University of Dayton Arena will undergo a $72 million renovation ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2019, the largest project in UD’s 167-year history and one officials said will cement the venue as the epicenter of college basketball.
PHOTOS: See inside the new UD Arena
TIMELINE: When can fans expect changes?
Every one of the arena’s guests — and those watching season and championship games on television — will see a change in their experience with the replacement of all 13,450 seats, installation of air conditioning and new WiFi, a sweeping 360-degree main concourse around the bowl and dramatic seating section and broadcast booth changes.
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“If someone hadn’t been here in 10 years, but came here after this is over, they’re going to actually think that they tore the arena down and built a new one,” said local real estate mogul Larry Connor, a major investor in the privately-funded project. “That’s how unbelievable this project is going to be.”
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Implemented in three phases until fall 2019, the transformation of the Dayton Flyers’ arena will not impact in-season or championship basketball, officials said. Many pre-construction preparations are already underway behind-the-scenes and heavy work — and an aggressive fundraising effort — will begin in about three weeks.
The cost of renovations will be far higher than revealed in public city of Dayton documents earlier this week, which cited a $12.5 million project. That figure — reported by this and other news outlets and uncontested by UD spokespeople — was based on construction permits filed by the university to date.
UD officials Thursday quickly cast the massive undertaking as a necessary investment in the future of the school, the Dayton region and the Atlantic 10 conference. Yet, they emphasized a desire to keep the “soul” of the arena intact.
EXCLUSIVE: Blueprints show major changes ahead
“Obviously, the arena’s transformation will strengthen our visibility on a national level for our basketball programs,” said President Eric Spina, who over the weekend led graduation exercises at the venue. “This arena is much more than the site of championship basketball. It’s a very special place where we send our graduates out into the world.”
“It’s also is a sacred liturgical space,” he said. “At least twice a year we celebrate Catholic Mass for students and their families when they first arrive at the University of Dayton and when they graduate, at baccalaureate Mass the day before commencement.”
Dayton’s two head basketball coaches, many ticket holders and the Atlantic 10 league commissioner hailed the plans.
ATLANTIC 10: Commissioner praises renovation
Calling the Dayton Flyers “unquestionably one of the top programs nationally,” Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said the renovation will establish the standard for college arenas and motivate other universities to follow suit.
“It will be a game changer for the University of Dayton as well as the rest of the Atlantic 10 conference,” she said. “The standard and state-of-the-art amenities that will be here will set the bar.”
For new men’s basketball head Coach Anthony Grant, who played at the arena as a Flyer, the video played Thursday to introduce the renovations brought back memories — and sparked excitement for the future.
“I was a part of some of the memories in that video and then just to see the commitment the university has, not only to our basketball program but to this region, what this renovation should mean to the region and the university on a lot of different fronts … I’m just excited to be part of it,” Grant said.
Women’s basketball head coach Shauna Green said the arena renovations will help attract talent.
“The impact it will have on recruiting and our players’ experiences, it’s really just monumental I think. It’s such a big-time facility and really caps off all the other facilities we have on campus,” she said.
As reported by the Dayton Daily News this week following an inspection of blueprints, major seating changes will occur during the renovations.
Encircling the venue will be a full, branded concourse with a new main lobby and team store, and restrooms (an 80 percent increase in toilets and sinks for women).
Inside the seating bowl for 2017 will be a new scoreboard and LED ribbon boards installed along with enhanced audio systems.
Looming over the corners of the arena will be four terraces, which will be fully installed in the final phase of the project. Flanking the sidelines between the 200/300 sections will be new club seats backed by two new lounges for the exclusive use of club seat ticket holders.
High atop the 400s on the east side of the arena — the nosebleeds — will be a newly built gathering area loaded with televisions, lined with windows overlooking the Great Miami River and accessible by elevator.
“It’s kind of like an upper-level concourse,” said Director of Athletics Neil Sullivan “We’ll have a few concessions, a couple of drink stands.”
Views from there will be enhanced with the removal of a hanging crow’s nest catwalk for broadcasting, which will be nixed in favor of better angles for television. Already, First Four games are broadcast by CBS Sports from a lower angle — a soon-to-be permanent change for television viewers.
Americans with Disabilities Act seating will increase from 46 to 78.
About 400 seats — about 3 percent of total capacity — will be affected by the changes. Yet for some season ticket holders, uncertainty remained Thursday over whether they’d be impacted.
“We’re trying to figure out where we’re sitting, to make sure we’re not blocked,” said Bob Mellon, a 26-year season ticket holder. But he quickly added, “We really like it.”
Other ticket holders, while nervous about their seats, trusted the university would make appropriate changes.
“Since 1950 I’ve followed them, so I remember when they were playing in the old building,” said Roberta Elliott, who has held season tickets for the last 43 years. “I just know that the University of Dayton is top notch, and they’re going to do whatever they can to make it that way and stay that way.”