PUCK SWAMI: HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A BIG (FANTASY) HOLIDAY GIFT TO DU SPORTS?

lrgxs0373-red-present-stack

Photo: X-Stock

It’s the Holiday Season – the season of giving! If you haven’t done it yet, this is the perfect time for a year-end gift to the University of Denver. Assuming you’re not actually a billionaire, perhaps you like to fantasize about what you would do if your check could be for multi-millions – the kind of gift that could transform Pioneer sports for the next 25 years!

How much would it take for a gift to be “transformational?”  Good question. Since we’re fantasizing here, let’s make the fantasy “gift” about the size of DU’s last real transformational gift to athletics – the $85 million it cost to build the Ritchie Center, which opened in 1999. (I know some of the Ritchie Center was gifted to DU and the rest bonded, but hey, let’s pretend it was all gifted!) Considering we’re fantasy-gifting to DU in 2016, that $85 million would now be about $123 million in 2016 dollars. So, we’ll use that higher amount as our fantasy gift, and here’s how we’d spend it:

First off, we would not spend all the money on restarting a D-I football program or building a new palace-like facility for just one sport, as they did in Grand Forks. While those might be noble goals for some, I believe those kinds of expenditures might rob DU of our unique, multi-sport excellence that has been carefully cultivated over time. Instead, our fantasy gift would be broken into smaller (yet sizable) chunks that would help keep our key teams rising in multiple sports and add to the spectator experience of enjoying them!

Second, there would be a few strings attached to a such a gift, as there always are with big gifts. In return for the gift, DU would agree that the Denver “Pioneer” nickname will never change, and that Denver Boone will return to official status as a school mascot. We would then, in turn, fund $5 million in new scholarships for Native American DU students to show substantive, meaningful support for those students. We would also fund a Native American lacrosse statue on campus as a tribute to the founders of the game. The entire Native American gift program would be named for Zach Miller ‘17, DU’s first Native American lacrosse star player.

Here’s how we’d earmark the rest of the $123 million in gift money:

1) Spend $20 million to upgrade the game-day facilities for lacrosse. The seating should be upgraded to a 6,000-8,000 seat stadium, as the men’s program has clearly outgrown the current 2,000-seat Barton Lacrosse Stadium.  There are several ways to accomplish this stadium upgrade. Perhaps this could be done by adding new seating to the existing Barton Stadium in an upper deck and/or a new north side stadium addition replacing the “hill” on the Ritchie Center. Or perhaps it could be done by upgrading the current Denver Public School Football Stadium at Denver South High School, across the highway from DU. We’d want the new/upgraded lacrosse stadium to have individual padded seating sections, state-of-the-art turf, luxury boxes, a student bleacher section, a new big video scoreboard and upgraded locker rooms.

Part of the same $20 million should also be used to develop a dedicated, retractable/covered outdoor party deck to upgrade student, alumni and fan tailgate events to maintain a great game day atmosphere at the new/upgraded stadium. DU could name the facility stadium after legendary DU coach Bill Tierney and name the new party deck after DU superfan Damien Goddard, who has done more for DU school spirit than anyone in the last 40 years.

The DU soccer teams could choose to still play at Ciber field on campus unless spectator demand for their games grows for additional seating capacity, in which case, some soccer games could be played at the new lacrosse stadium, as long as the turf situation could be worked out. Given DU’s recent rise in NCAA soccer, that program could soon outgrow Ciber field on campus within 5 years.

2) Earmark $20 million to build to build a new dedicated indoor varsity practice facility for DU soccer,  basketball and lacrosse (and perhaps other sports programs) at the South High sports complex, as DU is currently too landlocked a campus to accommodate this size of needed facility. DU could also share it with the Denver School system in return for the land to build it. This would please the DU coaches, keep DU competitive with other schools and take some of the high daily usage load off the Ritchie Center while also allowing more use of the Ritchie Center for recreational and intramural sports. It would also allow select lacrosse/soccer games to be played indoors in bad weather, if needed. DU could add a larger varsity weight room, student athlete lounges, sports science labs, offices, meeting rooms, medical/training rooms, video review room, etc. I’d ask that it be named for current DU AD Peg Bradley-Doppes, who has built DU from a hockey school to a multi-sport NCAA powerhouse since arriving at DU in 2005 and who, in my opinion, is the best athletic director we’ve ever had at DU.

3) Set aside $15 million for upgrades to the current Ritchie Center. (The RC is now pushing 20 years old and could use some new tweaks). While we don’t need more seating, it is time to add some new, revenue-producing luxury boxes on the east side. We also need: a new DU Hall of Fame/Museum space to replace the currently underwhelming HOF plaques in the West concourse; a new bar/restaurant deck space on the east side; a much better DU merchandise store; and new concourse graphics/banners to enhance our sense of DU sports tradition. DU should also consider adding some solar panels on the Gates Field House roof to reduce Ritchie Center energy costs. DU should also retrofit the current DU student section into bleacher seating for better student section identity and easier general admission/standing room and also erect a pep band/cheer squad platform into that section to better accommodate spirit squad integration without blocking fan views. The naming opportunity here would be designated for Murray Armstrong, DU’s legendary hockey coach who won 5 NCAA titles at DU from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, and established our hockey program as one of the nation’s elite. He deserves a more fitting public tribute than his current statue, which is squeezed beside the Bavarian Nut cart on game nights. (The current hockey locker room is also named after Armstrong, but few members of the public see that tribute either.)

4) Let’s spend $15 million to upgrade the current (and quite spartan) Denver Public School baseball and softball fields at Denver South High to NCAA D-I standards and then add those two varsity sports to DU. This would make DU even more attractive for an overall multi-sport conference upgrade, which is something that other higher conferences want DU to do to be considered for admission. DU should include appropriate locker rooms, some luxury seating, a party deck between (and overlooking) both stadium fields and new video scoreboards. Once again, DU would share the facilities with Denver Public Schools in return for the upgrades of their existing facilities. DU could name the complex after former Major Leaguer Dan Schatzeder, the most famous DU baseball player of all time, and Jack Rose, the longtime DU baseball coach who built the program from the 1960s until it was dropped in 1999.

5) Spend $7 million to upgrade the tennis complex at South High to indoor/outdoor courts (as has already been envisioned among high-level donors) which DU would then share with Denver Public Schools and the Denver community. Then, remove the six current DU Stapleton Tennis Pavilion tennis courts and convert the site to a new beach volleyball facility (with seating for 1,000 fans and a party deck) and start a NCAA beach volleyball program at DU. The sport is growing in popularity with over 50 NCAA D-I women’s programs already, and could also make us more appealing to other western conferences. Since DU has never produced a super well-known tennis or volleyball player, we’ll name it after the most famous DU alumnus, former US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, BA’74, PhD ’81, just for fun.

6) Spend $5 million to build the “Boone Bridge” a covered, solar-heated, glassed-in bridge over I-25 that would connect the new DU facilities at South High to the current DU campus and to the RTD light rail station. We’d outfit the new bridge with a giant electronic billboard to promote DU events to the thousands of cars passing underneath each day on I-25, and DU could also sell advertising to others to help pay for it. The Bridge would become a beacon for DU and part of a memorable, safe and climate-controlled game-day march to the new facilities for DU students and fans. This bridge would be named after Denver Boone, the mascot of the Pioneers.

7) $5 million should be set aside for new league entry/old league exit fees and opponent travel incentives to facilitate a new conference home for DU — West Coast Conference, Missouri Valley Conference, Big East (longshot, I know) — or to build a new conference with other disgruntled private schools. DU needs money for this purpose so that the school can easily make the move when the timing and invitation is right. Until then, we’re okay with the Summit League, especially if North Dakota is added to the conference.

8) Spend $4 million to help upgrade the hockey locker room complex at Magness Arena to be even more state-of-the-art, well beyond the current $2 million new locker room project already underway in the fundraising phase. DU should make this a fund for DU Coach Jim Montgomery to do what he needs to do to keep DU at the forefront of college hockey recruiting. And this fund should be named for Ron Grahame ’73, DU’s all-American goalie and current Deputy Athletic Director.

9) Earmark $3 million to endow major head and assistant coaching positions in perpetuity for key sports, so that DU can afford to keep our great coaches here, and attract new great coaches through the years. I would name this fund after Former DU Hockey Coach George Gwozdecky, who restored the pride to DU with his NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005, as well as other hardware and achievements with the DU program. In my view, that would be both ironic (given Gwozdecky’s contract dispute which ended his DU career) and iconic at the same time.

10) Spend $5 million to upgrade and endow DU spirit squads (a better and bigger recruited pep band, cheer teams, dance team, Boone mascot program, etc.) and make sure these groups are of large enough size, quality and funding levels so that they can always travel to key NCAA Championships events, etc.  We’d call this the “Puck and Mrs. Swami School Spirit Fund”, because we are the “gifters” in this fantasy, after all.

11) Spend $5 million fund to brand, advertise and promote DU sports events in the Denver community to help sell more game tickets and help make DU more relevant to the oversaturated Denver sports market. Part of this gift would also be used to organize special Denver sports events (e.g. Battle on Blake, NCAA lacrosse at Mile High,) and bring in some concert entertainers to turn some of these games into large events, etc.

12)  Spend $4 million for fan and team transport. This would include charter jet flight time credits and a high-end team sleeper bus for team sport transport and a permanent fleet of DU buses that could be used to transport groups of DU fans to events, including ski meets. We’re 23-time and current National Ski Champs and 99% of DU fans have never been to a DU ski meet! When they aren’t being used for ski meets, DU could use the buses to take DU fans to regional away games such as Colorado College, CU, CSU, Wyoming, Air Force, Omaha, UNM, Front Range or to NCAA tournaments, etc.  Some of that money could also be used to buy a big RV decked out in DU colors as a centerpiece and meeting point for away-game tailgate parties, too. We’d name this fund the Fisher Fund, after 40-year DU fan Steve Fisher, who rarely misses a DU home game in any sport.

13) Create a $4 million endowment to help with guarantees and start tournament events to upgrade schedules in those sports where it is difficult to bring in brand name, non-league opponents to Denver. We’re looking at you, men’s basketball. This fund gets named for LetsGoDU bloggers Tim Thompson and Nick Tremaroli, because well, they put their hearts and souls into DU sports, too.

14) We would set aside $2 million to upgrade the DU Soccer fan experience, as it has big growth potential as a spectator sport at DU, with both the men’s and women’s programs. The DU soccer stadium could use a new video screen, and it would be fun to build a rowdy student section behind the south goal with a tailgate/party facility to give the students their own area for the games. Get the band and cheer teams at these games, too!

15) We haven’t forgotten gymnastics, either. We’ve set aside $2 million to help the Pioneers break into the top 5 in the country in gymnastics, which is the next level for the program. The coaches could use the money any way they wish, although a stipulation of the gift would be to set aside $100 per meet for earplugs for adult fans wishing to mitigate the shrieking from all the 9-year-old girls who attend DU gymnastics meets!

16) Finally, we’d give $2 million to DU’s swimming program to add some better seating beyond the five rows of current cement bleachers, as well as a party deck at the El Pomar Natatorium in the Ritchie Center to help increase meet attendance.

Well, there you have it. How would you spend some fantasy money for DU sports? Let us know in the comments below!

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time DU sports fan and alumnus. He shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDU.

 

 

12 thoughts on “PUCK SWAMI: HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A BIG (FANTASY) HOLIDAY GIFT TO DU SPORTS?”

  1. I think the idea for busses/motor coaches would be great, especially for the ski team. Beach volleyball would be an instant campus success – the sport is hugely popular with the under 30 crowd – who would have thought lax would become so big at DU? Finally, the lacrosse stadium does need more seating as well as reserved seats. Much of what you recommend could be done over the course of 10-15 years.

    Like

  2. Realizing, this only a fantasy I am letting my mind go and can’t wait for the rebirth of DU football. Living in Georgia, I have seen the successful birth or rebirth of DI football at Georgia Southern, Georgia State and a Mercer, a small highly academic university similar to DU. It has brought both school spirt and renew alumni financial to support to all of them and yes Atlanta is a pro sports town like Denver and has older and more established programs like Georgia and Georgia Tech.

    If I had $123 million dollars for DU athletics, I would do things similar to what Puck Swami outlined, except I would bring back DI football, initially at the DIAA level in eighter the Big Sky or Missouri Valley FB leagues. These are two of the top DIAA leagues and both have a number of potential regional rival in school like Northern Colorado, Idaho. Ideally, we would be a football only member and play other sports in either the Summitt or the West Coast Conference, neighter which sponsor football. If we were successful down the road we could move up to the Mountain West for all sports and have a number of traditional rivals like, Air Force, CSU and Wyoming.

    I allocate $25-35 million to Football which would include renovating and initially playing in the DPS/South High stadium which we could also use for lacrosse, It probably could be expanded to hold 8-10,000 which would initially be enough for DIAA. I would also reserve about $10 million to create a football endowment to provide a large portion of the annual fb operating budget. This income along with playing 1-2 money games against large schools from the Mountain West or Pac12 would fund a DIAA program. Most DIAA programs do not make money but the schools cover costs by playing 1-2 money games against larger schools. The bigger benefits of a strong football program including DIAA programs are school spirit and alumni giving. A number of schools do not make much from the fb programs but make up for it with strong alumni financial support, especially for winning programs .

    This whole exercise is a fantasy, however if DU had a football program with a 10-20 million dollar endowment we could build school spirit and once we were winning the contributions would come in. There are several schools of DU size like Colgate, Leigh,Wake Forest and Tulsa with highly successful fb programs. They may not be top 10 programs but they generate lots of alumnii support. The start up cost and annual operating costs have been the major barriers to brining fb back to DU. If we had this giant fantasy gift to fund and sustain football the long tern benifits should outweigh the startup cost funded by our great major fantasy donor. In conclusion, I do not buy into the argument that Denver is a pro sports town and wouldn’t support another college fb program. At the DIAA level crowds of 8-10,000 are plenty for home games and if needed I bet for a big game we could find a home. I would enjoy tailgating at the DU- Northern Colorado game or taking a road trip to watch DU play Stamford or maybe TCU or Boise State. I also realize that the likelihood of a $123 million dollar unrestricted gift to DU athletics is a fantasy that we are likely to only dream about. With that, I have enjoyed dreaming of DU football. When I was at DU in the late 1960s- 1970 we still had baseball and a football stadium and we dreamed then of the return of DU football.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also forgot that just 3 years ago Kennesaw State in suburban Atlanta added DIAA football after years of saying they could not afford it. They have virtually sold out an 8,000 seat stadium for every game and this year won 9 games. Everyone said with all the older and more established programs and pro football that they would never make it. They play in the stadium where DU beat Duke in lacrosse the last 2 years.

    With $123 million fantasy dollars to spend why think about a fleet of buses to skiing events when we could add football and get the students and alumni excited, especially if our very generous major donor is paying for it. I can just see Boone running up and down the sidelines at home and away games.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting points, AtlantaPioneer. No one is an advocate for greater school spirit than I am. I also love college football and understand what football could do for DU on the school spirit front, if it was done well.

    The problem is, we just can’t do football as well as we do our other sports. We just don’t have the money, facility, school size, fan base or primary recruiting area that could sustain it.

    Our reality is DU does well in sports where it can spend and recruit at the level of the national leaders in those sports. And in sports where DU just can’t spend or recruit what the leaders do, we struggle just to attain mediocrity (see DU basketball).

    $125 million would be enough to do lower level to mid-level D-I football if DU really wanted to – either in the D-I non-scholarship level football like the Pioneer League Schools (Drake, Butler, Valpo, U of San Diego, etc) stepping up to Big Sky level (Northern Colorado, Montana State, etc.). It might even be enough money to get us into the Mountain West, but its not enough to build an on-campus stadium, so we’d have to rent out Mile High. For example, Butler draws about 3,000-5,000 fans on campus for Pioneer League football games, far less than it does for it’s nationally ranked men’s hoops program. Northern Colorado draws 6,000 fans for Big Sky Football on campus. And if DU got into the Mountain West, it might draw 10,000 fans at 75,000-seat Mile High.

    After the novelty wears off, I think local interest would wane and would only make DU sports feel smaller time, especially now with CU starting to do well in Pac-12 football and CSU opening a $225 million on-campus stadium next year in the Mountain West.

    I think DU fans would rather enjoy beating on big time schools like Wisconsin in hockey, Notre Dame, Maryland or Duke in lacrosse or Clemson and Washington in soccer…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was just having fun and fantasizing spending 123 million dollars. My point is that is with DIAA fb would work using a renovated South High stadium that you could drew 5-10,000 fans to watch Big Sky level games and adding 2 money games away were we get beaten by big name schools and also get paid guarantees like 1 Million a game. With type of program along with a 10-20 million fb endowment it would build school spirit and we don’t need large crowds.

    After a few years we should be able to be competitive at the DIAA level and it would be a lot easier to recruit to DU than places like North Dakota or Montana which are two of the strongest DIAA programs right in our region. We could easily build one of the strongest DIAA programs in the US and not need a large on campus stadium or to ren Mile Hile Stadium. Plus lacrosse could also use the South High stadium.

    The Good News is type of fb would work for DU but the Bad News is so far we don’t have the 20-50 million needed to make this fantasy a reality.

    Like

  6. I see what you are saying, Atlanta Pioneer. Run a DI-AA football program, have some nice fall Saturday afternoons playing in the Big Sky in front of our 8,00-10,000 fans, and accept the body-bag, ass-whuppin’ away game guarantee money a couple times per season from the big boys and just be happy. as it’s college football, played at a level that DU could probably afford if it wanted to do it.

    Pros:
    Better School spirit/Student life
    Potentiallly good results at that level
    Increased fall sports visibilty?
    Conference upgrade?

    Cons:
    DI-AA football irrelevance in big city market like Denver?
    OK to be 4th/5th FB Banana in our state (CU, CSU, AFA, DU/UNC?)
    Resource drain from other top sports at DU?
    Strain on sports/academic culture of DU?

    Interesting food for thought….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Having minored in psychology at DU, I believe Puck’s $125,000,000.00 donation is a self fulfilling prophecy. He must believe his company will be purchased by someone like GOOGLE OR AMAZON and he will be the donor, hopefully sooner then later.
    I like Puck’s distribution of funds but ask that he set aside funds for 2 additional amenities. I am not getting any younger and I want to enjoy the fruits of his kindness:
    1. The bridge connecting DU to the new lax stadium on the other side of I25. A moving walk-way like they have at many airports would be greatly appreciated.
    2. Many older alums like myself can’t take the cold like we did in college. Barton, wherever it’s located, should have a façade that covers at least the portion of the stands where fans and alums sit. Heat and a/c should stream down as needed in some fashion. Yes, students and players can brave the elements.

    In advance, I thank Mr. and Mrs. Puck for their generosity.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Students won’t take a “bridge” or drive to regular season games held on the other side of 25. A D1 program playing at a high school would be bush league.

    Like

    1. Wrong, wrong anonymous:
      1. What Puck is building on the other side of I25 will be state of the arts facilities which you find on the campuses of big time sports universities. Who suggested anything bush league?
      2. The bridge with the “Dunker Moving Walkway” will be cool. Do you think Pauley Pavilion and The Big House don’t require students to schlep their way there? Most major athletic arenas and stadiums are not in the center of the campus.

      For you Mr. Anonymous I recommend abundant Valium, Prosac, and psychiatric care to be high on your list of 2017 New Year’s resolutions. You got to lighten up a lot. Puck offered a fantasy.

      Like

  9. It is fun to dream and some times dreams become reality.
    How about 2024 DU Athletic Results including:
    – DU wins NCAA DIAA football beating North Dakota State
    – Men’s soccer wins their 3rd NCAA championship beating Clemson
    – Men’s and Women’s hockey, wins the Frozen 4 beating Wisconsin
    – DU wins the NCAA Ski championships again
    – Men’s basketball team beats Gonzaga to win the West Coast Conference and goes on to loose to UCLA in the NCAA West Coast Regionals. Coach Billups turns down opportunities from Kansas and the Boston Celtics to stay at DU.
    – Men’s Lax team wins their 4 NCAA title under Coach Brown
    – Baseball team makes it to the College World Series in Omaha
    – Women’s soccer, beach volleyball, volleyball, gymnastics and tennis and golf teams go the NCAA championships.
    – What a great year for DU athletics winning the Commisioners Cup by beating out Gonzaga and St Mary’s.

    All this began with the strategic planning of Chancellor Chopp and the visionary thinking and $125 Million Challenge Matching Gift from Mr and Mrs. Puck Swami. To honor the Swami family, the new on campus 20,000 seat football & lacrosse stadium will be named Swami- Boone Field. It is slated to open in September 2025, when we open the fb season against Harvard.

    . I love dreaming and can’t wait for the rebirth of DU football in 2020 at the D1AA level. A year of perfect vision and fantasy.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s