SBJ/March 27-April 2, 2017/Facilities

Project will fill in seating bowl, add clubs at Villanova arena

Don Muret
The overhaul of Villanova’s Finneran Pavilion will transform the arena into a facility focused on college basketball, according to project officials.

The 6,500-seat venue opened in 1986, less than one year after Villanova’s shocking upset of Georgetown in the NCAA men’s championship. It was originally designed with a five-lane running track circling the basketball court and a horseshoe-shaped seating bowl with retractable seats in the open end to accommodate multiple sports.

After the $60 million renovation is completed in fall 2018, a new 360-degree concourse will wrap around the seating bowl, and three premium clubs will open.

In addition, a new hall of fame exhibit inside the arena will recognize both the 1985 and 2016 national champions, Villanova Athletic Director Mark Jackson said. The floor from last year’s Final Four at NRG Stadium will be embedded into the clubs and several other spaces.

The school sought to create an on-campus arena consistent with Villanova’s brand in college hoops that would generate a “wow factor” for potential recruits, Jackson said.

Rendering shows view of new south-end seating from courtside seats.
Rendering: EWINGCOLE


Plus, the fan experience must be improved “from top to bottom,” Jackson said. The list covers better sight lines, new technology revolving around digital boards and Wi-Fi, and new concessions and restrooms. New revenue streams will come from the repricing of all seats.

“We’re woefully behind on all of those things,” he said.

Upgraded seating is top of mind. A year ago, CSL International conducted a feasibility study to gauge the scope of renovations, and feedback from fan surveys showed lack of comfort as the No. 1 issue, Jackson said. The arena has 1,300 chairbacks along the sidelines and about 5,200 bench seats.

Under the retrofit, the running track will be removed. The redeveloped seating bowl will replace more than half the existing bench seating with new chairbacks. There will be padded benches for student seating, which expands to behind both baskets, including the new enclosed south end.

A big improvement will be outside the arena, said Bill McCullough, principal-in-charge for EwingCole, the Philadelphia architect designing the upgrades.

Since the arena opened, all fans entered through one set of doors, creating a logjam between pedestrians and vehicular traffic entering the parking lots. A new outdoor plaza will streamline flow with a new entrance on the building’s southwest side for premium seat patrons, McCullough said.

About 1,500 new premium seats will be distributed among two small clubs at the north and south ends, and the Court One Club, a larger lounge below the new concourse.

Legends Global Sales is handling premium seat sales for the school. Advent is designing the hall of fame exhibit and other newly branded spaces.

At the same time, there remains a need to fit non-Villanova events, Jackson said. As part of the renovations, a new basketball operations building will have extra locker rooms to accommodate high school tournaments.

Separately, a large meeting space is planned for leadership symposiums, commencement activities, college orientation and Special Olympics, events which have long taken place in the building.

To date, Villanova has raised about 75 percent of funding for the project, Jackson said. Last year, the arena was renamed for Bill Finneran, a 1963 Villanova graduate who donated $22.6 million to kick off the renovations.

Next season, Villanova’s men will play most of their games at Wells Fargo Center. The women will play on campus in Nevin Field House.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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