Williams Arena isn't getting any younger, but with improvements, the nearly 84-year-old basketball facility may take a step toward the flashy fashions of modern game-day entertainment.
The University of Minnesota's athletics department announced Thursday the old scoreboard has been removed to make way for a new LED scoreboard and sound system that will be installed in August and functional before the 2012-13 season. Those updates, along with similar renovations at Mariucci Arena, will cost $8 million. Athletics spokesman Garry Bowman said the funding will come from premium seating system changes, which include forced donations of $100, $250 or $400 depending on the seat location.
“We need the renovations to bring [Williams Arena] up to current standards,” said Scott Ballou, president of the Golden Dunkers Booster Club. “I’d hate to see them tear it down. I hope the new athletics director wants to keep renovating.”
Norwood Teague will take over as athletics director in July, replacing Joel Maturi.
The work to Williams began first due to structural difficulties since it’s an older facility than Mariucci, Bowman said.
“It was time to make the upgrades at Mariucci and Williams Arenas,” Associate Athletics Director for Facilities Scott Ellison said in a press release.
In addition to the scoreboards, a new control room in TCF Bank Stadium will be able to run all video and sound systems inside TCF Bank Stadium and Mariucci and Williams Arenas.
“In both venues, we had a limited control capability for video and sound playback,” Ellison told the Minnesota Daily.
Ellison said the next step is deciding whether to upgrade Williams Arena or build a new arena for men's basketball.
“Anything we put in [Williams] now can be reused in whatever facility we end up going with,” Ellison said.
Men’s hockey coach Don Lucia has said he wants upgrades to Mariucci Arena, which has been in its current location since 1993.
“Like any aging arena, [Mariucci] just needs a few tweaks,” Lucia told the Minnesota Daily in February. “The scoreboard is the big thing.”
Men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith, on the other hand, has been lobbying for a new practice facility since his arrival to the program in 2007. Minnesota is one of the few Big Ten schools without one and proponents point to its possible recruiting benefits, above all else.
Ballou said he's been to nearly every Big Ten basketball arena and that the practice facility should be one of the Gophers top priorities to becoming more competitive. Ohio State University began construction in April on upgrades to its existing men's and women's basketball practice facility.
“And we don't even have one, yet.” Ballou said.
The University’s Board of Regents is also set to vote in June on renovations to Siebert Field, the baseball stadium.
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