Hartsock: What’s old is new again at UD Arena

Don Donoher remembers it like it was yesterday: the former Flyers head coach says the building we know as the University of Dayton Arena almost looked completely different.

“The original concept that Tom (Frericks) had was a round house,” Donoher said. “It was going to cost $6 million and the university told him he had $3 million to play with, so they went to the local architects and came up with this plan and it was a pretty good plan I’d say.”

»TIMELINE: When to expect changes at UD Arena

That $3 million price tag in 1968 is a fraction of the $72 million renovation the university announced Thursday. Donoher said the vision of longtime athletic director Frericks will live on, but he can’t argue with the improvements to the soon-to-be 50 year old building.

»PHOTOS: What will UD Arena renovations look like?

“You can’t take it for granted that the Flyer Faithful are just going to keep coming,” Donoher said. “You’ve got to give them something, and this should take care of them for another 50 years or so.”

The idea for the original design of the UD Arena came from “The Pit” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Frericks got the idea of saving money by digging a hole and building around it from the home arena of the New Mexico Lobos, a place that opened in 1966 and still exists today. It also been renovated several times.

»WATCH: A look at the future of UD Arena

UD broke ground on the arena on November 7, 1968. Less than four months later the steel frame of the building collapsed. Construction continued a month later and the arena opened on schedule Dec. 6, 1969. The Flyers beat Bowling Green 72-70 in that inaugural game.

Flyers head coach Anthony Grant is excited about the project, but the former UD player doesn’t want to lose sight of what created the need for the improvements.

“To me, what makes the building really is the history and tradition,” Grant said. “There’s a lot of history and traditions and when you put that on top of the renovations and the upgrades it takes it to another level.”

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