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NCAA Arenas Prepare to Close for Renovations

Welsh-Ryan Arena Renovations

Several NCAA basketball arenas will be closing for the 2017-18 season as they undergo changes, including Welsh-Ryan Arena, home of the Northwestern University Wildcats, Fifth Third Arena, home of the Cincinnati Bearcats, and The Pavilion, home of the Villanova Wildcats.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Welsh-Ryan Arena could be described as “neglected” since no upgrades or construction have taken place at the building since 1984. The article also said the renovation is projected to cost $110 million, made possible in part by a donation from Pat and Shirley Ryan. Renovations will include new concession areas, new restrooms, an expanded lobby, new lighting, new elevators, new offices, refurbished locker rooms, and while the seating capacity will decrease, the quality of the seats will change from wooden bleachers to chair-back seats and suites.

According to Facility Executive, HOK is the architect for the project and Mortenson Construction is in charge of the build. The project has an 18-month timeline and is expected to open in the fall of 2018.

Until construction is complete, the Northwestern women’s basketball and volleyball teams will play at Beardsley Gym in Evanston, IL while the men’s basketball team will play at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL.

Fifth Third Arena Renovation Rendering

Fifth Third Arena is also undergoing renovations and has created a website to keep fans in the know about how the project is progressing at According to the site, the project is an $87 million renovation that will open in the Fall of 2018. Upgrades include new chair back seating, an open entrance plaza, a new HD scoreboard, ribbon boards, sound system, LED lighting, new upper-level concourse, new restrooms and concessions, new seating options, new classroom space, new locker room, and an update on the building’s facade. The site also includes a video showing what the completed project will look like.

Cincinnati’s men’s basketball team will play their games at BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University this season. U.S. Bank Arena and Xavier University’s Cintas Center were also considered before Northern Kentucky was selected. Construction at Fifth Third Arena has also led the school to putting up their sports practice bubble early. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that a large crane will be put on the floor of the arena to aid in construction and that the weight of the crane caused safety concerns because the weight room was located directly under it. To solve the problem, the sports practice bubble was set up in March instead of October in order to move the weight room to a safe location. Currently, only offices are accessible at Fifth Third Arena.

The Enquirer also said the women’s basketball and volleyball teams will play their home games at St. Ursula Academy, a local high school. At the school, there is only one set of bleachers with a capacity for 1,000 people. This has raised concerns for some since the women’s basketball team drew 4,000 fans against the University of Connecticut this past season.

Villanova Pavillion rendering

Another facility getting an upgrade is Villanova University’s Pavilion. In February, details for the renovation plan were announced. The renovation will be approximately $60 million and supported entirely by donors. Construction is slated to begin in June 2017, and the arena will be renamed the Finneran Pavilion when it is completed. William Finneran was a 1963 grad and donated $22.6 million to this project, according to Philadelphia Magazine.

The article also states that renovation and construction plans are still in the early stages. Philadelphia architects EwingCole will assist with construction. The firm is also known for working on MetLife Stadium in North Jersey. Construction is expected to be completed in time for the 2018-2019 basketball seasons.

In March, Villanova released renderings of the new facility which will include a hall of fame exhibit, VIP club boxes, new seating, new concessions areas, a new walkway into the building, a new home locker room, and a recruiting room, according to the Philly Voice.

During the 2017-2018 season, the men’s basketball team will play in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center and the women’s basketball team will play in the Jake Nevin Field House on campus. The Philadelphia Freedoms tennis team will be holding its 2017 season at the Michael J. Hagan Arena instead of The Pavilion where they have played matches since 2010.

These are just a handful of renovations as universities look to continue improving and expanding their facilities to accommodate their student athletes and the fans that support them. With interest in college basketball continuing to grow, look for more renovations in the coming years from other schools and universities.

This article first appeared in the Arena Digest weekly newsletter. Are you a subscriber? Sign up here for a free subscription!

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