AU Busy With Athletic Construction Projects

A report on the new basketball arena and several football construction projects is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Two Auburn athletic construction project are coming to a close, several others are on-going and the biggest one will move into high gear on Monday.

Auburn's Athletic Director Jay Jacobs and Randy Byars, director of facility planning, note that on Monday construction crews will begin digging the foundation for the new basketball arena, a project that is expected to cost more than $80 million when everything is completed in the summer of 2010.

The new Auburn Arena will replace Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum as the home of the men's and women's basketball teams. The project will include office space for Jeff Lebo's men's squad and Coach Nell Fortner's AU women's program as well as locker rooms, training rooms, workout areas, an attached practice facility and the new home for the Lovelace Museum, which is currently closed with its site at the AU Football Complex being renovated into two floors of office space.

Auburn's football players are moving back into their newly renovated locker room this week at the football complex. That $1.8 million project includes new restrooms, a remodeled shower area, a new training room, a players' lounge and a hydrotherapy area with five pools.

The football players will have a new shower area.

Another project is just being completed at the football complex with a makeover of the coaching staff's individual offices and meeting rooms. That includes a new video editing system with big-screen plasma televisions hooked up to a central computer system that will allow the coaches to study videos of practice, games and prospects.

On the east side of the football complex, the Lovelace Museum area which included 5,000 feet of display space, is getting a second story and will house 10,000 feet of office space. That will allow athletic department administrators currently working at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum and the Sewell Hall annex to move into the football complex. That project is expected to be done in late October or in November.

No plans have been announced on what will happen to the coliseum that was built in the 1960s, but the expectation is that it will be demolished after the completion of the new arena.

At Jordan-Hare Stadium, another renovation project includes upgrading bathrooms, concession areas and the signage on the second level of the west side of the stadium to match the renovations already done to the first level.

"What we learned is that we can't take these facilities for granted," Jacobs says. "We have been in here (football complex) since 1989 and in the coliseum for 40 years. We proactively put in a master plan for all of our facilities to be updated. In February of 2006, I guess it was, the board of trustees approved about an $11 million renovation of the facilities. Coincidentally, the facility cost us about $11 million in 1989.

"We are phasing things in over time being good stewards of our funding trying to do something each year that will continue to improve our facilities," he adds. "Our number one priority coming out of the meeting in February '06 was to impact the football players first because we hadn't updated the facility since 1989. We hadn't touched this thing since '89. No matter how well our people took care of things, it just get worn and the uses change."

Previous upgrades at the football complex included a new auditorium and renovations of the Rane Room, which is used for meetings and other events.

Construction news and notes include:

*Roosevelt Drive, which is currently closed to traffic entering from Donahue Drive, will reopen later this month, Byars says. He notes that the road is a construction zone due to utility upgrades for the new arena as well as the huge new dorm project that is being built next door to the arena that will house approximately 1,500 students, including many Auburn athletes.

*Byars says the new arena, which is being built west of Jordan-Hare Stadium and north of the west side of the coliseum, will have state of the art computerized lighting and cooling systems as well as state of art scoreboards with a big screen monitor. The scoreboards are expected to cost $1.3 million and will be bid out later this summer. "It will as good a center-hung board as you can find," Byars says.

*The winning bid for the construction project from Harbert International came in approximately $9 million under the estimate at $69 million. The whole project is expected to cost around $80 including the scoreboards, furniture, the new museum and other fixtures. Crews began preliminary construction work at the site earlier this month.

*With the bids coming in well under budget, some extras have been added to the project such as terrazzo flooring at the main entrance and upgraded mechanical equipment.

*The new museum is expected to look very different than the old one, which was more of a traditional facility. The new one will be interactive with plenty of electronics and no walls, Byars notes.

*In addition to basketball, Auburn gymnastics meets and some volleyball matches will be played in the coliseum, which will also be used for graduation ceremonies and concerts.

*The new arena will be located just 85 feet from the massive dorm project, which is scheduled to be ready for use for the 2009-2010 academic year. A restaurant is included in the project and it is expected to be a place where scholarship athletes will eat many of their meals with its location next to the arena and dorms.

*At the football complex, a new heating and air-conditioning system was put in for the locker room area, the first major renovation done to that part of the building. Between the locker room and the training area are four plunge pools for treatment. One will be filled with hot water, one can be used for hot or cold treatment, another is cold only and another is very cold (40 degrees). A fifth pool will have a treadmill in it for rehab workouts as well as a water resistance that will allow athletes to walk or swim against a current. "We have looked at a lot of facilities and haven't seen a nicer hydrotherapy area," Byars says.

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