McKale Center nearly complete with first round of renovations
Less than a year after the $72 million Lowell Steven Football Facilities debuted, Arizona Athletics in association with The University of Arizona Foundation is nearly ready to present the completed first phase of renovations in McKale Center.
The 41-year-old arena will get a face-lift with a proposed $80 million renovation and expansion. The first phase of the project will cost $29.9 million and is aimed at increasing both the player and fan experience at games.
“We’ve made a lot of progress and it’s really all coming together,” Vice President for Athletics Greg Byrne said. “One of the things I’m most pleased about is when you look at the money we’re investing … we’re getting a lot for the $30 million.”
Phase one comprises a new wood floor, enhanced fan amenities and seating, redone handrails in the aisles and along the perimeter of the court, aisle tread improvements, an elevator on the east side and twice the amount of concession stands, including some lining the upper concourse.
Vice President for Athletics Greg Byrne led a tour of the renovated McKale Center on Friday. The renovated area will feature new locker rooms for coaches and players, new eating areas, a new screening room and much more. The stadium has renovated seating as well, with blue and black chairs.
More than 8,000 blue cushioned seats have been installed in the lower bowl of the arena. However, seats in the ZonaZoo will still be plastic and alternating between red and blue.
Additionally, refurbished locker rooms, lounge areas, kitchenettes and new video rooms have been installed for both the men and women’s basketball programs. The east side of the arena will be fully built out to accommodate new restrooms and concession stands.
The addition of about 150 new seats will bring McKale Center’s total capacity to around 14,700. The arena is set to be completed by Arizona basketball’s Nov. 14 season opener against Mount St. Mary’s. However, it will be ready for teams to start practicing in beginning the first week of September. McKale Center will be open to the public for the first time during Arizona volleyball’s home opener on Sept. 5.
Byrne said that Arizona’s annual red-blue game, which kicks off the unofficial start of basketball season, would be hosted in the newly renovated McKale Center on Oct. 18. But capacity will be diminished to around 10,000, however, as construction will still be going on.
Suzy Mason, the senior associate athletic director of event management and facilities, said that finding the funding necessary for the renovations has been a three-year work in progress with both quiet phases and active recruitment of donors.
Tucson residents Cole and Jeannie Davis contributed the lead gift for the project with a generous $6 million donation last December, and longtime Arizona basketball supporter George Kalil pitched in $1 million this past spring. A former player who was not revealed has also pledged money to support the project.
At this time, the renovations do not include any new naming rights, sponsorships or signage opportunities, but Mason added that an improved Digital Antenna System for greater Wi-Fi and service is a notable goal on the list for future phases of renovations. James Francis, senior associate athletic director of external operations, said while he can’t speak for the student-athletes, from the general feedback garnered, the coaches and teams seemed really excited for the new facilities, state of the art equipment and space.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the energy in the arena this year,” Mason said. “What I’m excited about is to blend our very avid fan base with all the new stuff and to see the reactions. My hope [is] that every single seat we have will be a full sellout for as many games as possible.”
—Follow on Evan Rosenfeld on Twitter @EvanRosenfeld17