Hartman: UD Arena plans strike right balance between past, present

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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UD Arena will undergo a $72 million renovation over the next three years to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the facility in 2019, university officials announced today.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The artist renderings and videos for the next phase of the University of Dayton Arena reveal a lot of exciting new features coming to the venerable old building on Edwin C. Moses Blvd.

They also showed a lot of the same old stuff.

And that’s a good thing.

»WATCH: A look at the future of UD Arena

Don’t get me wrong — a bigger concourse is cool.

Adding a permanent team shop? Daily access to swag is essential these days.

Doing something (potentially lucrative) with the eye-sore corners? Makes a lot of sense.

So does mostly filling in the gaps between the 200 and 300 levels.

A new lounge area behind the nose-bleed seats on one side probably can’t hurt, right?

How it all shakes out in the end can’t be determined until the plans come to life and the project is done two years from now, but everyone involved said the right things when it comes to upgrading the arena without destroying what makes it great.

»RELATED: UD Arena shines bright on night Flyers clinch A-10 title

And their plans backed up those words.

To be sure there’s a delicacy to building a vibrant modern basketball arena (such as Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis) as opposed to a lifeless warehouse (like Value City Arena in Columbus).

(Come to think of it, Ohio State’s current basketball arena resembles an airplane hangar far more than Dayton’s, but I digress…)

When renovating an existing structure, the challenges may be greater because the ghosts of the past will inevitably haunt the march of progress.

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The $72 million renovation to the University of Dayton Arena, seen here in a rendering, will be “a game changer” for the Atlantic 10 and the university’s athletic programs, the league’s commissioner said Thursday. CONTRIBUTED

The $72 million renovation to the University of Dayton Arena, seen here in a rendering, will be “a game changer” for the Atlantic 10 and the university’s athletic programs, the league’s commissioner said Thursday. CONTRIBUTED

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The $72 million renovation to the University of Dayton Arena, seen here in a rendering, will be “a game changer” for the Atlantic 10 and the university’s athletic programs, the league’s commissioner said Thursday. CONTRIBUTED

Everyone at the unveiling of the UD Arena upgrades (myself included) seemed to agree Thursday the Gem City’s most prominent jewel can be polished without altering much about the way it’s shined since 1969.

(If they insist on turning the temperature down a bit, that’s fine (probably), but don’t dare do anything about the noise, OK?)

The key to maintaining the arena’s charm – and reputation as a house of horrors for visiting teams – will continue to be the fan base.

Will the new lounge at the top of one side of the arena take away some of that claustrophobic feeling? Probably, but the lower bowl is for the most part going to be untouched aside from new seats.

»RELATED: A-10: UD Arena ‘a game changer’ for conference

Leather chairs in the front row might be more comfortable, they might make it look snazzier, but they shouldn’t fundamentally alter the feel of the place.

Ultimately, the power of the arena will still come down to two things: The quality of the teams playing there and the will of fans.

Nobody needs to tell new Flyers men’s coach Anthony Grant and his women’s team counterpart, Shauna Green, the first part is up to them.

As for the second part: If dedicated fans continue to show up in the thousands, the game-day experience should continue to be unmatched.

Could more of a wine and cheese crowd begin to fill the lower bowl? Maybe, but that might have happened anyway if the winning seasons and NCAA tournaments keep piling up.

Is that another price to pay for success? I’d say so, yeah. Is it worth it in the long run? Seems so.

Without the FBS football cash bonanza (and concurrent costs), there are only so many revenue streams to tap and expand for an athletic department like Dayton.

Again, it’s a delicate dance, but the choreography in the works looks like it should satisfy the needs of all involved.

Plans unveiled Thursday look like another key to the evolution of Dayton basketball, both the powerhouse its fans hope it can be and the historic program it already is.

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