Two universities officially christened arena renovations last week by playing host to their first regular-season, home basketball games.
Northwestern University debuted Welsh-Ryan Arena following a $110 million renovation that was nearly a complete rebuild. “We kept the north and south facade walls and the main steel frames and everything was rebuilt,” said Carl Kreiter, senior project manager with Mortenson Construction, the contractor for the project.
The University of Cincinnati showed off an $87 million renovation of Fifth Third Arena that features open 360-degree concourses on the main and upper levels. “You are never out of sight from the court. You never lose connectivity to the game,” said Mike Bohn, the school’s athletic director.
Here are additional highlights from the projects.
Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena received a new roof, new seating, more windows, an expanded 7,800-square-foot lobby and a new upper level.
“We redid all the floor levels, added another whole level. The upper concourse didn’t exist in the previous build,” said HOK Principal and Senior Project Architect Mark Olsen, who was one of the renovation’s lead designers.
The arena reduced the number of seats from 8,117 to 7,039. That is the smallest capacity in the Big Ten. Wooden bleachers were replaced with wider rows and new seats featuring chair backs. Kreiter said only the student sections still have bleachers.
Basketball practice facilities and offices that were in the old arena were relocated to former football practice facilities, opening up space in the renovated arena.
The project nearly tripled the number of restroom stalls (from 53 to 144), while the number of concession points of sale climbed from eight to 32.
A new scoreboard, new ribbon boards, new lighting and 109 new television monitors were installed. All of the new concession areas use monitors for their menu boards.
A new 700-seat premium space called the Wilson Club features all-inclusive food and beverage (beer and wine), and a private entrance. The premium inventory also includes seven new loge boxes. The club connects to a terrace that overlooks Ryan Field, the school’s football stadium, and can be used during football games, said Brian Baptiste, Northwestern’s deputy athletic director for operations and capital projects.
The cost for the Wilson Club includes at least a $6,000 annual donation to Northwestern, plus $1,700 per seat. Seats in the lower level of the rebuilt arena require an annual donation of at least $1,500.
The overall project was financed with private donations.
Fifth Third Arena
Fifth Third Arena has a more intimate feel with roughly 75 percent of the venue getting new seats. “The student section’s front row is on the floor level. The corners are filled in now,” Bohn said.
Capacity has been cut from 13,176 seats to 12,012 with most of the reductions stemming from new seats offering more legroom.
“It was sort of a big box that reminded you of a high school gymnasium on steroids. Most of the entire lower bowl had retractable seats,” said Norman Friedman, a senior architect and principal with Populous, which designed the renovations along with Columbus-based Moody Nolan. “It didn’t seem like a D1 basketball or volleyball arena.”
The lower bowl still has some retractable seats to make room for other events and graduation ceremonies.
Friedman said an old club area that restricted concourse flow has been opened up so fans can walk around the arena. “It was behind glass. It sort of reminded me of a Bennigan’s — an older Bennigan’s,” he said.
The Bearcats now have new and improved premium spaces including 542 club seats, 14 loge boxes and 16 suites. There were previously 12 suites and no loge boxes. Three new clubs service those fans. Bohn said the premium spaces are all sold out and the school has 9,000 season-ticket holders.
The new 542-seat Champions Club costs $575 per season ticket plus a $2,500 annual donation to the school. Seats to the new Incline Club above the student sections cost $375 per ticket, plus a $500 annual donation. The Courtside Club has 50 seats with an annual $5,000 donation and $1,250 per ticket cost.
The new four-seat loge boxes have private television monitors and moveable chairs. They have an annual per-seat donation of between $2,925 and $3,425, plus $375 to $575 per ticket.
New men’s and women’s locker rooms have been built, as well as a film room and hydrotherapy facilities, Boyer said.
The $87 million cost does not include an additional $6 million investment in 7,000 square feet of new scoreboards at the arena. Daktronics has installed a 2,000-square-foot center-hung scoreboard along with new ribbon and sideline displays. The arena renovations were financed via private donations.
A new east-side entry plaza features a statue of alum Oscar Robertson and the names of all the Bearcats’ All-American players.
Bohn expects fans will be impressed.
“They’ll see a salute to our past and a salute to our future,” he said. “We have created an atmosphere in the building that allows them to be a participant.”