BLOOMINGTON — Indiana received 4,000-plus responses in the first week from the online survey it sent out on the athletic department’s efforts to modernize Memorial Stadium.
The survey was emailed out to ticket buyers, fans, donors and business leaders.
Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson isn’t privy to the individual results, but he’s eager to dig into the data the Nations Group puts together.
The university partnered with the sports planning and advisory firm to solicit feedback on the 63-year-old football stadium that will help determine the size and scope of the project. Potential areas of improvement in Indiana’s survey include a reimagined concourse, new gathering spaces, upgraded concessions and restrooms and premium seating options.
“The Nations Group was ecstatic with the initial wave of responses and said ‘wow’,” Dolson said, in an interview with The Herald-Times. “To me that shows people care, that is awesome. The worst case scenario for us is we send out a survey then responses trickle in. Compared to the other schools that the Nation’s group has worked with, they felt like this was really good.”
The firm has worked with Ole Miss, Oregon State, Kansas and Air Force on football stadium projects in recent years.
Memorial Stadium renovations all about improving fan experience
While Indiana has renovated the North and South End Zone facilities over the last two decades, those improvements were centered around improving the student-athlete experience. Dolson wants to ensure the fan experience in Bloomington doesn’t fall behind especially with the Big Ten conference set to expand to 18 teams next year.
“We have to move the ball forward,” Dolson said. “I want to make sure when fans come that it doesn’t feel like a 1960 restroom when I’m on the west side.”
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That’s why Dolson talks about the project with a sense of urgency even as he stresses this is part of a much longer process.
Dolson will sit down with Indiana vice president for capital planning and facilities Tom Morrison and his team to formulate a plan using the survey results that will ultimately need the approval of university president Pam Whitten and the board of trustees.
That all happens before they even get to the design stage.
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“Whether it’s in one phase or three phases or how we do it, how we raise the money, what’s feasible from a fundraising perspective and how we can finance the project — all those details for the project will come out after we decide what to do,” Dolson said.
This is the first major capital project Dolson is running point on, but he spent 11 years as the department’s Deputy Director of Athletics and chief operating officer while his predecessor Fred Glass oversaw facility upgrades for Indiana basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, wrestling, field hockey and soccer.
Dolson, who has helped the athletic department navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, name, image and likeness and conference expansion during his first three years on the job, feels this project is just as big of a “responsibility” as anything he’s done on the job.
“I feel pressure to get it right for Indiana University and Indiana University athletics and Indiana football,” Dolson said. “We have to make certain we have a vision and are proactive.”
Michael Niziolek is the Indiana beat reporter for The Bloomington Herald-Times. You can follow him on Twitter @michaelniziolek and read all his coverage by clicking here.