CINCINNATI — The University of Cincinnati (UC) recently signed New York-headquartered Skanska USA and locally based joint partner Megen Construction to a nearly $70 million contract to renovate Fifth Third Arena. Construction is set to begin next month and is slated for completion in November 2018.
Fifth Third Arena is home to the UC Bearcats men’s and women’s basketball teams and women’s volleyball team. Renovations to the 26-year-old facility, originally named the Myrl H. Shoemaker Center, include the creation of a 360-degree seating bowl with space for 11,500 spectators. The new design will reduce the arena’s capacity from 13,176 seats to 11,500, which allows for more comfortable seating — permanent seats will replace rollaway bleachers — and better spectator sight lines. These new changes finally address issues that were apparent since the arena first opened in September 1989.
The renovation also includes new concessions and restrooms, an upper-level concourse with fan amenities, expanded food and beverage options, a new Bearcats lounge and super suites. A new main entrance and plaza with ticketing and guest services round out the rest of the renovation. The project is pursuing LEED certification.
Construction on the arena’s four new luxury suites above the end-zone seating will begin next month; however, major renovation work won’t start until next spring after the 2016-17 basketball season ends, according to Cincinnati.com. During construction, the Bearcats will need to find a place to play for the 2017-18 basketball season. No location has been chosen yet.
Last August, UC Board of Trustees approved an interim $2.2 million funding request to allow the Populous and Moody Nolan design team — both of which hold offices across the nation — to remain on schedule, with construction anticipated to start in March 2016. As of December 2015, the university had raised only $25 million for the project, forcing it late last year to push back most of the work to April 2017. The project is expected to be 100 percent privately funded through suite and ticket sales as well as donations, according to Cincinnati.com.
The construction of the new arena may help enhance the school’s chances of joining the Big 12 conference, as several schools compete for bids. For instance, the University of Memphis pledged to make $500 million in facilities upgrades if it joins the Big 12, according to Cincinnati.com. UC, itself, has made $300 million in facilities upgrades in the past decade, including an $86 million of Nipper Stadium last year. If UC joined the Big 12, UC President Santa Ono said the university could look at expanding the stadium even more, reported Cincinnati.com.