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Friday, October 31, 2014 | Last updated: 9:22am

Steps made toward McKale Center renovation project



McKale Memorial Center turns 40 years old in 2013, and has received an early birthday present.

The Arizona Board of Regents approved a proposed $80 million renovation at a meeting on the UA campus in December. With the approval, the university is able to complete the design portion of the process, which includes putting together a financial plan.

“Once the project is designed, they need to come back to the board for what is called ‘project approval,’ where they can begin construction,” said Lorenzo Martinez, the associate vice president for finance and administration and regent. “They’ve already been through the first two steps, and now it will primarily depend on how long it takes them to complete the design and how to sort of figure out their financing plan and get that squared away.”

In the Capital Development Plan presented to the regents, the university said that McKale “has been operating with insufficient access, restrooms, concessions, points of sale, and spectator amenities, and without needed premium seating.” The plan also set a target date for construction to begin in summer 2014.

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By Hailey Eisenbach / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Hailey Eisenbach / Arizona Daily Wildcat McKale Center

While athletic director Greg Byrne said Tuesday that it is “too early to tell exactly what it will look like,” there are two main focuses in the renovation efforts: the fan experience and the student-athlete experience.

“From a student-athlete side, because we need to make sure we always remember why we’re here,” Byrne said. “We have a lot of locker rooms we have to address for a lot of our sports.”

In addition to the locker rooms, Byrne also would like to upgrade the academic support areas in McKale, the video and score boards and the playing floor, as well as the seating areas.

“Chances are, McKale will go out away from the existing structure, widened out toward the Cherry St. [Parking] Garage or the [Hillenbrand Aquatic Center],” Byrne said.

The UA is already in the midst of a major construction project, with the football program moving into the Lowell-Stevens facility located in the north end zone of Arizona Stadium next season.

Byrne said the added space in McKale will “impact our locker room space for our 19 sports, and we will prioritize those and start working on those, but that will be a part of the renovation process.”

In order to gain a better sense of the type of renovations that will take place, Byrne toured Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA, which underwent a $132 million renovation from 2010-2012, and will tour the new basketball stadium at the University of Oregon, Matthew Knight Arena, in Eugene, Ore., on Thursday with a group of donors.

“You always look at facilities, ideas and thoughts to bring into what you’re doing,” Byrne said.

Last summer, Arizona baseball won its first national championship in 26 years playing in Hi Corbett Field, which Byrne and head coach Andy Lopez cited as a major factor in winning a championship in June.

“It certainly has an impact,” Byrne said. “You’re either getting better or getting worse. You can’t stay the same. You have to reinvest in your success. McKale is 40 years old, and it’s time to reinvest.”

Byrne does not expect to get any state dollars for the funding of the renovation project, so the next step is to put together a financial model for approval by President Ann Hart and ABOR.

Martinez said that in approving a plan like the McKale renovations, the regents look at the justification of the project and “how it supports the core mission of the university, whether it be recruitment and retention of students, or community involvement.”

Byrne neglected to give a specific time needed for fundraising, but did say that he would like the construction to begin “yesterday.”

“It’s too early to put an exact time frame on it, but we’re moving as quickly and efficiently as we possibly can right now,” he said.


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