Aug. 29, 2008
AUBURN, Ala. - Construction on Auburn University's new $92.5 million basketball arena officially began with a groundbreaking ceremony Friday.
The 243,792 square foot facility, located across Roosevelt Drive just north and west of Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, is scheduled to open prior to the start of the 2010-11 basketball season.
Plans for the new arena were announced in June 2007 and the construction bid to BL Harbert Construction was awarded in June 2008.
Among those participating in the groundbreaking ceremonies included Auburn University President Jay Gogue, athletic director Jay Jacobs, men's head coach Jeff Lebo, women's head coach Nell Fortner along with Board of Trustee members Paul Spina, John Blackwell, Dwight Carlisle, Byron Franklin, Gaines Lanier, Bobby Lowder, Charles McCrary, Earlon McWhorter, Jack Miller, Sarah Newton, Jimmy Rane and Virginia Thompson.
'We are awfully proud to be with you today,' said President Gogue as he addressed several hundred at the ceremony. 'I remember once at another university, it was very calm, the streets were nice, the grass was mowed and a guy came to campus and said if you don't have cranes in the sky, you don't have a very dynamic university.
'We have cranes in the sky, construction all over the place and worry about where everybody will park. This is a great day for Auburn Basketball. We are proud of it. Let's get it done.'
The arena, with an approximate capacity of 9,600, will include over 29,000 square feet of student-athlete space, a two-court practice facility, coaches' offices, the Auburn University Athletic Ticket Office, an AU Team Store, the relocated Lovelace Museum and two food courts along with many other amenities.
'What an exciting day for Auburn University and Auburn athletics,' said Jacobs. 'A project this big takes a lot of people to pull together. Leadership takes different forms at different times. It is awfully easy to lead when everything is going well.
'On January 20, 2006, we met to talk about a practice facility for our basketball team because there had been 100 days the year before that we didn't have access to where they could practice in this multi-purpose facility. In that meeting, Mr. Lowder and Mr. Blackwell stepped up and said that we had to do something different. Leadership was tough and made tough decisions during a tough time, but their vision was right which brings us to today.'
The new arena will feature chair back seats along with bleacher seating for students. The building also will proved improved facilities for the student-athletes, including men's and women's locker room suites with sports medicine facilities, lounges and team meeting rooms. Along with a strength and conditioning center, a two-court practice facility will enable the men's and women's teams to practice simultaneously and while the arena is in use for other purposes.
'It is a big day for Auburn Basketball, and it is going to be a big two years until they get it finished,' said Lebo. 'I am very thankful for the vision of so many people who helped make this happen.
Finally to get the groundbreaking ceremony behind us with shovels in the ground and things coming out of the ground is a significant day for Auburn Basketball.'
The arena will have 12 luxury suites on the arena level that will not only open inside the facility, but will also open on the outside of the arena for multiple entertaining opportunities throughout the year. Loge Box seating will also be available as well as on-site food preparation.
'This is a great day,' said Fortner. 'Just walking over here and getting the dirt in my feet and being this close to it, I can't tell you what it means to me and it probably means the same to Jeff also. It is a great day for Auburn Basketball. The future is incredibly bright, and I can't say enough of just how excited I am.'
360 Architecture of Kansas City, Mo., worked with Davis Architects of Birmingham on the design of the arena. The firm of Robins & Morton of Birmingham is serving as the construction manager.
The seating configuration will offer better sight lines and will move fans closer to the court. The furthest seat will be just 43 feet in elevation from courtside, compared to 60 feet in elevation at Beard-Eaves, with two-thirds of the seats in the new facility being less than 27 feet in elevation from courtside.
'This is an investment in two great coaches and an investment in Auburn University,' said Spina. 'This is a congratulations day for Auburn, and congratulations on something coming together in a very favorable manner. It is going to be beautiful.'
The scoreboard will feature a high-definition video board with full message/information center technology. For the student fan amenities, there will be a private entrance, a private courtside commons and food court and courtside seating that permits standing with unobstructed views.
The new facility will also serve as more than a sports complex. With over 12,000 square feet of banquet/entertainment space, its design affords ready adaptation into a site for concerts and other cultural events, convocations and other community gatherings. On-campus student housing is being constructed adjacent to the new arena creating a unique 'student village' experience.
Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum is entering its 41st year of service to the University, while the new arena will be Auburn's fifth home arena in 103 years of basketball. The Tigers other arenas have been The Gymnasium (1906-16), Alumni Gym (1916-48) and the Sports Arena (1948-69).