Is Bridgeforth expansion part of long-range I-A plans for JMU?

Story by Chris Graham

The first thing that came to mind for me upon hearing details of the plan at James Madison University to spend $52 million to add 10,000 seats, including luxury boxes, to Bridgeforth Stadium was …
Somebody’s angling to move up to I-A football soon.
I asked Jeff Bourne about this – and I’ll say that after talking with the JMU athletics director, I think I might be onto something, except about the part involving soon.
“We’ve certainly in our planning process taken that as a point of consideration. It’s not anywhere in our immediate future. Really, the primary intent with this expansion was to accommodate the fans that we have now and bring them a seating opportunity that they’ve not had in the past with regard to some more upscale seating,” Bourne said in an interview for today’s “SportsDominion Show.”

The more immediate focus, Bourne indicated, is to keep up with the Joneses in the world of I-AA football.
“It’s really to put us at the forefront and ahead of the other competition at the I-AA level. You’ll note that Appalachian State is in this process – they’ve been moving this way for about a year and a half, and they’re about a year ahead of us from the planning component. Youngstown State’s there – they’re a I-AA program. You’ve got Montana that falls in that. And of course those are programs that year-in, year-out end up either competing for or being in the final group of schools that compete in the championship series,” Bourne said.

The expansion would take Bridgeforth to a capacity just shy of 25,000 when all is said and done in time for the first kickoff of the 2011 season.
And the work is being planned to accommodate possible future expansions that could take capacity to 40,000.

The requirement for a school that wishes to play I-A football is to average 15,000 fans per game in any two-year period. JMU is already on the cusp of being able to claim that status as is.
“So the immediate and short-term goal is to be able to compete with our peers – with an eye down the road that if things were to change, and we needed additional seating to get up to a higher capacity, we’d at least be in a position to do that. So it included both short-term and long-term considerations,” Bourne said.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.

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