For as long as anyone can remember, the South has had a perpetual love affair with the sport of football.
Not that that’s a bad thing, of course. I cherish Saturdays in the fall as much as the next guy, but what could we possibly be missing in our tunnel vision that’s so fully focused on football?
What sports aren’t getting the same love from the university as football?
The answer, at least at Troy, is all of them. However, the one that stands out the most is soccer.
Reports first came out in 2013 about Troy’s plans to build an addition to Veterans Memorial Stadium that would close off the north end zone, and it was the talk of the town. Certainly, such renovations as the ones described when the news broke would be a huge boost not only to football recruitment, but also to potential new students.
Both Athletic Director Jeremy McClain and Chancellor Jack Hawkins have said that they’re looking for that “wow factor” that the renovations would bring to incoming students and student-athletes. Furthermore, according to Hawkins, they’re looking to spend roughly $17 million on the project.
So what’s the big deal? New football stadiums with renovations, huge scoreboards and new facilities seem to pop up every season. So, why shouldn’t Troy follow suit?
First, while the stadium renovations will include new and useful things like offices, weight rooms and box seating, there are other facilities that could use some love as well, namely the Troy Soccer Complex.
Of all the sports at Troy, soccer has most notably seen a spike in attendance in the last few years, mainly as a result of entertaining play that has produced wins for the program.
But it’s soccer, right? No one cares about soccer, right?
That idea is wrong, and here’s why: the Troy Soccer Complex has seen a jump in its average number of fans per game for the past three years, and it shows no signs of stopping. Last season alone, the stadium exceeded its capacity in five out of eight total home games, most notably against rival South Alabama when Trojan fans set a record for a soccer game with 1,365 in attendance.
Additionally, Trojan soccer has proven itself to be a winning program as of late and is consistently competitive both in Sun Belt play and beyond. After consecutive losing seasons, the soccer program got back on track in 2014 and 2015 with 16-6 and 14-4-2 records respectively.
Also, in both of those seasons, Troy advanced to the conference semifinals and finals, also respectively.
How does football shape up? The attendance record at Veterans Memorial Stadium was set back in 2012 with a crowd of 29,013 fans who watched Troy nearly take down Mississippi State.
Even that crowd didn’t quite fill up a stadium that officially can sit 30,000.
When it comes to wins, most of us already know the story. The football team hasn’t had a record better than .500 since 2010.
It’s been the soccer team that has quietly filled up its stands consistently, and it only follows that that team should be rewarded with renovations of its own. At every halftime, the stadium conspicuously lacks a visitors’ locker room, not to mention the fact that most fans need to stand or bring their own chairs to games.
Lines for bathrooms and concessions also tend to lengthen with higher numbers of fans.
Furthermore, stadium additions for the soccer program would help to increase its current revenue off of tickets for events held at the complex. There’s already a demand for more seating, so why wouldn’t the university want to add more seats?
Maybe instead of going for the “wow factor,” Troy should focus on the “win factor.”