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Deep Dive: New arena, stadium revamp, much more: Inside Boise State’s ‘vision’ for sports facilities. AD tells BoiseDev: ‘not going to sit back and wait’

Boise State athletics rolled out a vision of its athletics facilities on campus Thursday, including a small new arena, soccer field, practice field, and more, in what it calls an Athletics Village.

The plan, which Boise State Director of Athletics Jeramiah Dickey described to BoiseDev in an interview Thursday morning as a “vision,” puts forth a highly specific set of concepts, renderings, and floorplans. Dickey concedes the plan may not roll out in precisely the manner shown, but he thinks this is the place to start and plant a flag.

The vision results from the school’s Athletics Facilities Study commissioned with engineering firm AECOM last year.

“We are in a competitive industry, and we are seeing what others are doing on a daily basis,” Dickey told us. “That competition is for talent, for brand, for recruits – everything counts, everything matters. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to do the best for Bronco Nation and this institution.”

Dickey, on the record

‘The next step’

Rendering of Albertsons Stadium eastside. Via AECOM

The plan, which Dickey concedes is preliminary, is highly detailed but in some cases shows things that are likely not possible, including putting a practice field over the top of the Boise River Greenbelt.

“Our goal in that was to visually show what an athletic village would look like. There’s a lot that goes into that. We have to work with (partner agencies) on roads and other pieces. We wouldn’t want to negatively impact the Greenbelt; we feel like that’s a competitive advantage because it’s a beautiful piece of our campus.”

The school said the field could see a different configuration to ensure it fits within the confines of the existing campus.

In general, returning to a theme he reiterated through the interview, items may change, shift and adjust depending on a host of factors, including cost, need, community feedback, and permitting.

Boise State basketball facility
Rendering of a coaches office in an envisioned new basketball facility. Via AECOM

“You want it to be as realistic as possible,” he said. “We’d have to figure out and run out the ground balls with people with how that works.”

The plan – the vision – is the first step in a journey.

“It’s just the next step in providing information to our fan base and our donors to understand this is where we’re headed, and we have to figure out how to accomplish that.”

Dickey said they don’t have a refined cost but said he thinks it will be “not much more than $250 million.” A source with knowledge of local development costs told BoiseDev that the $250 million number is likely “woefully low.”

“(The plan) is to show that if we would build this type of facility with this many square feet, we’d have to see what that ultimate cost would be,” Dickey said. “The facilities we could monetize – like the east side of the stadium would play a part in that. There are a lot of moving pieces to that.

After today’s public rollout, he said the work begins.

“Next steps include getting with an arch and developer to really determine what those costs are and define our priorities.”

Will it happen?

In the last several decades, the school has rolled out a number of ideas to expand the stadium that didn’t come to fruition, including a plan to fully enclose the stadium dating to 1990, a 2016 plan to expand the stadium to 40,000, and the 2019 expansion plans, among others.

Dickey said that this type of plan – or vision – may or may not happen ultimately, but he’s comfortable with the process.

“That’s the level of risk as the leader of this department that I’m going to have to live in,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a promised facility that came to fruition. There have been other leaders and presidents with ideas over the years. There are a lot of moving pieces we have to align. I believe in the process, and I’m willing to live with that level of risk knowing that you don’t know what’s possible until you try.”

The school set a goal to add 10,000 donor members and Dickey said a large-scale capital campaign is ahead – though the school has not yet detailed how that may work or when it may start.

“The last year has been about creating the infrastructure and the vision and having the plan to move us forward and best position us for success for the future. With the growth of the Treasure Valley and launching a 10,000 member drive, that’s specific to building our pipeline. If we don’t start the process today, you’ll look back and say ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda.'”

The dollars

Whether the idea costs $250 million or more, fundraising will be the key piece. Dickey admits that releasing the plan and building excitement is the first step in raising funds to make it a reality.

“It’s behind everything I’ve said and done — we are not going to sit back and wait. We are going to do our best to accomplish (our goals). It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.”

He repeated a phrase he’s used often, and has become known for.

“Unrealistic expectations produce epic results,” he said. “We won’t fail due to a lack of effort.”

Dickey said the process to build outward-facing roles that engage with ticket-buyers, donors, and others has been the first step.

“It goes back to when I first started… we didn’t have the infrastructure in place to fund our operations. We were very intentional about setting up external teams. We’ve spent the past year funding that and building it up. We know that after we release this vision of what we want to go out and accomplish, we have to go out and accomplish it. Having the vision leads to more productive conversations with donors and supporters.”

What’s envisioned

“Priority athletics projects”

The plan breaks down into two distinct sections. First, a “priority athletics projects” scheme, which consists primarily of projects the school has either announced or were already in the works.

It identifies essentially four areas for improvement:

Boise State Stadium and Arena plan
“Priority Athletics Projects” at Boise State. Via AECOM
  • An expansion to the east side of Albertsons Stadium. The school previously announced this element in 2020 but so far has not moved forward on the initial concept.
  • A replacement for the Varsity Center – the facility that sits at the south end of the stadium and houses various offices for athletics, locker rooms, and more.
  • Upgrades to the existing basketball and concert arena currently known as ExtraMile Arena and the adjacent Arguinchona Basketball Complex. The school has been studying changes here since at least 2019, as BoiseDev has reported.

“Athletics village legacy plan”

The larger, flashier portion of the plan is significantly more extensive. It calls for removing buildings, internal driveways, parking, and even a relatively new athletics facility.

It assumes the projects in the priority athletics projects are accomplished and adds:

(Numbers in parentheses correspond to the map above.)

  • A new indoor tennis center directly south of the Arguinchona complex. (27) The current indoor tennis center, Boas, is south of the campus near Protest Hill and would be relocated.
  • A new 5,000 seat competition arena south of ExtraMile Arena. (28) The facility could be used for several sports, including gymnastics, basketball, and others.
  • A new area for outdoor beach volleyball. (29)
  • A new outdoor soccer field. (31) This would replace a current outdoor football practice field on the site and some parking, and an existing internal access road.
  • A new grass football practice field. (32) The rendering by firm AECOM shows the 120-yard field (100 yards plus two ten-yard end zones). However, the school could potentially build a non-standard length field, Dickey said.
  • Upgrades the football office complex on the north end of the stadium. (34) Projects could add additional office space to the existing building, which opened in 2013.

For this concept to come to fruition, some existing buildings and facilities would be torn down. This includes the Bronco Gymnasium, which opened in 1956, the current gymnastics training facility, and the natatorium.

Though not on campus, the project also considers upgrades to Dona Larsen Park, including a shared team building, a new hitting/pitching team building, and upgrades.

Albertsons Stadium

Rendering inside Albertsons Stadium from the SE corner looking north. Via AECOM

For many fans, upgrades to the existing football stadium sit near the top of the list. The AECOM plan envisions changes to three of the four sides of the stadium.

Eastside

Blue Turf lounge. Via AECOM

The east side would see the most significant upgrades. Some of the ideas align with the 2019 plan, but the concept does not show some ideas like an academic center – which could move to the new Varsity Center.

New ideas, like a sideline club with blue carpeting at field level, are listed as “revenue generation,” as well as additional loge seating boxes for four. A rendering shows taking out a chunk of the middle of the east side lower deck and building the new sideline club, with premium seating on top.

Albertsons Stadium concourse
Eastside concourse. Via AECOM

The main concourse would see long-hoped-for new amenities, including new bathrooms, upgraded concessions, and more. Renderings show updated blue and orange branding and logos.

The lower-level concourse, which is now mostly unused except to enter and exit the stadium, could also see changes, including its own set of concessions and restrooms.

North end zone

Renderings in the AECOM document show bowling in the lower level on the north end zone. Currently, bleacher seats sit in the end zone, disconnected from the stadium. The concept plan would bring seating all the way around the area, including the corners of the lower bowl. The main concourse would also continue around behind the NEZ and connect the east and west sides of the stadium. The configuration also appears to add additional seating that would be lost by removing seats at the 50-yard line in the main stadium on the east side.

South end zone

On the stadium’s south side, the seating configuration would remain essentially unchanged. However, a new large video board, announced last month, would go up above the seats. In addition, the new Varsity Center concept (detailed below) would sit immediately behind the stands and video board, with windows looking out onto the stadium.

New Varsity Center, football complex upgrades

The current Varsity Center would be replaced. The building now houses offices for athletics administration, various sports, weight rooms, and locker facilities.

A rundown in the AECOM report shows increased office and space for a host of programs, including golf, softball, tennis, track and field, and soccer. It also contemplates new space for its joint venture with Learfield IMG College, upgrades to facilities graphic design, HR, IT, the Bronco Athletic Association, and more. At least one program, Bronco Spirit – the cheerleaders and dance team – is “assumed to be located off-site.”

As noted above, the four-story building would be notched in the south end zone, and some offices would feature views over the blue turf.

The football complex would see slight expansion to the west, with additional meeting rooms, conference room and a new office for the team’s head coach.

ExtraMile Arena & basketball complex

Last year, BoiseDev told you about work to reimagine the facilities at ExtraMile Arena. That work was spearheaded not by the athletics department but by campus facilities. Improvements primarily focused on the arena’s role in hosting concerts and community events.

Now, athletics has its own set of ideas for the facility, which dates to 1982.

Concepts include:

  • A new premium entry and event club on the north side of the building.
  • Premium seating in the existing mezzanine (orange seats) area of the arena’s north side.
  • New sideline club and loge boxes.
  • New offices and weight room specific to basketball on the west side of the building.

In the Arguinchona complex, the plan mulls an expansion with a new dedicated practice court. Offices on two levels – the first floor for men and second floor for women, would look out onto the court. The larger weight room would connect directly to the court.

New Bronco Arena & tennis

The number of sports arenas on campus would double under the plan.

An entirely new building would go up in the area where the historic Bronco Gym now stands. It would feature a six-court indoor tennis facility near the existing outdoor Appleton Tennis Center.

Next to that, a new practice gym for gymnastics would add updated, permanent space for the team.

The Bronco Arena would seat about 5,000 people – roughly the same as ICCU Arena in Downtown Boise. Renderings and site plans show the arena configured for basketball, but it could host a variety of other sports.

Team spaces are earmarked for gymnastics, volleyball, soccer, and beach volleyball. A training facility, ticketing office, visiting team locker room, concessions and restrooms are also envisioned. The seating area would be ringed by a concourse that would wrap around the arena.

Soccer facility

The AECOM plan envisions removing DeChevrieux Field, which opened in 2014. The field currently serves as a natural grass practice area for the football team. The school hopes to build a new soccer stadium complex in its place. Renderings show a terraced seating area, grandstands, a press box facility, and smaller jumbotron.

Dickey’s goal

“My goal coming in — and I think this came from my dad — my goal was to leave something better than I’ve found it. That’s my goal every day when I come into this office. I want to be the best I can for the people I represent and lead.”

We asked Dickey if this vision is similar to the vision of Gene Bleymaier to replace a green field at Bronco Stadium with blue – a decision that has come to define not only the stadium but the school, and even in part Boise and Idaho as a whole.

“I don’t want people to think this is my legacy. That’s not the intent. Your legacy is there is some control I have – but that’s more determined by others. I want to do what’s in the best interest of Bronco Nation. I want to do something epic for this community and this state. There’s not much I can control – whether it’s conference realignment… we can control what we can. We’re going to continue to put our best foot forward and create the fan experience that’s owed to this community.”

He called athletics the school’s “front porch” and said he wants to improve the stadium’s entryway – both literally and virtually.

“I’m 42 years old — God willing, I have another 20 years. As much as I think about ‘What’s Next’ – there’s this balance of doing what’s best for this institution and this department. I came here because of potatoes and blue turf, and that’s what I knew of that place. I want to represent this place and leave it better than I found it.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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