A yet-to-be-named former UA basketball player is chipping into the $30 million of renovations to McKale Center.
UA athletic director Greg Byrne declined to name the player and specify how much he has agreed to donate to the project, but donations from former basketball players are rare, save for the $3.5 million Richard Jefferson pledged for UA's practice gym in 2007.
That was only one reason Byrne was bubbly today, while he led a media tour of what’s up in the new facility, which features a fully revamped arena plus new locker rooms for women’s basketball and volleyball, and additional features such as a film room and tunnel on the men’s basketball side.
“It’s all really coming together,” Byrne said. “I think one of the things we’re most pleased about is when you look at the money we’re investing… you’ll see we’re getting a lot for the $30 million. I’ll put up the job with our renovation team up against anybody in the country with what we’re doing.”
The new McKale will be first usable for a practice on Sept. 2 and will first be open to the public for the volleyball team’s Sept. 5 opener.
It will first be showcased for men’s basketball during the Oct. 18 Red-Blue Game, though Byrne said capacity will be limited to 10,000 for the Red-Blue and UA’s Nov. 9 exhibition game with Cal Poly Pomona because of fire marshall restrictions until the work is fully completed.
Byrne said UA will be able to host its full capacity of about 14,700 for its Nov. 14 opener against Mount St. Mary’s. (The new capacity is up about 150 seats from the old 14,545, Byrne said).
Other items worth noting from today’s tour:
Only about 500-600 season tickets remain for men’s basketball next season, mostly in the upper seating areas.
All seats above the upper concourse are red and unpadded, while all lower and middle seating areas (except the student section) are navy and padded (with a fabric “A” stitched into every seat).
The women’s basketball areas will roughly mirror the men’s facilities, though the women’s area will be slightly smaller. Both are on the lower south side of McKale, and both include separate coaches’ locker rooms, kitchen areas, and film rooms. “It’s a big, big upgrade for our women’s program,” Byrne said.
There will be two locker rooms for volleyball, one for indoor and another for sand, with a kitchen area.
The student mini-mart under the north end for non-game days has been expanded, though Byrne said it is not scheduled to be part of the new “unlimited” food plan allowed by the NCAA. (Byrne said he will introduce the new food details to athletes on Monday and wouldn’t disclose them publicly until at some point afterward.)
Concession points of sale have been doubled from 21 to 42, with stands on the East and West sides and one on the lower level. Lines will form north to south, and there will be TVs, so fans waiting in line can still watch the action or see it on TV.
Restrooms are being expanded and refurbished on the Southeast, Northeast and Northwest sides.
The basketball games will feature a more “spotlighted” effect, with new LED lighting to focus on the floor, while upper seating areas are darker.