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Guest Op-Ed: Doak Campbell deserves renovations via development funds

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Miami v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Tomahawk Nation reached out to Skip Foster, the former Publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat, for his opinion on this pressing issue that all FSU fans should be concerned about, and one that Seminole fans need to voice their support to the local elected officials.

I remember it so clearly – my first game at Doak was the 1978 FSU-UF game. I was 12. Back then, FSU used “Saturday Night Fever” to promote home games because they were almost always at night. Oh, and they were very rarely televised.

FSU beat the Gators 38-21 on a raucous evening when fans stomped their feet on the very same metal bleachers that have been there for decades. Doak was glorious that night and an attendance record was set.

The number of fans crammed into the stadium for the Noles second straight win over Florida? 48,432.

Back then, I thought that was a tremendous throng.

Today, Doak is a brick-enclosed monstrosity with more than 80,000 seats. From the outside it looks like a healthy, vibrant edifice. But the “guts” of Doak are, to a large extent, the same as they were in 1978 and even back to the 1950s when it was built.

Now, there is a chance to change that. A few years ago, more than 60 percent of Leon County voters approved a one-cent sales tax for a variety of projects. A portion of those dollars were reserved for economic development capital projects. Initially FSU was pushing for a new convention center, but COVID, of course, changed that landscape dramatically.

Instead, Florida State is asking for $20 million in economic development dollars to go toward the not-very-sexy, but still vital renovations to Doak’s infrastructure. We’re talking about things like the concourses, safety railings, plumbing, drainage, lighting and the like.

This isn’t about paying for fancy luxury boxes or leather seats, this is about preserving a huge public asset.

If you don’t think Doak is a significant economic driver in Leon County check out these numbers:

  • Total economic annual economic impact: $100 million
  •  Direct annual spending by visitors during home games: $50 million
  •  Number of jobs attributable to FSU football: 1,600

Come on! This is a perfect fit for tax dollars designated for economic development infrastructure.

Business folks talked in terms of return on investment (ROI). $20 million of investment to protect a $100 million annual return? This is a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, not all local leaders are on board. The combined city and county boards recently voted to send $10 million out of this exact same fund to renovate FAMU’s Bragg Stadium. This was another terrific idea which I supported. Now, for some reason, it appears one or more city/county commissioners doesn’t think the same pot of money should be used to support renovations to Doak.

It’s beyond me why someone wouldn’t support a project like this, especially when the businesses helped the most (restaurants, hotels, retail) are the ones which took the biggest hit during COVID.

All Seminoles – and all Tallahassee residents for that matter — should rally behind this excellent use of public dollars, which protects the community’s largest economic driver for years to come.

*Skip Foster is the former Publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat. He is also a former TN contributor who authored stories under the name “FSUed.” It’s possible that he’s older than FrankDNole but we may never know.