Will ETSU's Greene Stadium ever expand?

Joe Avento • Mar 26, 2018 at 1:45 PM

East Tennessee State football was a hot ticket in its first season at Greene Stadium as the Bucs drew an average crowd of 8,008, an impressive number considering the new facility has 7,694 seats.

The big questions: Will that support continue? And will it grow enough to warrant eventual expansion of the stadium?

Greene Stadium was designed to be expanded if the need ever arose. In fact, the school’s initial press release about the $26 million facility said it “will ultimately seat over 10,000 fans.”

“It’s always exciting to think about what could be,” said Scott Carter, ETSU’s athletic director. “We want to have sellout crowds. We want to have a tight ticket with great demand.”

Before any expansion would ever take place, the long-term need would have to be demonstrated. Empty seats don’t pay for themselves, and nothing would be worse for ETSU than to expand Greene Stadium and not be able to fill the new sections.

“The biggest way things can change in any business is when you have demand that exceeds your supply,” Carter said. “It’s a beautiful stadium and right now it’s the right size. I’d love for us to grow and build upon that and see what happens.”

Carter is a former fullback and captain on the ETSU football team. He spent 10 years working in the athletic department at the University of Tennessee before returning to his alma mater. While he was gone, ETSU built facilities for baseball, softball, tennis and soccer.

“When I left ETSU to go work at Tennessee to the time I came back up here — that eight-year period — all of that happened,” he said. “It was a significant amount of improvement. Those four projects were huge to give us an infrastructure.”

More recently, the school has built Greene Stadium for the football team, partnered with Johnson City to renovate Freedom Hall into one of the best basketball venues in the Southern Conference and made numerous improvements to Brooks Gym, home of the women’s basketball and volleyball teams.

“We’re living a pretty good dream right now,” Carter said.

The one concern Carter said he’s heard is that some fans wish the basketball games were played on campus. Freedom Hall is two miles from ETSU and the school offers shuttles for students to come to the basketball games. ETSU led the Southern Conference in attendance this season with an average of 4,440 fans per game.

“If there’s one thing, maybe we’d like to pick up all 6,149 seats at Freedom Hall and move them onto campus,” he said. “This is not my complaint. There might have been some initial concerns about not being on campus, but the overall majority feel that’s our home and they’re very excited to be here.

“I am thrilled with Freedom Hall. I know we’re not picking it up and moving it over here. I think our partnership with the city has been extraordinary.”

The school also has a state-of-the-art golf practice facility.

While thinking of ETSU’s athletic facilities, don’t forget the Minidome. The 41-year-old building that was the home of the basketball and football teams for years has turned into one of the best practice facilities in all of college sports, allowing several the university’s teams to work out indoors during inclement weather.

The Dome received a new roof a couple of years ago and the facility could be getting a new turf field in the near future. Discussions are also underway to resurface the track.

“I counted seven sports in there at one time,” Carter said.

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