Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 30
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Clemson arena makes turn for the better

The $63.5 million makeover of Littlejohn Coliseum changed the layout of the floor.
Photo by: DON MURET / STAFF
The moment of truth for upgrading Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum came early in the project during architect interviews for the job.

As part of their presentation for what became a $63.5 million renovation, AECOM, teaming with local firm LS3P, proposed “flipping” the basketball floor directionally. The intent was to build a large sideline club extending into the seating bowl, something new in a college hoops arena.

Under the old setup, the floor ran north-south in a 48-year-old building that’s essentially a square box. By rotating it 90 degrees, going east-west, the architects found available back-of-house space for developing the Clemson Coliseum Club, tied to 400 premium seats below the lounge area.

After the team of AECOM/LS3P was selected for the project, officials took a closer look at the floor-rotation concept, studying it for a few months before the school committed to the idea, said Joe Simon, Clemson’s associate athletic director of facility management.

The result is a creative retrofit defining the project. It starts with sit-down dining space tucked underneath the stands and ends with a standing-room deck running into the bowl. The deck has the flexibility to set up multiple seating arrangements, all with prime views of the game in the 9,000-seat arena.

“I’m not aware of any [club] in college athletics where you look up and see the [arena] ceiling as opposed to a club ceiling,” Simon said. “We used the existing structure in the most economical and sensible way possible.”

The club lounge is among the closest hospitality spaces to the sideline in college basketball, said Greg Brown, AECOM’s project designer.

“A lot of times, especially in renovations, you’ll see it up on the concourse level, because that’s the easy thing to do,” Brown said. “In terms of being down this low and integrated into the bowl, this is unique.”

As of mid-October, less than one month before Clemson’s home opener Nov. 11 against Georgia, the school had sold 334 of the 400 club seats, according to athletic officials. To buy one, individual donors make a $25,000 gift payable

The new court configuration frees up space to create a large sideline club that extends into the seating bowl.
Photo by: DON MURET / STAFF
over five years, plus the cost of a $325 season ticket and a $1,000 fee to cover food and drink.

A section of 64 loge seats sits above the club, and to date, 50 of those are sold. The four-seat boxes, distributed among 12 rows, come with in-seat food service, cushioned swivel chairs and counter space with a small television. Donations and fees totaling $2,675 plus the cost of season tickets are required to purchase a loge box.

The Clemson Courtside Club, also on the south side, is an event-level space connected to 36 seats that sold out during the Oct. 14 selection process. Those seats carry a $250,000 commitment paid over five years plus the cost of season tickets.

Clemson has projected annual revenue of $900,000 from premium seat sales, in addition to $2 million a year tied to capital gifts to pay construction debt, Simon said.

Food and drink, including alcohol, is complimentary for courtside seats. As part of the layout, those patrons use the same pathway to get from the club lounge to their courtside seats as the players take to get from the locker room to the floor.

Large windows in the club provide views to the player tunnel, modeled after similar event-level spaces at big league arenas and stadiums. The courtside club replaces old mechanical space, Simon said.

Concourse walls are branded with images of giant tiger paws and Clemson basketball greats.
Photo by: DON MURET / STAFF
In general, redoing the lower bowl resulted in a tighter configuration. The first rows of seats behind the basketball goals are a scant 18 inches from the stanchions. It was done by design to put fans as close to the action as possible, Simon said. The project left the upper bowl intact.

A new Daktronics center-hung video board, a new Musco LED sports lighting package and a new sound system are other improvements. The four corners of the main concourse were opened to provide visual connections to campus and brighten up the building in general.

Concourse walls are branded with images of giant tiger paws and Clemson basketball greats like Tree Rollins and Horace Grant, both of whom starred in the NBA. Orange wall tiles are part of concession stand design. Littlejohn’s historical timeline is displayed on one wall. Jack Porter, a Greenville, S.C., firm that does work at other major schools, designed the arena’s wall graphics.

The Burton Gallery, a new 10,000-square-foot special event space, is an extension of the concourse on the arena’s south side. The arena’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was held there on Oct. 14, and the gallery can be used for multiple functions, Simon said.

Similar to the main club, it takes up old operations space hidden to the public. Now, the shiny room serves as the arena’s new entrance, complete with concession stands and two video boards.

“The public wants to see what you’re getting for $63.5 million,” Simon said. “You come in here [to the gallery], this is what pops.”