Purdue University began looking at upgrades for Ross-Ade Stadium four years ago. (Courtesy Elevate Sports Ventures)
Purdue University has hired Elevate Sports Ventures to conduct a comprehensive study tied to renovating Ross-Ade Stadium, the Big Ten school’s football venue.
The market research initiative recently began when Elevate started surveying tens of thousands of Purdue football season-ticket holders, donors, corporate clients, single-game buyers and students, said Al Guido, the agency’s CEO and president of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, one of Elevate’s owners.
Purdue officials announced the deal in mid-January.
The surveys, a series of multiple choice questions covering all aspects of fan experience, will be distributed by email to participants. Afterward, Elevate, in conjunction with Purdue, will set up hundreds of focus group interviews in Chicago, and Indianapolis and on campus in West Lafayette, Ind.
The goal is to learn which upgrades stakeholders would like to see at the stadium, which opened in 1924 and has undergone multiple renovations over the years. The process should be completed over the next four months, Guido said.
The new study comes about four years after the school’s previous athletic director, Morgan Burke, hired sports architect Populous to complete a master plan for upgrading Ross-Ade Stadium. At that time, the focus was on expanding the south end zone, projected to cost $90 million, and the university surveyed about 5,000 season-ticket holders and members of the John Purdue Club, a donor group.
Burke retired in 2017, and new AD Mike Bobinski and his staff decided to take a step back and research the possibility of renovating other parts of the stadium beyond the south end zone. The school issued a proposal for the study last year and hired Elevate.
“A few years ago, there were some things that we thought we wanted to do, but when our new leadership team got around the table, that’s when we looked at each other and wondered what our fans want to see,” said Tom Moreland, Purdue’s associate athletic director of strategic initiatives.
“Do they want to see premium seating in the south end zone?” Moreland said. “Expanded concourses? Improved ingress and egress? That’s where we hit pause. (The study) will drive the Populous design. We’re going to unilaterally work through this process and get all that input from our fan base.”
Purdue University and Elevate Sports Ventures want to hear what fans have to say about the future of Ross-Ade Stadium. (Courtesy Elevate Sports Ventures)
Moon Javaid, the 49ers’ vice president of strategy and analytics, and Thomas Bernstein, a new Elevate hire, will head the study, organize the focus groups and analyze the data. The agency has already had a few meetings with Purdue and it has office space on campus, Moreland said.
Populous; owner’s representative Chris Nations, head of the Nations Group; and The Aspire Group, the agency selling season tickets for Purdue football and basketball, are also involved in the effort.
Elevate and Aspire compete in the college ticketing space, but in this case they’re working together to help determine the scope of Ross-Ade Stadium renovations, construction costs and funding sources.
“This is a totally different role for us,” Guido said. “We respect the fact that Purdue has Aspire and is happy with their performance. Our job is to knock (the study) out of the park and if there’s any conversation after that (on the sales side), there’s no question we would be willing to have it.”
Purdue officials first crossed paths with Elevate at the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, when the Boilermakers defeated Arizona 38-35. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm is a former 49ers quarterback, which provided a further connection. At that time, Guido informed Moreland of the pending launch of Elevate Sports Ventures in 2018. Besides the 49ers, Elevate’s owners are Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, Live Nation/Ticketmaster and Oak View Group, parent company of VenuesNow.
“After we had that leadership meeting about designing with a fan-centric approach, I asked him to give us a presentation on how we could do that together,” Moreland said.
Ross-Ade Stadium has 57,236 seats. The facility has undergone several renovations over the past 20 years, including a $70 million expansion completed in 2003. Three years later, the school added a new videoboard. The south end zone patio, an outdoor hospitality space, opened in 2014.
The time is right to study future stadium improvements, officials said. In Brohm’s first two years, Purdue football attendance has grown from an average of 34,000 to 51,000. Brohm returns for a third season in West Lafayette after considering an offer to coach Louisville, his alma mater.
“They got (Brohm) to stay,” Guido said. “He was a really hot commodity in the marketplace. This is a great time for the university.”