No recent photos from the inside of UD Arena circulated before this week. The University of Dayton kept a tight wrap on what workers were doing inside the facility since last spring.
UD released a video during the summer showing progress being made during phase two of the three-year, $72-million renovation, but for the most part, fans of the Dayton Flyers could only go off the artist renderings released in May of 2017 when picturing what the arena would look like with wider concourses, new seating areas and numerous other changes.
On Thursday, however, the curtain rose. Fans who attended the Dayton women’s team’s exhibition game wandered through new spaces, sat in new seats, took photos of photos — a shot of Jordan Sibert’s famous 3-pointer in the NCAA tournament against Boise State earned a prominent place on one wall in the new concourse — and marveled at an old home reborn.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Dayton coach Shauna Green, whose team beat Indianapolis 67-56. “You don’t even feel you’re in the same building.”
“It’s a really important milestone,” Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “We’re really happy with the progress we’ve made.”
More fans will see the changes for the first time Friday when the Dayton men, who practiced for the first time at UD Arena on Wednesday, play an exhibition game against Capital at 7 p.m. and Nov. 7 when the men’s team plays its regular-season opener against North Florida. Here’s what they will notice:
More space: Sullivan said the renovation added tens thousands of square feet in the concourse that circles the arena.
There is no longer a walking area between the 200 and 300 levels on the east side of the arena. New club seats fill that area. Instead, fans will circulate in a wider concourse behind those seating areas. Next year, the west side will undergo the same transformation.
“Hopefully, it improves peoples’ experiences from the moment they walk into the building to the moment they go to their seat, go to the bathroom, got to concessions,” Sullivan said. “We’re hopeful the flow of people and the experience they feel when they come in the building will change dramatically.”
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Wall decorations: Along with the photo of Sibert, there is a giant photo of former Dayton guard Kyle Davis celebrating a victory in the student section. JaVonna Layfield, a senior on the women’s team last year, also has a spot on the same wall. A photo of Dayton junior guard Trey Landers adorns another wall.
Still, there are many blank spaces on the new walls. That’s intentional. Dayton has just started figuring out how to decorate the arena. Sullivan mentioned the possibility of recognizing UD Arena’s NCAA tournament history or the possibility of using framed newspapers to honor past UD teams or moments, something Virginia Commonwealth does well at the Siegel Center.
“We’ll add stuff as the season goes along,” UD Arena Director Scott DeBolt said. “We’ll see what works and what doesn’t work.”
New angles: Two of the four corner video boards have been turned to face the upper levels. Fans should now be able to see the boards from any seat in the building.
Terrace suites: One of the four corner suites overlooking the floor is open.
“As part of the phasing process, we’re kind of test driving that this year,” DeBolt said. “We’ll let some various people who are interested use it, and hopefully next year we’ll be selling two or three of them on an annual basis and maybe keep one of them on a game by game.”
Outside changes: The renovated east side of the area now has a much more attractive look. Better lighting and Dayton logos in the upper corners make the arena stand out at night.
Ongoing work: The arena is far from a finished project, and work will continue even as the 2018-19 season begins.
A new team store will open early in January, right around the time Atlantic 10 Conference play opens for the men’s and women’s teams. Until then, there will still be two locations inside the arena to buy Dayton gear.
“We’re definitely still under construction,” Sullivan said, “but as I tell everybody, it’s a really pretty construction zone. When you see the north side and the east side, although there are some things that have a temporary feel to them, our fans will definitely get a feel for what it will look like when it’s complete.”
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