Q&A with Chris Massaro (Part I)
Baseball stadium to be completed in early AugustJuly 1, 2008 · MT Media Relations
What is the expected date for completion on the new baseball stadium? At this point in time we expect to have the stadium completed in early August, but we want everything done right so we are in no hurry. The contractor has been great to work with and is doing a nice job so if it takes Olympic Construction a little longer to do it right then we are okay with that.
In looking at the progress of the stadium, what are some of the features that have caught your eye? I love the blue risers because it adds some nice color to the stadium and the other thing that has really caught my eye is the size of the press box. It was designed in such a way that we will always be able to host an NCAA regional as it includes a television booth, two radio booths, and a couple of suites to go along with a large media area. It will be tournament ready. A few of the small things I really like is the brick work and the wrought iron fencing because it will really set the stadium off.
In addition to being a first-class facility for our baseball team, what additional resources does this multi-million dollar facility provide? The challenge is to use the stadium as much as possible. We are looking at the press box to see how we can integrate that with some of our football games. We might host some small group functions and they can have an executive tailgate before walking to the football game. I even believe we could have some small concerts in the facility. There's just a bunch of opportunities for the stadium and we plan to explore everything. Of course, it will also enhance our recruiting efforts.
Facilities are an area where you can never get behind and Middle Tennessee has some of the best in the country. What are your future plans for facilities? We need an office structure for the bulk of our department. While our academics are doing well we really have outgrown the space in that. We need a football office complex, along with office areas for our men's and women's basketball programs. Our offices are little behind right now and that may hurt a program in recruiting so we are looking strong at this area. We also need to address an indoor hitting facility for softball and an indoor tennis facility, particularly with the closing of the Murfreesboro Racquet Club recently. Our plans for this year are to have our team play and practice in Nashville so that is not ideal for our tennis program so we need to address this issue very soon. We also have some cosmetic work to do in terms of decorating hallways, various walls, and honoring our past while branding Middle Tennessee athletics more than we have in the past.
What are some facility enhancements that have been completed recently that most fans may not be aware of at Middle Tennessee? One of the things we are really happy with is the new rubberized flooring in the training room. The new floor is supposed to help prevent staph infections and just an overall better working environment for the training staff and student-athletes. I think a lot of people have seen the new auxiliary gym in the Murphy Center that has been upgraded thanks to Kermit Davis and his Sixth Man Club. It received a new floor and paint job but the latest improvement was padding around the entire facility to go along with a scoreboard. For our entire program, we have added a new sand pit which will be used by the strength and conditioning staff to better train our athletes and allowing them to recover from injuries faster. We are always looking at our facilities and trying to enhance what we already have in place.
When you arrived on campus one of the major topics was football attendance. Tell us where we are in attendance today and are you pleased with the numbers. I want to be very clear about this. We are very pleased with the progress we have made in football attendance. The last two football seasons we have had an average of 20,000 people for that time period. When I got here the average attendance was below 15,000 and we were on the NCAA watch list but over the past three years we have increased our attendance by over 5,000 and I am happy about that. If we could increase our average attendance by 5,000 every three years, then I would be pleased with that growth chart. Obviously, we would love to be sold out tomorrow and that is our main goal and we are pushing toward that everyday. I hope our fans are pleased with the progress as well because it has taken a lot of work by our marketing department and our entire administration. Football attendance is a high priority with us and we mention it in every meeting, so help support the program and come see some great football by ordering your tickets today.
One of the first meetings you had on campus when you arrived was with numerous student groups in an attempt to get them involved. Are you pleased with the increased attendance by the students over the past three years? Yes, I am pleased with our student attendance over the past few years. In 2002, we averaged 1,480 per game and in 2007 we averaged 3,581, so we have more than doubled that figure in five years. However, we dipped a little from 2006 to 2007. In 2006, we had 3,885 students per game but that was during a championship and bowl season and we had a home game in Nashville against Louisville which was a highly attended game by our students. We think we have laid the groundwork to improve on the 3,581 set last year and we have a target to top the 4,000 mark in 2008. Through all of our years, the highest attended games by students have been the weeknight contests which are what the students called for when I arrived. For instance, last year we played WKU on a weeknight and 7,000 students came through the gates and that was a tremendous crowd despite being 0-3. This year we play Troy on a Thursday night and on Sept. 30 we are having our Blackout night against Florida Atlantic in a game that will be on national television. We think we can generate numbers like the WKU game for those contests as both will be on television and it is important to have those east stands full. Again, we are happy with our progress but we want to build on our success and increase those numbers each year. I have read and seen various internet sites where some people are disappointed with our attendance but I want to remind them how far we have come in a short time. Yes, we still have some improving to do but you can't lose sight of where we started. I firmly believe the future looks bright.
Some people think the summer months in college athletics is a slow period. Would you beg to differ and what are some of the things going on in your department during this time? I don't think there is ever a slow period in athletics like it used to be. While there are no games being played a lot of preparation is going on for the upcoming seasons. We are involved in our corporate sales program, season ticket sales, and our BRAA campaign to name a few. You can say that our summer months are probably our most important time of the year.
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