The Next Step

Every passing day means Ole Miss gets closer to a new arena. It won't be just like ones built this century at places like Auburn, Virginia, Missouri State, or the FedEx Forum in downtown Memphis.

But some portions of each of those will likely be implemented. They've been studied by University officials.

"We actually looked at dozens (of arenas)," said Danny White, Executive Director of the UMAA Foundation, mentioning they physically visited some and looked at many more online and through graphics. "Got different ideas of what they did here, what they did there. The facility at Virginia has a similar architectural mold on its campus. There's some synergy there, and we've looked at some of the things they did right.

"We've gotten some good ideas from several projects, and we came up with ideas of our own we're really excited about."

AECOM, a Fortune 500 company with a number of significant sports venue projects to its credit, has just about finished up its work on the focus groups portion of Ole Miss' new arena project. White said things have gone smoothly.

A new home for the basketball Rebels should be built in the not-too-distant future
Bruce Newman
"The feasibility study is wrapping up now," White said. "As expected, we have continued to gain confidence that we're going to be successful in raising the funds for this project."

But, as has been no secret, the arena is only one aspect of a significant effort that will be announced in the next few weeks.

"Our plan is to announce a broad-based capital campaign for athletics later this summer," White said. "We haven't set the date yet, but it will probably be at the start of football season."

The arena, which will house basketball and major university events, is one of three main projects within the campaign. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium upgrades and a north end zone complex at the football stadium are the other two key components of the effort.

"These are the three biggest projects of the campaign," White said. "The arena is the first priority in terms of timing. In conjunction with building the arena will be some significant renovations to the football stadium. The final piece will be the north end zone expansion of the football stadium."

White explains things a bit more in-depth.

"Renovations (at Vaught-Hemingway) will deal mainly with the concourse areas, restrooms, concessions, premium seating amenities, things of that nature," he said.

One of the major questions always asked concerning football stadium upgrades is about the outside appearance of the stadium, mainly the fact that the south, east, and west stands all have different exterior designs. White said that is being explored.

"We have some really exciting renderings of what the new arena and also what the football stadium would look like, with some animations and videos that are being created and will be made public when we announce the campaign," he said.

"Probably in the next month we'll have those available."

Ole Miss women's basketball looks forward to celebrations on its new homecourt
Bruce Newman
The arena project has taken center stage. A large number of people have been involved already, including Ole Miss students, staff, alumni and fans.

"We've researched a lot of the stakeholders, the focus groups, and gotten a lot of really good information," White said. "The model we've put together we're really excited about. We think it's unique in a good way, because it exactly fits Ole Miss.

"We know that to be true because we asked Ole Miss – the students, the donors, key University personnel, our coaches. So we're really confident that it's an Ole Miss specific model with regards to the arena. It's got a lot of ‘wow' factor, and it's something people will be really proud of."

An exact number of seats for the arena – 10,000 has been the most mentioned capacity - has yet to be decided and likely won't be in the near future.

"It probably won't be determined by the time we launch this campaign, because it doesn't have to be," White said. "That (10,000) is kind of the neighborhood."

White said the arena will most likely be where the University's master plan has had a new facility such as this for many years. That's east of C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum, west of the football practice fields, and south of the Turner Recreation Center. Six tennis courts have also been located for years in the vicinity of the proposed site. The proposed arena timeline has completion by the 2015-16 basketball season.

White emphasized that the arena and significant capital campaign to be announced are obviously major projects. He encourages all Ole Miss people to help out in some way.

"We need our fans to gravitate toward it and get behind it by the tens of thousands," he said. "We expect that to happen. I think people are going to be really excited when they see what we're about to do. We're starting to get some of these renderings back and the animations and videos to be included.

"It's really, really exciting stuff. Our fans have said they've been waiting for this and it's finally here. They're going to see exactly where we want to go, and I'm confident they'll take us there."

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