Work continued at UD Arena on Friday four hours before the doors opened to fans and six hours before the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team played an exhibition game against Ashland University.
» PHOTOS: First glance inside UD Arena
Workers wielded paintbrushes, brooms and other tools throughout the building, putting the finishing touches on the three-year, $76.2 million upgrade. The last pieces of the construction project fell into place in time for the season to start, though small projects will continue in the weeks ahead.
“We’re proud,” said Neil Sullivan, Dayton’s athletic director. “It’s a long time coming to today to be able to open this up and show the public. We’re really excited. We’re really excited for our fans. We’re excited for our players. And we’re really excited for the next generation of Flyer fans to experience a renovation that we intend to last for generations.”
One of the new features not unveiled until Friday were the names of two suites on each side of the Boesch Lounge on the south side of the arena. They will be called the Orville and Wilbur lofts, paying tribute to the Wright Brothers.
“It’s a neat thing our staff came up with, so we went with it,” Sullivan said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of aviation history with Dayton. We don’t overuse that too much, but I think those are neat spaces up there and pay due respect to the history of aviation here in Dayton.”
» MORE ARENA COVERAGE: Facility ready for another 50 years
The Dayton women’s basketball team saw the arena for the first time on Wednesday during practice. The men’s team practiced on their home court for the first time Thursday. A video posted to Twitter by the official Dayton basketball account showed the players reacting with excitement upon seeing the court for the first time.
“New court, new arena,” point guard Jalen Crutcher.
Tom Blackburn Court has a new paint job and also new lights above it. Sullivan expects it to look better in person and on TV. He said it’s a NBA-level lighting system.
“We got the best lighting system you can get in basketball,” he said.
The 50-year-old arena, now brand new in many respects, will be on display again at 5 p.m. Saturday when the Dayton men’s team plays Cedarville University in an exhibition. The regular-season opener against Indiana State follows on Nov. 9.
» ARCHDEACON: Did UD miss by not playing game for charity?
While fans are getting their first glimpses of the arena, UD has continued to use the renovations in recruiting. Time will tell just how much it helps.
“You can’t predict it, but I would say every time we bring a young man on campus or his family on campus, we always exceed expectations,” Dayton men’s coach Anthony Grant said. “Being able to showcase this arena will add to that. Just the commitment the university and our community has for Dayton Flyers basketball, this speaks volumes.”
Dayton women’s basketball coach Shauna Green said it already has helped.
“Prospective players come in and we show it to them,” Green said, “and it wasn’t even done at that point. They know we can compete really with anyone in the country in terms of the facilities now.”
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