Although the details are still in the works, the University of Richmond board of trustees recently approved plans for the remaining $13.6 million of a $15 million proposal to upgrade the Robins Center, university architect Andrew McBride said.
Over the summer, $1.4 million was spent to improve existing facilities associated with the basketball and football programs, McBride said. Those improvements included renovations to offices, meeting rooms and team facilities.
Major renovations to the arena, which are included as part of the 2011 campus master plan, will begin as soon as the current basketball season is finished, said men’s basketball coach Chris Mooney.
“The Robins Center is a beautiful arena and a great building but it’s a little over 40 years old,” Mooney said. “Everyone thought it might be good idea to update the arena.”
Of the major changes, McBride said that the center-hung scoreboard would be replaced with new LED sports lighting. The existing lights are much more difficult to turn on and off and therefore limit the ability for theatrical effects, such as when a player enters the court, he said. But with the new lighting, there would be more of a presentation of the sporting event, he said.
New seats are going to be installed, but the overall 9,000-plus seating capacity would be reduced to accommodate space for the construction of four new platforms in the upper corners of the stadium, McBride said.
“By getting rid of the bad seats and providing these entertainment areas … we can provide amenities for pregame functions and get our seating right-sized for our market,” he said.
Mooney estimated that these platforms, or “suites,” would hold about 100 people each.
The university also wants to push the seating closer in, particularly to eliminate what has been dubbed “the moat” — the gap of blue carpeting circling the arena floor in front of the stands.
“It will make the area feel more intimate,” McBride said. “The goal of the arena enhancements is to enhance the fan experience.”
Other changes include renovating the bathrooms on the concourse level and repainting the arena ceiling. As for 2013 graduation, Mooney said that the ceiling and lighting of the arena would be completed in time for the May ceremonies.
McBride said the majority of the $15 million budget was allocated toward “capital renewal and replacement,” meaning various subprojects within the building itself. About one-third of the plan’s funding was allocated toward enhancing the actual arena, he said.
“We need to reinvest in our facilities,” McBride said.
Officials from the athletics department are not ready to release any information regarding the Robins Center renovations yet, but will be soon, Assistant Athletic Director Bob Black said.
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