SBD/April 21, 2014/Facilities

Univ. Of Cincinnati Eyes Renovated Fifth Third Arena As Top Option For Hoops Home

A renovated Fifth Third Arena with 3,000 fewer seats, all-permanent seating and improved upper-deck views has "emerged as the University of Cincinnati's favored option" for a permanent home for basketball, according to Cliff Peale of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. UC "hasn't settled on a renovation plan for the on-campus arena -- or whether to move to a renovated U.S. Bank Arena downtown." UC "wants some 10,000 seats and an energized, intimate atmosphere." It also "hopes to widen concourses and put fixed seats in corners and along sidelines, bringing fans closer to the court." This "envisioned renovation is a middle ground, going beyond cosmetic repairs but falling well short" of a $107M overhaul that would "completely gut the arena." UC Architect Beth McGrew, who hopes to complete a downscaled plan next moth, said of Fifth Third Arena, "I think the building is a little bit tired. Retractable seats, those are not the best venues. Certainly the big goal is to improve amenities for the fans." McGrew added, "If you ask [UC AD] Mike Bohn or me, we'd say, 'We're not after more suites. We're after better club seats.'" Peale noted some "big donors are pushing the downtown plan, where U.S. Bank Arena needs significant renovation but holds more than 17,000 seats." But several UC board members are "wary of a half-empty arena when students don't make the trip downtown." They "believe a renovated Fifth Third Arena can energize students and provide the concessions and premium seats that big donors want." A new basketball arena is not UC's "only priority," as finishing the $86M Nippert Stadium expansion "comes first." UC still is "raising money to pay off that debt and is reluctant to ask donors for two big sports projects at once" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 4/19).
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