This is pretty good stuff from LAJ’s Don Williams where he writes about the $111 million debt service that the Texas Tech athletic department has. This is debt that will need to be paid until 2035 and $12 million of their annual expense is related to the payment each year on the debt. This amount, $12 million, is second only to Texas and the debt started with the United Supermarkets Arena, along with the Rocky Johnson softball field, the John Walker Soccer Complex, renovations to Jones AT&T Stadium, Dan Law Field and the Fuller Track Complex. So just about every sport received a pretty significant facelift.
What I’d love to know is how much of this was incurred under each athletic director’s watch, more out of curiosity. I do recall that the renovations to the USA was directly tied to the re-naming of the USA and the funds used for that were directly ear-marked to the improvement to the lorckerrooms. I also seem to recall that the additions to Dan Law Field were also not permitted until a certain amount (perhaps all) was raised to pay for those improvements. It was the reason why the field is called Rip Griffin Park at Dan Law Field.
Current AD Kirby Hocutt says that the goal is not not incur any further debt until such time that this debt service is paid off:
“That’s our challenge,” Hocutt said. “That’s our challenge as we look to the future and we try to build new facilities. We have to be very careful, because we can’t accept much more debt.”
This dovetails with the other article from LAJ’s Williams that essentially states that the athletic department isn’t starting the Indoor Practice Facility until such time that the athletic department offices can raise the additional $11 million before starting construction. They want to have all $45 million to build the facility before starting it.
Back to the debt, we all want nice things and we all want to see Texas Tech not lag in facilities. Every one of the facilities that received upgrades or a completely new facility truly needed it. I’m not complaining here. Tom Stone can’t have a world-class team without world-class facilities. He is doing that. Wes Kittley just had his Texas Tech men’s team finish 9th in the NCAA Outdoor National Championships.
The one concerning thing, and it is something that we’ve known about, but maybe not expressed as often as we should, is the utter reliance that this athletic department is on the sport of football to essentially fund the majority of the other sports. No pressure here, but it is why it’s almost essential that Texas Tech and Tubby Smith and Candace Whitaker are successes. Texas Tech needs for these programs to be revenue-generating programs and not programs that just are expenses to the bottom line. They aren’t even close to there just yet, but I do think that the basketball audience is growing.
“That’s why it’s so critical that we sell out Jones AT&T Stadium,” Hocutt said, “to help us generate that revenue to invest back into our 17 varsity sports programs. That’s why it’s so critical that we put people in the United Supermarkets Arena for men’s and women’s basketball. That’s our revenue growth opportunity is men’s and women’s basketball, growing our attendance there and continuing to maintain what we achieved in football last year.
“That’s our lifeblood is our support through our season-ticket holders and our Red Raider Club members.”
If I had to guess, most, if not all, of these projects, other than the more recent renovations to Jones AT&T Stadium were not under Hocutt’s watch. I probably need to develop a timeline to make sure that I’m accurate here. And this isn’t about blaming Gerald Myers on building these facilities, although the rate at which these things needed to be built was maybe an issue.