President Comments on Potential For New Arena

Auburn University's president discusses the possibilities of a new home for the basketball Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Dr. Ed Richardson, Auburn University's interim president, says he hopes that AU will be able to build a new on-campus basketball arena.

However, Richardson says it is too early to know for sure if that is going to happen.

"Obviously all of us are in favor of it," Richardson says. "If somebody would be willing to come along and write me a check for between $60 million to $70 million, I would be glad to start it pretty soon and name it after the person who wanted to do that.

"We have sent a team with Jay (athletic director Jay Jacobs) to look at some arenas," Richardson says. "We are looking at something in the neighborhood of 8,000 to 8,500 seats. We don't have the financial resources in athletics to do that. There are always other costs.

"For instance, our tennis facility, in cooperation with the city, is coming along," Richardson adds. "We need to have that outdoor training pool for the swimming team, which we need to get going. We just finished up our track so there is a lot of debt load that athletics has.

"I have had some encouragement that we would have as much as $10 million I can count on from outside sources, and that is good, but it still leaves us around $50 million short," Richardson says. "We are going to discuss that at the finance committee during the board (AU Board of Trustees meeting) here on April 13th.

"If we see we can find a way to pull together another $40 or so million without getting into a debt load on the athletic department, then I think we will have a good chance of making it."

If a new arena isn't approved, Auburn officials are expected to build a new practice facility for the men's and women's basketball team that would include new locker rooms and a weight training area.

Auburn men's basketball coach Jeff Lebo is hoping that the university will decide to build a new arena.

Richardson says he believes there is a need to replace Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, which has been the home of Auburn's basketball teams for the past 39 seasons. The first game was played in the facility on Jan. 11, 1969 before all of the seats were installed as a packed arena watched Auburn defeat an LSU team, which featured superstar guard Pete Maravich.

The facility cost just a bit more than $6 million with the major share, $4.5 million, being paid for by an appropriation from the state legislature.

"There is not much we can do with that facility so we are going to try to find a way to do it (build a new arena)," Richardson says. "If we decide to build a new facility, we are two or three years away (from the completion date) in the best of circumstances.

"The bottom line is that it is a little premature for me to be talking about it, but the bottom line is if we can find a way to raise another $40 million with the $10 million commitment we believe we are getting close enough we can make it work. We will know in mid-April whether or not that other $40 million or so will be possible and I can't really say at this point."

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