The University of Massachusetts has no plans to add any seating to McGuirk Alumni Stadium.
Both Athletic Director John McCutcheon and Senior Physical Planner Niels la Cour confirmed this information via e-mail.
There has been some confusion among UMass fans regarding the state and extent of the McGuirk stadium upgrade. The expansion will include a new press box and end zone facility, but after several reports surfaced regarding an increase in seating, many assumed that the 47-year-old stadium, which currently holds 17,000, would be expanded to hold more than 20,000.
However, this does not appear to be the case.
“[T]here are no plans to increase seating capacity at this time permanent or temporary,” McCutcheon said. “Once the training facility and press box are completed we anticipate we will play at least one game per year on campus.”
la Cour echoed this sentiment.
“[T]here are no plans at the moment to include additional seating,” he said. “The plans that are being developed now are only for a larger and improved press box (that will still fit architecturally with the style of the stadium) and new locker room and office facilities on the north end of the stadium (also carefully designed to respect the existing architecture).”
This information falls in line with the MAC Membership Agreement and the university’s Request for Proposals, neither of which directly call for additional seating.
In the Membership Agreement, UMass agreed to make significant improvements to the stadium, including a “new end zone facility” and a “new and/or renovated press box.” Nowhere in the agreement is anything mentioned about adding more seats or improving the general structure of the stadium.
The Request for Proposals describes the breadth of the “New Training Facility” and “Press Box Facility” and alludes to the fact that construction should be done in a way that will “allow for the future potential improvements to the Stadium, which may include … increased seating capacity … .” However, it does not call for bids regarding any type of seating expansion.
la Cour indicated that the end zone facility may include ”some additional VIP seating available on the rooftop … but it won’t be a huge amount.”
If no seats are added, McGuirk will be the smallest stadium in the MAC – holding 3,500 less than Kent State’s Dix Stadium, currently the smallest in the league.
There will be some improvements to the area around McGuirk due to ground being dug up to put new utilities in, but those improvements will not be extensive, according to la Cour. The facilities building to the south of McGuirk will also see some improvements - specifically regarding how the building connects to the stadium.
Aside from seating capacity, one of the other major topics surrounding the McGuirk upgrade is whether there will be permanent bathrooms added. As it stands, McGuirk only has permanent bathrooms in the current locker room facility. All other facilities are temporary, portable enclosures. le Cour indicated that bathrooms are a “hot topic and there is much discussion about them and the need for them.”
Concerns about the McGuirk improvements stem from the fact that UMass’ license to use Gillette Stadium officially ends on June 20, 2017. After that, UMass and Bob Kraft must either come to a new agreement, or the Minutemen will head back to Western Massachusetts for all home games. Prior the the license expiration, and after the improvments are completed, the Minutemen will play at least one game on campus. However, the exact amount is unknown.
“It would be premature to speculate on the balance of games between Gillette and McGuirk in the future but the current agreement with Gillette runs through the 2016 season,” McCutcheon said.
As it currently stands, the only out of conference game that would be affected by the potential expiration of the UMass/Gillette relationship is the 2018 Vanderbilt contest. The Commodores are scheduled to play at UMass that year.