The “Tigue” Project: Now What? – From the Bird’s Nest
"Someone's knockin' at the door...somebody's ringin' the bell. Do me a favor...open the door and Let Em In."--Paul McCartney
Some white smoke from the UL Administration concerning the M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field project.
The University issued an announcement today stating all financing has been approved and the project is full steam ahead.
But, as often happens when a long awaited statement is issued, it raised as many questions as it answered.
For the last month, there has been a rumbling about the project at the Tigue. It really grew legs via the internet. Some of the information had some accuracy. Much of it did not. But you know how it goes…if it’s on the internet, it must be true.
Because the subject was a sensitive one and because any questions about funding, loans, foundations and the like were not “a done deal” the administration chose to make no comment. And, that included anyone who had anything to do with the project, from the top, down.
Because there were still questions to be answered, I supported the administration’s decision to keep quiet.
In retrospect, I was wrong.
The media was criticized by some fans and supporters for not “digging deeper” into the process. We tried. And, while we were able to get some information through sources, no one would speak on the record.
As a guy who has been doing this for 46 years, the media was right to keep silent concerning the actual facts of the issue since no one would talk about it on the record.. To do anything else would have been to feed the ire of those who were frustrated with information that might not have been totally accurate. And, since we could not substantiate through sources what the issues were, we didn’t say much. Without anyone willing to speak, there was no story by reputable journalistic standards. I think that was the right thing to do. Our credibility was on the line.
But, as each day went by, as each week went by, as time went by where it appeared there was nothing happening on Reinhardt Drive, construction wise, the uncertainty, the rumors, the innuendo and the frustration grew. Especially the frustration. It became obvious (and I might have been the last to realize it), the administration needed to give some sort of update, even if it was to say, “hey guys, we can’t make a final announcement yet because of some legalities, but we’re on top of it and we’ll have something for you soon. We appreciate your passion and your understanding.”
I’m not sure that would have appeased a lot of people, but it would have at least shown those who were so passionate about the Tigue Moore project that they weren’t being ignored.
No one likes to feel ignored.
So, as I said, there’s some good news in today’s release.
But there are questions that still must be answered. There are feelings that need to be assuaged. There are relationships that are fractured that need, at least, a bit of duct tape. Some more information would help that.
There isn't a thing that can be done about the events of the last month. Nothing is going to undo them. Some fans will want to point fingers, but that solves nothing.
So I'm choosing to suggest (strongly) what needs to happen going forward.
HOLD A PRESS CONFERENCE: The release, while helpful, doesn't come close to answering questions. Stand up in front of the media and give them (and through them, the fans) the answers they are craving. If there's a question that's too sensitive, say you can't comment on it. And, let me make this clear. This should NOT be just the Athletic Director standing up in front of the media. So much of this delay had little or nothing to do directly with the athletics department. Dr. Savoie, or one of his representatives, need to be there to answer questions as well. And a representative from Lemoine, the contractor, should be there as well. Oh, and make sure this is for media only.
TELL YOUR FANS WHAT HAPPENED: The word transparency comes up a lot if you talk to frustrated fans and supporters. The problem is, that lack of transparency goes back a long, long time. Improvements have been made over the last decade in that regard. But this issue not only hasn’t gone away, the silence over the last month has given long time fans a bad flashback, their own version of PTSD. I don’t think anyone needs to go into minute detail. Just a brief explanation will be fine. The fans are going to do a lot of finger pointing. They already are. Nothing’s going to change that. If all of this was unavoidable, say so. If the ball got dropped, say so. The follow up doesn't have to name names. Accountability can be handled from within. But, for Heaven’s sake, get out in front of this. Do not allow the innuendo to continue. Here's something about accountability: If people hold themselves accountable, then others don't have to.
HOW MUCH WORK HAS BEEN DONE SINCE JUNE 14th.? For many, construction means a wrecking ball has begun knocking down the grandstand. Those who really have a clue as to how this works know there is much work to be done before demolition. Well, where do we stand on this? Give us some good news. Tell us what has been accomplished so far. Has there been work done each day during this delay that perhaps we couldn’t see from the road? There will be many vocal folks who will complain about the answer. That’s okay. Not giving an answer is much worse. That's why the contractor has to be at the press conference.
WHAT IS THE ADJUSTED DAY OF OCCUPANCY? I think we all realize the opening weekend against Hofstra probably won’t be happening in the new baseball facility. But already, there are dates being thrown around that are pretty scary. What is the truth? What is the target date as of right now? This not only needs to come from the university, but the contractor as well. Two sources are a good thing. Credibility is important here.
BE WILLING TO GIVE MONTHLY UPDATES: There’s that transparency thing again. At the beginning of each month, a release saying “here’s what’s happened since the last update." Tell us some good news about progress in construction. If there’s a timetable adjustment to be made, let everyone know. "Hey good news. We’re two days ahead of schedule." "Unfortunate news, weather (or whatever) is pushing us back a bit. Good news. We think we can make up that time." Get out in front of this. Because if you don’t, it is left to frustrated fans to draw their own conclusions. And, if anything has been learned during that last month, drawing conclusions without real information is NEVER a good thing.
The frustration of the fan base needs to be eased. After all, with the public phase of the capital campaign right around the corner, these are the folks who are being asked to help finish building the "Tigue." It’s my belief there’s been a very unfortunate disconnect, especially when it comes to trust between the administration and long time, frustrated fans who have been loyal in giving for longer than records exist. That trust needs to be rebuilt.
And, it is my opinion, there’s only one way to rebuild it.
Be honest and upfront about it.