Upgrades to Florida football's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium could mean fewer seats.
One of the defining features of college football is its giant, historic stadiums. Florida football's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is among them.
Known as "The Swamp," Florida emerged as a college football power in the 1990s and became one of the country's top programs in the 2000s.
Steve Spurrier took his alma mater to new heights, capturing the national championship in 1996. The field at "The Swamp" is now named after him. Urban Meyer elevated things from there. After coming over from Utah, he captured titles in 2006 and 2008.
During those two decades, The Swamp became one of the most famous home fields in the sport. It has also been expanded a few times.
When the stadium opened as Florida Field in 1930, it sat 21,769 fans. Every decade or so, it has seen a bump in seating.
Currently, it officially holds 88,548 fans. That number may actually start to head in the opposite direction according to athletic director Scott Stricklin.
He spoke to the Associated Press about upgrades coming to The Swamp. That may mean fewer, not more, seats.
"There was a time when, probably when the north end zone (section) was done in the early '90s, when seat count is all anyone cared about," Stricklin said last week. "Just cram as many people as possible in there. Obviously that is not (the case) when you talk to people who do facilities and stadiums these days.
"That's not as important as quality and making sure you're creating an environment that people want to come and participate in. The days of fans being OK sitting three hours on a piece of aluminum, I think, are gone. So we've got to find ways to upgrade the overall quality.
Stricklin said part of the plan would be to aesthetically overhaul the 90,000-seat stadium, which could reduce capacity and create premium seating closer to the field."
Adding seats has long been the trend for college football stadiums. Even in the last few years, Texas A&M's Kyle Field and Ole Miss's Vaught-Hemingway Stadium added seating.
However, Stricklin's point is an astute one. Attendance has been an issue in the sport as a whole, and making for the best stadium experience to keep people from watching on their couches is hugely important. That may mean sacrificing a few thousand seats to make things more comfortable for fans, and adding technology that helps bridge the gap between the home and stadium experiences.
Right now, there is no timetable or hard plans for Ben Hill Griffin Stadium's upgrades. However, when they do come, don't be shocked to see that 88,000 number drop a bit, and it probably won't only be Florida making that kind of change in the near future.