Though discussions could take place down the road, University of North Carolina officials are holding off on making any major decisions regarding the Smith Center.
The Smith Center originally opened in 1986, and does not feature some of the fan experience offerings that have become commonplace at newer NCAA basketball arenas. Design concepts for both a renovated Smith Center and a new arena were considered a few years ago, and it was believed that if the Smith Center was renovated, UNC could look to address some issues by reducing the overall seating capacity and adding new premium space.
UNC is currently undertaking major projects for several of its facilities, covering multiple programs in the process. The Smith Center remains on the university’s radar, but with the other investments in place, athletics director Bubba Cunningham believes it could be years before UNC renovates the Smith Center or builds a new arena. More from Inside Carolina:
“We’re kind of letting that sit,” Cunningham told Inside Carolina. “Part of the impetus of contacting them and getting some thoughts was, ‘Could we create some premium seating in the Smith Center just like we did in football?’ It would generate more revenue, it would allow us to retire the debt on that project, and it would fund some of the other sports.
“But given the NCAA issue that we had going on, there just didn’t seem to be an appetite to do that. So we put that on the back burner and just went full-speed ahead with the Olympic sport project.”
UNC currently is constructing a new football practice complex, a new stadium for the men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams, a new field hockey stadium, and a new outdoor track and field complex. Cunningham estimates that the cost of those projects will be about $100 million. The plan is for the new track facility to be completed in the spring of 2018 and for the others to be finished in the fall of 2018.
“Once the Olympic sport project is over, I think we could turn our attention to the Smith Center,” he said. “That’s probably five to seven years away.”
UNC has sought to improve some aspects of the Smith Center in recent years, including upgrades to player amenities and concessions.