Jackson State has an image problem. The SWAC school wants to build a $200 million domed stadium, an arena that would be used for football, basketball and other sports, while being available to the area for almost 100 events per year.
That sounds great. But there is a problem, and it has to do with the first part of that second sentence. Jackson State plays in the SWAC.
By now most people are aware of the issues with being one of the HBCUs: the long road trips, the body-bag games -- many times just to fund the season, the lack of resources that seem almost commonplace at other schools. So how can one of those schools, one that finished just 11-20 in basketball this past season, think that it has the need for a stadium like this?
Leave alone the football attendance, which Mississippi Watchdog's Steve Wilson outlined in his piece on the doomed dome. The Tigers just don't have the draw to fill 50,000 seats.
But then cut to basketball, where the arena will shrink down to 17,000 chairs. And consider that on most night, almost 15,000 of them will be empty. Jackson State had seven home dates last season that drew less than 1,000 fans, and one game -- albeit on Jan. 6 when most students were probably home for the holidays -- where just 286 butts were in the seats.
And yet, this venture will cost Jackson State $1.6 million per year to lease the stadium. That is $1.6 million that is just going into the rent on the stadium -- not on improving the facilities already on campus, not to support educational assistance for the athletes, not to improve the ability for the team to travel and maybe not need to take so many beatings early in the season. That is money that is going into a dream that just seems ludicrous when you consider the teams that will be the primary tenants.
There are other crazy pipe dreams around this stadium, such as the 4,500 parking spaces (which increase to 6500, with downtown parking garages and shuttle buses). How will 6,500 parking spaces be enough to support 50,000 fans? Jackson, Miss. is not exactly known for its public transportation system.
The stadium also hopes to draw the NFL and NBA for preseason games, and big name concerts that normally pass the area by because of lack of facilities.
All of this adds up to a really bad idea as Jackson State tries to have the largest collegiate domed stadium in the country, bypassing the Carrier Dome. The estimates listed on the project's website claim that the stadium would add $64.8 million in tax revenue per year. That seems generous for a market that has a median income of $34,234 per year.
People are not clamoring to visit Jackson, and that is not going to change with the addition of a dome in the city. Perhaps the school could find a better use for that money than the likely disaster that this could be.