McKale Center's proposed $80 million renovation could expand the Arizona Wildcats' arena outward, improving locker rooms, academic areas, seating, restroom and concession areas, UA athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday.
The athletic department received approval from the Arizona Board of Regents during its Thursday meeting on the UA campus to seek an architect to begin planning the 39-year-old arena's makeover.
"We have some real early ideas," Byrne said. "Right now we'll be able to formalize them."
The Wildcats will need further regents approval once plans are created.
The $80 million price tag will be paid for through private donations and UA athletic revenue, though the regents could issue bonds to be paid off by the athletic department.
"We're actively raising money for it right now," Byrne said. "The project will not be able to move forward until we have a financial model that both works for us as an athletic department, works for the university and president (Ann Weaver) Hart, and something the Board of Regents feels comfortable with as well."
The proposed renovation would be the biggest change to McKale Center since it was built for $8.1 million in February 1973.
The plan is for renovation to begin in June 2014 and be completed by summer 2017. Construction would be done in two phases to keep the arena open throughout the process.
Next year, the UA football program will move from McKale to the new $72 million Lowell-Stevens Football Facility in Arizona Stadium, freeing up McKale Center space.
Current McKale Center locker rooms are "very cramped, to say the least," Byrne said, and the UA wants to upgrade academic support areas for its players.
Fan amenities would be upgraded, too, he said, citing seating areas, video boards, restrooms and concession stands. The Wildcats could add a club area.
Byrne said they "at this point don't plan on adding skyboxes," but could include "four-person mini-boxes," shared seating that the UA is selling in the new football facility.
"We think that's a great way to create a high-end experience for those who are interested in it," he said. "At the same time, it doesn't make you have to commit to 12-20 seats."
Regents also approved the $18.5 million South Stadium Parking Structure, which would provide 900 spaces for dorm residents and game attendees and be completed by September 2014. Bob Smith, the UA's vice president of business affairs, said during the meeting it would be the "last parking garage we'll need to build for a little while."
Regent Anne Mariucci said the school's campus-wide construction plans presented "an enormous expectation of philanthropy."
On StarNet: See photos of McKale Center through the years at azstarnet.com/gallery