A $30 million construction project to expand and renovate Savage Hall on the University of Toledo campus will start to take shape this fall.
UT officials held a press conference yesterday afternoon to display several illustrations of what the redesigned athletic facility will look like once the project is completed before the start of the 2008-09 basketball season.
The plan is to bring the Rockets' basketball facilities into the 21st century.
"There's going to be the wow factor when you come in that west side [lobby]," UT athletic director Mike O'Brien said. "It's four stories, a lot of glass, suites and loges. It's going to be very impressive."
Luxury suites, loges and a state-of-the-art video scoreboard and sound system are among the list of amenities planned for the makeover. A new "in the round" seating plan intended to bring the fans closer to the court and a new glass atrium lobby that will include the Varsity T Hall of Fame are also part of the project.
This is the first phase of the most significant expansion and renovation project conducted for UT's athletic facilities. The plan also includes building a 5,600-square foot weight room, a 3,500 square foot training room and new locker rooms. An indoor workout facility for the football program has also been in the works, but completing the Savage Hall renovation is first priority, according to O'Brien.
O'Brien said $27 million has already been raised for the project. The fund-raising started roughly a year ago when UT alumnus Chuck Sullivan and his wife, Jackie, agreed to donate $6 million, $5 million of which is designated for renovations and planned additions to Savage Hall. Considering the relatively short period of time it took to raise 90 percent of the total cost, O'Brien is optimistic about UT receiving the remaining $3 million.
"We expect to get there," said O'Brien, referring to the $30 million. "We will continue to solicit. The fans have been supportive and we have not had a no yet."
Work on Savage Hall will take place in phases.
The first phase will start in the fall with preparation work taking place on the outside of the building. The interior work will begin at the conclusion of the 2007-08 basketball season. That will leave approximately six months to have the entire project completed before the start of the Rockets' 2008-09 basketball schedules.
Chris Ewald, vice president and project manager for SSOE, Inc., which is involved in managing the project, said he isn't concerned about not having enough time to complete the work in roughly a year.
"Is it aggressive? Yes," Ewald said. "Is it doable? Yes."
UT men's basketball coach Stan Joplin and women's basketball coach Mark Ehlen were both on hand for the unveiling of the images that show what their home court will look like in the not too distant future. They welcome the renovation to the building that first debuted as a basketball facility on Dec. 1, 1976, when the Rockets knocked off defending national champion Indiana 59-57.
"I think this will be a win-win," said Joplin, who was a member of the Rockets team that defeated the Hoosiers. "You look at a lot of programs, whether it's Ohio State or Michigan State, they keep upgrading their facilities just to stay competitive with everyone else. That's something we have to continue to do."
Ehlen also expects instant benefits from working in a refurbished facility.
"Obviously, I'm ecstatic," Ehlen said. "It's going to be a great thing for recruiting. I think when it's all said and done it's going to bring the vitality back to Savage Hall."
Both coaches believe the new seating configuration, which will create a bowl-like atmosphere, will enhance the homecourt edge for the Rockets.
"I think it's going to be more basketball friendly because now you're in a bowl and everybody will be a little closer to the court," Joplin said. "Obviously, the luxury boxes and loges will help pay for that and some other things, so I think that's fantastic.
"But we want to get more of a homecourt advantage and make it more of an intimidating place to play instead of an opponent-friendly place where they come in and don't feel intimidated."
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