Workers put the finishing touches on Rio Nuevo’s $8 million Tucson Arena renovation project in the weeks before Christmas — just in time to welcome the Beach Boys on Saturday.

And while he’s really jazzed about the cushioned seats and new concession stands, Fletcher McCusker, the Rio Nuevo board chairman and one of downtown Tucson’s biggest cheerleaders, is probably most excited about the new restrooms at Tucson Arena.

When it comes to fulfilling Rio Nuevo’s mission of enhancing the audience experience at the arena, the restrooms were a good starting point.

They were dingy and dark, showing their age — 40-plus years — in some most unpleasant ways. McCusker quips that his own wife refused to use the restrooms when they attended events at the arena.

Also included in the expansive renovation project was new seats, new LED HD scoreboards and video screens, an advanced sound system, padded bleacher seats and new concession stands.

Here’s a little of what you can expect:

  • About those bathrooms:
  • McCusker isn’t exaggerating. They are truly beautiful, with gleaming metal stall doors, real glass mirrors, muted blue walls, polished concrete floors, round multi-spout hand sinks and hand dryers.
  • Blending old and new:
  • Slats from the original Tucson Convention Center escalator have been repurposed throughout the arena including as wall accents in the restrooms and coverings for electrical switches and such.
  • New signs:
  • Block-letter signs inside and out direct folks to concession stands, entrances and exits. There also are visible signs in the seating area so that folks know exactly where they are, something that was lacking before, McCusker said.
  • New seats:
  • The arena’s nearly 8,000 seats are all padded — we took a test sit and they were comfy — and have cup holders. Even the bleacher seats are padded, which will make fans of the resident Arizona Wildcat hockey team very happy.
  • More organized breezeway
  • : Before the renovations, the open breezeway felt more like a skatepark than a place you’d want to hang out. It’s been closed off — only those with a ticket to an arena event will be admitted — and painted and bathed in bright lights. There’s also a new concession stand.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642.