Deferred Maintenance Crisis

March 31, 2008

The disrepair of the Rutgers campus is starkly visible to anybody who bothers to take a 10 minute stroll down College Avenue — but the Record newspaper has wrapped enormously disquieting numbers around the breadth and extent of the deferred maintenance that has turned Rutgers into a slum. About a half-billion dollars would be needed to set Rutgers’ infrastructure right, says the Record: “It is estimated that nearly a billion dollars in maintenance needs to be done at public colleges and universities statewide. About half of that is at Rutgers University, where there are 650 buildings, some dating to the 1700s, at the flagship campus in New Brunswick-Piscataway.”

Buildings literally are rotting before our eyes, as Rutgers confronts the perilous conjunction of dwindling state support and an aging physical plant. Decay and deterioration are the inevitable by-products and there is no easy fix for the state’s broken economics.

Under these circumstances, pursuing a $100+ million football stadium expansion — with unproven fan support and no clear way to re-pay the construction bonds — seems rather like taking out a loan to add a backyard swimming pool when the house is heading into foreclosure. That might make sense in the Three Stooges economics of McCormick, Mulcahy and Schiano, but in the real world of a crumbling New Jersey economy, the stadium expansion can only be viewed as wrongheaded prioritizing on a Caliguan scale.

What part of stop wasting money on a reckless and futile pursuit of big-time sports don’t the university’s leaders in Old Queens understand?


The Case of the Vanishing Stadium Financing

March 28, 2008

Let’s face it: raising upwards of $100+ million to build a Rutgers Stadium expansion was far-fetched and fanciful in the first instance. The team is mediocre, the coach has a lifetime losing record, and the Athletic Director might charitably be described as a Trenton careerist (which is polite phrasing for a lot of profanities). The one member of the board of governors with experience with large capital projects for sports venues openly mocked the cockamamie stadium plan — and pointed out that the contractor chosen to do the work had no experience building stadiums and, furthermore, there is no cap on construction costs which surely will spiral.

That is prologue, today’s news is that — in the midst of a worsening national recession that is beginning to hit very hard in the tri-state market — even the Super Bowl champion New York Giants are running into big difficulties raising financing to finish a stadium construction project. As noted in the New York Post: “the credit freeze is stalling and threatening new stadiums and arenas that fans are eagerly awaiting.”

Hello Piscataway, show us the green.

If even the country’s best football programs — with armies of dedicated season-ticket holders — are finding financing difficult to score, whoever would think that a bottomfeeder Big East program with gossamer fan support will find credit markets more hospitable.

Note: there is no word on progress raising the $30 million donation needed to move the Rutgers Stadium expansion project forward (probably because there is no progress) and there is no sign the $70+ million in bonds are heading to market, probably because they aren’t.

It’s time to write RIP on this flatulent idea. Then again, watching Mulcahy, McCormick, Schiano passing the cup in an environment turned stingy — and with fans increasingly fed up with the mediocrity that is Rutgers football — just might be comedy on the order of the Three Stooges.