A potential Smith Center renovation or replacement is likely years away, as the University of North Carolina‘s immediate focus is on a separate campaign.
There has been speculation in recent years about the future of the Smith Center. The venue originally opened in 1986 and is considered out of date in some areas, including fan key amenities, which has contributed to questions about whether it will be renovated or replaced in future years.
It appears that the long-term status of the arena will be addressed at some point, but a decision could be years away, according to UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham. It is not part of the ongoing Campaign for Carolina, a fundraising effort for $4.25 billion that began in October 2017 and is to run through the end of 2022, and it is expected that the campaign will have to conclude before UNC devotes its attention to something as large as an arena project. Some recent upgrades have made the Smith Center a more viable venue for now, but there are other, larger needs that will be likely pursued down the road. More from Inside Carolina:
UNC has made several changes to the Smith Center in recent years, including a renovated locker-room space for the Tar Heels, an updated players’ lounge, more team meeting space, and new shower facilities before the 2016-17 season. Prior to this season, UNC named the basketball floor Roy Williams Court, installed four new video boards, and created additional seats above the student riser section by moving the seating for media members farther from the court.
“Our gameday environment is probably as good as it’s ever been,” Cunningham said. “The video boards, the ribbon board, the sound system, I think those things are in good shape. But there are some other needs that we have.”
That’s why UNC officials have considered the prospect of doing major renovations at the Smith Center or replacing it with a new facility. UNC worked with an architecture firm in 2013 and 2014 to get an idea of what an updated version of the Smith Center or a new arena might look like, but the school isn’t ready to pursue either option.
The desire for improvements stems from a lack of convenience and amenities in the building, which was considered state of the art when it opened at a cost of $34 million. In addition to the issues with the concession stands and restrooms, the Smith Center lacks sufficient concourse space for its 21,750 seats, and it offers no lobby or double doors. Premium space for pregame dining and halftime hospitality is limited, and there are no luxury suites.
Although a major arena project is years away, Cunningham did indicate to Inside Carolina that there are some aspects of Smith Center that could be upgraded in the interim. Those areas include concessions, handrails, and restrooms.
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