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Coliseum renovation puts TCU basketball in Big 12 spotlight

Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

Construction on a $60 million-plus renovation of Texas Christian University’s Daniel-Meyer Coliseum is underway, and athletic director Chris Del Conte expects the result to be a facility that will compete with all other basketball venues in the Big 12 for fan experience and recruiting appeal. TCU began construction after reaching its initial $45 million goal, which included a lead $10 million gift from retired Alcon executive Ed Schollmaier and his wife, Rae. The university is continuing to raise funds for what Del Conte believes will be the ultimate $61-$62 million cost of the renovations. The makeover includes more space, new locker and team meeting rooms, expanded sports medicine center, the latest electronics, a floor-level club for donors and lowered basketball floor. Seating capacity will remain the same at 7,200 when the refurbished arena opens in October 2015. “We only have 8,000 students,” Del Conte said. “You want to build a facility that is the right size for us. It’s packed. Great atmosphere, loud, energetic.” Del Conte sat down with The Fort Worth Business Press for a Q&A.

Where was TCU competitively against other schools with Daniel-Meyer? It was built in 1961. When it was built, it was state of the art, but nothing’s been done since. You’re looking at recruiting the finest students to come to play for you, and facilities play a huge part, just like it does in academics. Our chancellor has reformed this entire campus to recruit the finest students.

Was it adequate when TCU played in the Mountain West? It for sure wasn’t adequate in the Mountain West, because the Mountain West was just really a basketball conference [with teams like UNLV].

What’s the difference between the Mountain West and Big 12? The Big 12, they have regional teams. They matter. [In the Mountain West], men’s basketball was huge, but there was no knowledge base of New Mexico, there was not the water cooler conversation. College athletics is meant to be regional. With regional athletics, they have longstanding ties.

When TCU entered planning for the new Daniel-Meyer, what had to be in it? One, from the student [athlete] perspective, was locker rooms, training room, practice facility. Their space is going to say ‘Wow.’ Everyone in the Big 12 has incredible facilities. Then you had to look from a fan perspective. What can we do to help give fans a great in-game experience? Daniel-Meyer, the bones are great, we just needed to add. We’re adding about 230,000 square feet of space, plus some renovation to others. Brand new Hall of Fame. When our patrons walk in, they have to walk through our Hall of Fame and share our great history and the pride of being the Horned Frogs. Taking out the floor, lowering the floor 5 or 6 feet, building that back up, so then you have great sight lines. Taking down both end zones to give it a great feel when you walk in. New score boards, all interactive. We’re building a 10,000-square-foot club for our donors. When you’re raising the money, you’ve got to make sure the people who are paying the bills have the amenities that modern facilities have. Concessions. Right now, there’s only one restroom on the top concourse. New concessions, a new food court, restrooms throughout. Big wide concourse. Points of sale for memorabilia. Wi-Fi.

What about suites? We didn’t do suites. We decided to do a [court-side] club instead. We wanted to dig down and create court-side seats and make it a really loud facility. Sight lines to a court-side seat are to me more important than a suite in basketball. [Donors can enjoy] dinner, drinks. You go back and forth to the court. I can use that club for football, too.

What is the role of college athletics in marketing a university? It’s just the front porch. Athletics is the front porch to tell our story.

What else is in store after Daniel-Meyer? There’s always something. We’re in the process of a $3 million renovation to baseball. Full [multi-phase] project is $9 million. It’s a never-ending cycle.

 

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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