Another Green Light for AU's Arena Project

An update on Auburn's replacement plans for Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Just a few hours before Jeff Lebo's Tigers earned its first victory over a Top 25 opponent when the Tigers defeated Tennessee, the coach and his program received more good news.

A committee from the university's board of trustees selected the architects on Wednesday to design a new on-campus arena for the basketball Tigers. The approval of the firm 360 Architecture in Kansas City, with assistance from the Davis Group in Birmingham, is expected to be formalized at the board of trustees' next regular scheduled meeting on Feb. 2nd.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs notes that he is pleased that the project is moving ahead on schedule.

"The property and facilities committee of the board of trustees approved the hiring of an architectural firm, 360," he says. "That is a huge step forward in our goal to build a new basketball facility.

"We still have a long way to go from a budgeting standpoint, but at least now we have architects from 360 who will be able to pull together a program design for us so we can get an idea of exactly what this would cost. Then we will be able to know what the expenses are as we put the plan together so this dream can become a reality. This is the next step in doing what is right to help our men's and women's basketball programs."

Jacobs notes that the university will be announcing a fundraising campaign specifically to come up with money for the new arena. Estimates of the cost have ranged from $60 million to more than $100 million, depending on the number of seats and the design.

Auburn's athletic director says that there is the possibility of finding a major corporate sponsor for the facility that would pay for a significant portion of the costs of the project in return for receiving naming rights for a lengthy amount of time such as a decade.

Prior to the basketball game vs. Tennessee, Auburn officials met with the first of what will be a variety of focus groups to get their input on what amenities the new arena should include. The first focus group, fans who are intensely interested in AU basketball, met Wednesday evening at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum with AU officials.

Jacobs says there will be more meetings with athletes and members of the student body to get their ideas on the project.

Although no site for the new arena has been announced, AU officials tell Inside the Auburn Tigers the likely location is across the street and to the west of the front entrance of the coliseum on land that is currently used for parking. The new arena, which will also include offices, practice courts for the men's and women's teams, weight training rooms and locker rooms, is expected to include suites and better sight lines for basketball than the current facility.

Jacobs says he expects it will take approximately a year to get the plans for the arena to be designed and all of the bids to be scheduled and approved. The construction phase could take up to two years so the plan is to have the new arena ready for the 2010-2011 season.

Lebo was promised a new practice facility when he took the Auburn job. AU officials considered remodeling the coliseum and adding practice courts, but after learning that the nearly 40-year-old-building would cost $30 million to renovate, AU officials turned their attention to a new facility.

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