Brent Thompson said sophomore Harry Easler (6-2, 289) has shown progress.

At tackle, three players — sophomore Attorney Gallman (6-1, 259), redshirt freshman Mark Weakland (6-2, 273) and redshirt freshman Prince Howard-Whitaker (6-3, 252) — are vying for two starting spots.

"Lewis is doing a good job and we've seen a lot of improvement out of him for sure," Thompson said. "Harry Easler also has really stepped up in this camp and has done a good job."

• Thompson said true freshman cornerback Wally Wilmore has made an early impression. Wilmore is a 5-11, 175-pounder from Northwestern High School in Rock Hill.

"Wally is just a very skillful athlete," Thompson said. "You see him catching punts, making good breaks on the ball. I think he's got a real chance, especially on a defense that's already pretty solid over there. He's making a difference at that corner spot."

• The Citadel is ranked No. 16 in the preseason STATS FCS media poll released Monday. Defending national champion James Madison, led by ex-Citadel coach Mike Houston, is No. 1.

The Bulldogs are one of four SoCon teams in the top 25, including No. 11 Wofford, No. 12 Chattanooga and No. 19 Samford. Charleston Southern is No. 14.