- Thursday, September, 18, 2014
Blog: Brand Recognition
Branding. I grew up in Wyoming where branding means something totally different than its current emphasis in college athletics. Or maybe not.
Recently I was in a bar in Meeteetsee, Wyoming. In the restroom, on a rough-sawn wood wall, (I can hear the urbanites collectively saying "Iccch") someone had painstakingly recreated cattle brands in pen. Some were very simple and self-explanatory, others more complex, requiring thought and interpretation. The "lazy A" or "bar UE" are easy; the "H lazy B rockin' T" requires a bit more study.
Not so much for Athletics branding. It is everywhere -- on people's clothes, on their cars, in their homes, and especially at their alma maters. Some brands are easy, like the buffaloes. Or wait, is it bison? Attaching the university's monogram to the brand or emphasizing school colors often clarifies any confusion, and surprisingly most brands seem pretty identifiable.
Seemingly, transferring the brand to facility design should be easy. And it can be. But I like it when it's not blatantly obvious. I also like the fact that collegiate mascots endure, but the brands change. A school's history of brands can be fascinating. And these days, brands evolve almost constantly--hence the popularity of flat screen TVs or massive video boards as an architectural statement. The image is constantly refreshed. Reinvention and adaptation is essential, otherwise the experience for a spectator or recruit might be stale.
I don't mind the overpowering visual stimulation prevalent in college athletics, but sometimes I yearn for simpler times, when branding was simple, fun to interpret and timeless.
- Monday, September, 15, 2014
Technology Makes Fitness More Interactive, Engaging
One of the hottest trade shows to attend this year if you were a leading fitness company isn't one typically associated with fitness: the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show), held this past January in Las Vegas. "I've been going to CES for many years, and this was the first year Precor had a booth," says David Flynt, director of Precor's Experience Development Center. "It was fascinating to see the growth of the digital health space, but more interesting was the way the concepts and issues around digital health were showing up in other booths. You couldn't go into a big booth — Intel, Sony, Samsung, any of these traditional CES companies — without finding some aspect of digital health."
- Wednesday, August, 27, 2014
2014: The Year of Wearable Technology?
Whether 2014 is indeed the "year of the wearable" as predicted at International CES remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that the ability to capture data about lifestyle and exercise habits is significantly impacting the way people work out — and there's still a great deal of potential to be realized. "When people engage with tech, they're beginning to expect that something is being captured about that experience," says David Flynt, director of Precor's Experience Development Center. "Today's wearables are really great at capture. What we want to be able to do is reflect back to them something that is able to give them control over that data. We're looking at how to help them understand what that data means."
- Tuesday, August, 26, 2014
New Projects: Thompson Athletic Center | Mosaic Stadium | CityWay YMCA
Georgetown University has begun construction on its John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletics Center, though a formal groundbreaking will take place next month. The $62 million project is a major priority of the university's $1.5 billion For Generations to Come fundraising campaign. Expected to be completed in August 2016, the four-story, 144,000-square-foot facility will include practice courts, locker rooms, team meeting rooms, lounge areas and coaches' offices for men's and women's basketball. The complex will also house locker rooms for four additional varsity sports, weight training and sports medicine rooms for all athletes, a Student-Athlete Academic and Leadership Center, team meeting facilities for all varsity programs and a new hall of fame. Bowie Gridley Architects of Washington, DC, is the architect of record and Populous of Kansas City, Mo., is the associate architect for the project.
- Monday, August, 18, 2014
Rethinking PE Class
Not every kid likes to play sports. For the athletically disinclined, a game of gym class dodgeball or basketball can be an anxiety-inducing experience. In fact, a recent study by researchers at Brigham Young University found that kids who were ridiculed in gym class (by peers and teachers) were less likely to engage in physical activity one year later — not good news for a nation facing an obesity and sedentary-lifestyle epidemic.
- Wednesday, August, 13, 2014
Climbing Gyms Proliferate as the Sport Takes Hold
Call it a sport. Call it a recreational activity. Call it a great workout. Just don't call it a fad. Participation in rock climbing has been steadily increasing for years, and climbing walls — already commonplace in campus and municipal recreation centers — are popping up in high schools and elementary schools, parks and health clubs, even stadiums.
- Wednesday, July, 30, 2014
New Projects: UNO Arena | Falcon Center | Virginia Tech Training Facility
The UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA OMAHA recently broke ground on a new $62 million arena (pictured). The 220,000-square-foot facility, designed by Lempka Edson Architects of Lenexa, Kan., in collaboration with HDR Inc. of Omaha, will provide a home arena for the university's hockey, basketball and volleyball programs, but will also host a variety of community activities. Seating in the main arena will be split between an upper and lower bowl designed to hold 7,500 hockey spectators or 8,700 basketball or volleyball fans. Club seating and suites will be included, as well. A smaller, community ice rink will offer 200 seats and eight community locker rooms. Also included will be a full hockey team suite, locker facilities for basketball and volleyball and strength training facilities for student-athletes. The project is expected to open in 2015.
- Tuesday, July, 15, 2014
Tech Upgrades Boost Sports Concessions Operations
Improving the fan experience.
Such has been the motive of nearly every major decision in sports venues as of late — premium seating and club areas, improved Wi-Fi connectivity, increasingly eye-catching LED video displays — it's all about creating an atmosphere that tops the comfort and convenience of watching a game at home in a way that no fan can resist.
- Tuesday, July, 08, 2014
Yankees Fan Caught Sleeping Suing MLB, ESPN
No, he’s not suing because the Yankees failed to deliver a fan experience worthy of watching. The fan, Andrew Rector, has filed a lawsuit alleging defamation after video of him sleeping was broadcast on ESPN, along with some colorful commentary from announcers John Kruk and Dan Shulman, who are named in the suit along with the MLB, the Yankees and ESPN.
- Tuesday, July, 01, 2014
New Projects: University of Colorado; Guilford High School; Fairfield University
The University of Colorado (right) broke ground last month on $143 million in various athletic facility upgrades.
- Tuesday, October, 04, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Facilities Worth Talking About
This article appeared in the October issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Tuesday, August, 30, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Preparing for the Year to Come
This article appeared in the September issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Thursday, July, 07, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Eat Your Veggies
This article appeared in the July/August issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Monday, June, 06, 2016
Passing the Torch in Facility Design
This article appeared in the June issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Thursday, May, 05, 2016
At the moment...
I can't think of a recent issue of Athletic Business that captures the feel of our industry quite as comprehensively as this one. No, we don't have any momentous, industry-changing topics this month, but what we do have speaks to the current environment of athletic, fitness and recreation professionals.
- Thursday, March, 31, 2016
Our Common Ground
This article appeared in the April issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Wednesday, September, 16, 2015
Blog: Quantifying the Impact of Parks and Rec
The National Park and Recreation Association's annual convention is underway this week in Las Vegas, Nev. After arriving Monday afternoon and getting my first taste of life in the City of Lights, I caught a brief glimpse of the sun and the strip before steeling myself for a day of windowless sessions in overly air-conditioned rooms.
- Wednesday, July, 08, 2015
Blog: Women’s Soccer and Return on Investment
In the days after the U.S. Women’s soccer team’s World Cup win, we’ve heard a lot of back and forth over the issue of how much the players were paid. The women’s team received a record-setting $2 million for their win… record-setting for women, that is. Last year, the German men’s team earned $35 million for its World Cup win.
“But it’s all about the revenue!” claim those who justify the discrepancy. The women’s tournament brought in a mere $17 million in sponsorship revenue compared to $529 million for last year’s men’s World Cup. Thus, because the men bring in more revenue, it only makes sense that they get paid more.
When I was in college, I interned for an editor at a book publishing company. I recall, among the editor’s many tales of the publishing world, the story of how he signed one particular new author and set her up for success. Her work was good, he said, but she was relatively unknown and still new.
For those more familiar with coaching contracts than book contracts, book contracts typically pay an advance, anything as low as a couple thousand dollars (J.K. Rowling was given a £1500 advance on the first Harry Potter book) to upwards of $100,000, if you’re an established name. If a new author doesn't go over well with the audience, the publisher hasn't lost much. If they're good, the publisher simply ups the advance on the next book.
Rather than offering this new author something at the lower end of the spectrum as would befit the situation, the editor swung big. I don’t recall the exact dollar amount, but I think it was at least $20,000 (chump change for a pro athlete, but a big deal for a struggling writer).
His reasoning? The more the publisher invested in an author, the harder it would work to ensure her success, giving her a preferred launch date, better marketing and visibility. Part of this was about recouping the investment — book advances are paid against royalties, which means a larger advance needs to be offset by greater book sales if the publisher wants to come out ahead.
What does this have to do with soccer?
I’m not in the sports marketing business. I’m not even in the book marketing business. But I do know that a product’s success is as much about the effort that goes into marketing it as the quality of the product itself.
Don’t justify lower pay for female athletes by pointing to the lower revenue they generate — they’re not the ones negotiating sponsorship contracts or selling commercial slots. In the case of women’s soccer, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke attributes the lower revenues to women’s soccer being a newer sport than men’s.
“We played the [20th] men’s World Cup in 2014, when we are now playing the seventh women’s World Cup,” Valcke said in December press conference. “We have still another  World Cups before potentially women should receive the same amount as men. The men waited until 2014 to receive as much money as they received.”
Or, how about this: Pay the players what they’re worth, and then put in the effort to back that investment up.
- Friday, June, 19, 2015
A Response to Critics of Soaring College Rec Spending
“LSU Faces Dramatic Budget Cuts While It Builds An Expensive Lounging Pool” This was the headline of an article that appeared in The Huffington Post this past May criticizing Louisiana State University’s spending of $84.75 million on an overhaul of its recreation facilities despite a threatened $55.5 million funding cut from the state.
Last week New Jersey governor Chris Christie admonished what he considers wasteful spending in the higher education system, denouncing “extras” such as lazy rivers and climbing walls.
"Some colleges are drunk on cash and embarking on crazy spending binges,” he said.
If you work in college recreation, the incidents made you cringe.
The cost of higher education is going to get a lot of attention leading up to the 2016 election, and unfortunately, that’s going to come with a lot of misguided scrutiny of campus recreation programs.
What both incidents overlook — as anyone working in college recreation will immediately recognize — is that a university’s education budget and recreation budget are two entirely different things. Campus recreation centers are not built at the expense of science labs or classrooms. For most universities, such projects are funded (and maintained) from students fees.
"The funds for the project come directly from the student fee and can only be used for the project," LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard told The Huffington Post. "Similar to donations to the university or funds from the state for capital projects, these types of funds can't be shifted to fill in budget holes or be used in another way. They can only be used for what they were originally designated for."
The impact of such facilities on the price of a college education is actually minimal, according to David Feldman, economics professor at College of William & Mary.
“Lazy rivers are only a tiny piece of the costs,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “These lazy rivers are not the reason why student debt is soaring seemingly out of control. The big problem that higher education faces today, at the public side, is cuts in state spending.”
Some argue that cuts in spending are actually driving the construction of bigger and better recreation amenities, as universities look draw in more out of state students. According to research from the University of Michigan, “wealthier students [are] much more willing to pay for consumption amenities.”
Despite its negative headline, The Huffington Post article went on to admit as much, quoting a 2013 article in which former Miami University president James Garland explains, “We took advantage of low interest rates for municipal bonds and invested in rehabilitating our residence halls and eating facilities and putting in more recreation -- workout rooms and lounges, and the kinds of accouterments that really dressed up a campus and made it a much more comfortable and familiar place for upper-middle class students. So those students started applying to us in droves. Application numbers went up, we became more selective, and the SAT scores of the entering class became higher."
So, in the face of a $55.5 million budget cut (avoided, thankfully) LSU would need to rely more heavily on the appeal of its non-academic offerings to bring in more students and more revenue. As Jane Wellman, a finance expert with College Futures Foundation, told Inside Higher Ed, the issue is not of how colleges spend money, but the priorities of schools.
“The sense is that college costs are going up too rapidly, and institutions aren’t doing enough to control them,” she says. “The critique underneath that is the critique of the decision-making culture in higher education.”
Rather than ask why LSU would spend $85 million on a recreation center, maybe politicians should be asking why the state of Louisiana was mulling a $55 million cut to education.
We won’t get into the other complexities of campus recreation facilities, such as the positive economic impact of construction (According to NIRSA, $1.7B was spent on 157 recreation construction projects in 2012), the employment opportunities afforded to students, the educational programming opportunities, the importance of recreation to students' quality of life (and GPA), the role in building a schools’ reputation, or any number of issues.
Unfortunately, neither will the politicians pinning the climbing costs of higher education on climbing walls.
- Monday, June, 16, 2014
AB's Architectural Showcase a Yearlong Affair
The Architectural Showcase in June is the one issue of Athletic Business I look forward to most each year. It's also the issue I spend most of each year working on.