> Bobby Dodd Stadium – Home to Georgia Tech and a stunning backdrop
Mr. Dodd meet Mr. Ryan. Thanks to a tip from Tim, I think Georgia Tech may offer one of the most relevant examples of what can be done to take a “historic” (read: dump) field and without a complete rebuild, turn relatively modest dollars in to a brand new stadium. Like Ryan Field, Bobby Dodd Stadium had a precursor name tied to original financing (Mr. Grant meet Mr. Dyche). OK, so the analogy fails as Bobby Dodd was a famous coach for whom the new name was added while Pat Ryan is the most generous donor who funded the 1996 renovation, but you get the point.
Bobby Dodd is squarely in the middle of Atlanta, so the Evanston-to-Georgia Tech comparison from a geography standpoint is not as compelling as BC. However, when you look at the series of transformations the stadium has undergone it may offer a better blueprint for renovation.
“Historic” Grant Field in 1983 – very similar to Dyche Stadium
As you can see by this 1983 photo, Grant Field shares the horseshoe configuration that had seats far away thanks to the outdoor track. Newcomers to Wildcat Nation may not remember, but prior to the 1996-97 renovation from Dyche to Ryan, we too had a track going around the perimeter of the stadium. Both Ryan Field and Bobby Dodd made a much-needed renovation step, however in 2003 Georgia Tech took it several steps further – for not a ton of money ($75million). According to the official Georgia Tech school website “The focal point of the project was the new North end zone structure, which seats 15,678 in two levels and also includes 10 luxury suites as well as the Howard Ector Letterwinners Lounge. The complex also features the 7,000-square foot Kim King Football Locker Room, a 3,300-square foot players’ lounge, the Jones Media Room, and football coaches’ offices that overlook Grant Field.”
You see a trend in the stadium profiles. Georgia Tech completely upgraded the endzones with a multi-level endzone seating upgrade on one side and then a two-tiered endzone with seating and luxury boxes on the other side. You can start to visualize what Ryan Field would look like by eliminating the south end zone circular shape (remnants from the track layout) and connect the east-west sections.
From a capacity standpoint, Georgia Tech and Ryan Field are in the same ballpark – 55,000 for the Yellow Jackets and 47,130 for the ‘Cats. In 2008, Georgia Tech averaged 83% capacity at 47,489 and last season they posted a double-digit per game average increase to 94% and an average of 51,584. The most recent bumps can be attributed to one of the nation’s best coaches – Paul Johnson- coming on board in 2009 after Chan Gailey consistently putting the Yellow Jackets in bowl games on an annual basis. In fact, the ‘Cats are about 4-5 years away from actually posting the consistency of Georgia Tech who have not had a losing season since 1996. Johnson has gone 9-4 and 11-3 in his first two seasons in Atlanta.
So, there you go, another stadium to put on the renovation tour for NU. I’ve never been to a game there but am willing to bet some of you have. Bring on the first person accounts!! Below is a YouTube video that offers you a great perspective of the stadium from the student section perspective and offers you views of the entire stadium, albeit a tad shaky.