Renovations at Alumni Arena Sure to Make Fans Happy

On November 3, 2011

  • The ongoing Alumni Arena renovations were a long time in the making. Troi Williams /// The Spectrum

    After 27 years of existence, it was clear that Alumni Arena was in need of some work. The scoreboard was malfunctioning, the lights were taking too long to heat up, and the speakers' sound left a lot to be desired.

    In short, UB's home court was steadily becoming the antithesis of the athletic program's forward progress. But that will all change during the arena's winter season.

    Beginning in late-May, Alumni Arena started undergoing some major renovations in order to bring the structure up to the standard of competing schools. The approximately $6.5 million dollar project is a collaboration between UB Athletics, Planning & Design, and UB Facilities.

    The remodeling plans have been in the making for years, but it wasn't until recently that those changes were possible. The funds generated by private donors, ticket revenue, and the athletic department has put these plans into motion.

    "I've heard so many times in my six-and-a-half years that we need to upgrade, but we've finally had the opportunity to do it," said Warde Manuel, Vice President and Director of UB Athletics. "I'm completely excited about [the changes]."

    The makeover consists of three phases. The plan will culminate in the unveiling of the new center scoring display. The new LED display, designed by Daktronics, will provide the audience with instant replays, live action, and animations. The eight-foot high, 14-feet wide display is the biggest addition to Alumni Arena, and it is scheduled to debut on Jan. 7 when the men's basketball team plays against conference rival Kent State.

    Manuel is excited to see how the center display will add another dimension to the UB basketball experience.

    "I can't wait to have the excitement of a game going on, and be able to pan the crowd of students, and to be able to grasp the excitement that's going on in a certain game or a certain player," Manuel said.

    The main gym has also been outfitted with new scoreboard displays at both ends of the court that will show individual statistics and scores. Seventy feet of LED scorer's tables will be added to courtside, which will be supported by a new control room designed by Sports Display Systems and Audio-Video Corporation.

    Manuel said that the addition of the upcoming center-display and the scoreboards – which are already operating – are the two improvements fans have been asking for the most.

    The first two phases of the plans involve aesthetic and foundational enhancements for the arena. First, DiDonato and Associates reinforced the structure of the building.

    Alumni Arena's new planned sound and lightning systems also hope to further entertain fans. Dampers, new acoustic panels, and amplifiers will be added to provide a crisper and more consistent sound. The new lighting systems will decrease operation cost and increased environmental efficiency, as the previous ones required as many as 15 minutes to warm up for use.

    "I think our fans have responded positively at this point [of the process]," Manuel said. "I hope [the renovations] allow us to attract more additional season ticket holders and people who come to games on a more consistent basis."

    The main gym isn't the only place benefiting from the remodeling plans. The wrestling facilities in Alumni Arena's basement have also been revamped.

    The remodeled facility is the program's first major renovation since head coach Jim Beichner began his tenure in 1995-96. The new and improved area will be named after Ed Michael, the only coach to ever lead Buffalo to a national championship.

    The facility upgrades include a remodeled office, a more spacious fitness center, a new training table to treat injured wrestlers on the spot, and a newly installed video system to observe during practice.

    Beichner is grateful for the changes, as the new additions will be beneficial to his team's training and will attract more recruits because of the facility's aesthetic value.

    "For the 16 years [that I've been here]…when you walked into the facility it was like a dungeon," Beichner said. "The first thing you see when you walk in is a beautiful new room with windows, and that makes a difference…I could see the light coming in from my office. Never in 16 years have I seen that. It's mentally something that benefits you a lot."

    After years of being slighted on funds, Beichner was thankful that the donors showed support for the program with their huge contributions. The program amassed $340,000 within nine months to fund these renovations.

    "That means there are a lot of people out there that care about the University at Buffalo," Beichner said. "The economy has been bad for quite a few years. We found people that are willing to donate $340,000 to help rebuild this facility because they care, and that's huge."



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