Change is coming to South Carolina athletics — well, potentially.
The university opened a request for information (RFI) process on Tuesday to seek input from developers and other experts on potential projects on more than 800 acres the school owns spread mostly around or adjacent to Williams-Brice Stadium and Colonial Life Arena. Those projects might include such things as shops, restaurants, bars or hotels.
Revenue from land lease deals with developers would be used to fund improvements of USC’s biggest athletic venues. The school went as far to describe its vision as a “major modernization” for Williams-Brice.
However, the RFI is a first step. It’s unlikely anything from the project — which senior athletic department officials estimate could be a “billion dollar” undertaking — would break ground for another 18 months or more.
That said, it’s never too early to imagine some of the fun and fascinating new ways South Carolina could add to its existing structures and the surrounding areas. Here are a few ideas:
Field-level boxes a la Cowboys Stadium
South Carolina administrators have made reference to projects around professional stadiums in Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. “Jerry World” — better known by it’s technical name, Cowboys Stadium — was also name dropped at times.
How about taking a page out of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ playbook and adding premium seating along Williams-Brice’s south end zone?
South Carolina currently has the second-lowest number of luxury suites (18), while more than 100 people are on the waiting list for those spaces, per a university source. Adding suites along the bottom rung of the south end zone would give fans an up close and personal way to watch the Gamecocks on fall Saturday nights and add more space for those desiring to spend the money that comes with box seats.
At the reinvented Dudy Noble Field/Polk Dement Stadium, the Left Field Lofts overlook Mississippi State University’s historic Left Field Lounge. Each apartment-style loft offers 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, an open concept kitchen and living space, and a patio deck. #wbaarchitecture pic.twitter.com/CCXl6fTpFX
— WBA Architecture (@wbaarchitecture) January 27, 2021
Apartment buildings overlooking the stadium
Call me biased after my two years covering Mississippi State, but I firmly believe the condos that overlook the Left Field Lounge at Dudy Noble Field are some of the coolest digs in all of college sports.
How feasible it’d actually be to construct something like this at Williams-Brice Stadium is above my pay grade. However, the idea of folks being able to watch a South Carolina football game from the balcony of their condo seems like a fun thought.
There’s been some development in and around the Cockabooses and near the stadium, but nothing that directly overlooks the field. This kind of development would make for a heck of a way to watch the Gamecocks play on a Saturday afternoon.
Put chairbacks throughout Williams-Brice Stadium
As “classic” as the bleachers on the east side of the stadium might be, it’s time South Carolina invested in some real seating that doesn’t force one to be crammed next to the people on their left and right.
Patrons have long been able to purchase chairbacks for their bleachers seats, but why not invest in some actual, individual seats — just like NFL stadiums have — to save those lower backs?
While South Carolina isn’t far enough down the line with this process to really estimate, it’s likely that any kind of major renovations to the seating areas of Williams-Brice Stadium would shrink the capacity of the stadium.
Ripping up the bleachers and adding individual seats would bring a more comfortable game-day experience and likely afford folks a bit more breathing room. It would be similar to the seating at USC’s Colonial Life Arena or Founders Park.
Feels like a no-brainer to me.
Did they turn Williams-Brice stadium into a Top Golf? https://t.co/r82RGDvBct
— hku (@heanguy) April 8, 2021
A driving range from the upper decks
OK, bear with me for a second.
Imagine teeing it up from the top of Williams-Brice Stadium and trying to clock one close to a postage stamp hole around the 50-yard line. I mean, I’m in.
OK, this probably isn’t realistic, but it’s a fun thought. Rumors have swirled that some kind of golf course, or TopGolf, etc., could be included in this massive redevelopment project. University officials won’t discuss such a hypothetical given how early in the process this is. But hitting golf balls in Williams-Brice Stadium sounds flat out awesome.
South Carolina actually did a variation of this in 2021, when TopGolf set up a pseudo range from the seats and placed targets all over the field. The football team partook and it was briefly open to the public.
Why don’t we go ahead and make this a staple for the offseason?