It has been an interesting five years for Georgia Tech athletics director Dan Radakovich.
He has led the Athletics Association through one of the worst economic downturns in United States’ history.
Radakovich said the AA has made it through seemingly the worst part of the recession and is coming out with a better plan on how to deal with these financial times, as well as three new construction projects: a renovated basketball arena (Hank McCamish Pavilion), a new indoor football practice facility, and a renovated tennis complex is being pursued.
Radakovich sat down to talk about the projects, what could be the next sport at Tech, and the challenges of the job.
[Note: some of you may ask why I didn't ask about Paul Hewitt and his contract. Colleague Jeff Schultz covered this ground two days ago here.]
Q: How is the new basketball project developing?
A: It’s going very well. We are in various stages of design development right now with Populous, the architect, and Whiting-Turner, the constructors. Next week all three of our projects will be reviewed by the campus planning and designcommittee, which is a group on campus that looks at every construction project to make sure it meets with standards associated with Georgia Tech.
Certainly the reconstruction of the coliseum will be on that agenda. And there will be some new images that the architects will bring forward of not only the interior of the buildingbugt some of the finishes and club interior views as well as some things of outside the building.
Q: What vibe are you getting from the community about the projects?
A: They are different for all three. Certainly the basketball, because it’s going to be one of the gateways to campus, is one that we get a lot of questions about: what are you doing to the seating? How’s it going to change?
I was walking around the concourse yesterday evening and I got a few questions, “How is this going to look when it’s done?” You explain the best you can but we have a website up on ramblinwreck.com that will show some updated images as we get them. As soon as construction starts it will be a progress area, as well.
Tennis, we are still going through some cost analysis and some laying out of the exact facility given the footprint that’s there. That one’s a little bit further behind than the Coliseum reconstruction and indoor football practice facility.
Q: What could be the next sport at Tech as the female enrollment continues to rise?
A: As we talk about maintaining the proportionality between the general student body and the student-athlete population there may come a time that we do need to add a women’s sport. Women’s golf is one that we would able to bring on board in a fairly short period of time. That would be probably be No.1 on the agenda. Any future sports offerings would really need to be studied.
Q: What is your pie-in-the-sky project? What would you like to see done?
A: Once that we get these three areas down, as well as a little bit of an updating to a golf practice facility that we have off 14th street — fund-raising is underway for that particular project – you continue to circle back and make sure your facilities are relevant. The baseball stadium will be in its ninth or 10th year this coming spring. There are some areas that we may want to improve there, probably less that you would see outside than the players and coaches would see inside the facility. There’s always something to do. You could easily spend a million dollars a year in the football stadium keeping it modern to theextent that you could make the oldest on-campus stadium in the country modern.
Q: With the projected debt of $180 million in bonds, how will the new ACC revenue help you manage that debt?
A: The way we run things, all of our revenues are put into a pile and the expenses are taken from that. We want to make sure that the moneys that have been gifted to us — and all of the gifted revenue, from the coliseum reconstruction to the tennis to the football facility — all of those dollarsare what I call single-purpose. They can only be used for those capital needs. We are going to segment those dollars with the Georgia Tech Foundation and create an account to allow those moneys to grow over time. We will take a certain amount of our operational dollars and probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 percent of the debt service will come out of that operational account. The other 25 percent will come out of this fund we have at the Georgia Tech Foundation.
We’ve run various models at various interest rates and we feel comfortable that we’ve been conservative enough in our approach to make sure that those dollars over at the foundation will in fact last long enough to continue the 75/25 number to get to our annual debt payment.
Q: How has managing the construction projects in this current economy made you a better athletic director?
A: I think you begin to look at how you can take the infrastructure that you have, the current buildings that you have and make them better as opposed to bulldozing these and making new ones. We have very good coaches who understand the value of money and the resources we have. They are creative as well.
We did a little project in our volleyball facility that made all the difference to the women and coaches, yet it wasn’t extravagant. It was worthwhile. It was efficient.
If you look at our softball facility, it could be termed not only very beautiful given its setting, but it’s efficient as well. That’s one thing we try to bring to our facilities is not an air of over-the-top, but we know we want it to look good and function well for our student-athletes to make them be the best we can be given our constraints of land, resources and time.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you have going forward? The market is improving so the endowment should improve. What’s the biggest challenge in the next three years?
A: We have a different challenge every week coming before us. We have to make sure that we continue to have great operation between the Athletic Association and the Institute,which we do with President Peterson and his staff. Those relations are critical for any athletic program’s long-term success. If we have those I think it bleeds off into the community that there is that cooperation and they feel better about investing within the athletic program. The more investment we get from our fans, from our endowments from any other business operations that we have taken, the better off we are as an athletic program and can respond to needs that come up. There are always needs that, no matter how much you forecast, something always comes up that you need to make a mid-course adjustment with.
We are fortunate now that we aren’t in the same financial structure that we were a few years ago. By no stretch of the imagination are we are out of the woods, but we have a much better plan, just as we talked about a plan to manage the debt. The current debt that we manage out of our operational accounts will remain roughly the same, even though we are adding these other debt components.
– Doug Roberson, AJC