The next time you step through the doors of beloved McKale Center, breath in the infectious energy of the Wildcat buzz, and begin to take in the scenery, you may notice the surroundings look a little different from what you had remembered. This is because the first steps toward a completely revamped arena will be set in motion on Jan. 2 when the men’s basketball team faces Washington State at home. The changes will be ever so slight at first, beginning with the addition of a new high definition video board, but the new features will be a sign of bigger things to come.
As of today, Arizona is undisputedly the top team on the court. They are a young and athletic group that seems to soar above the rim and shove the ball down their opponent’s throats on every play with a violently elegant fusion of physical aggression and patient orchestration. In arena quality, however, Arizona is toward the bottom, battling visitors in a 41- year-old facility that has seen too many alumni come and go. That is all about to change after a $6 million contribution from Arizona fans Cole and Jeannie Davis.
The enormous gift to the program helped spark a push toward an $80 million improvement plan for the home of the Wildcats. Phase one of the renovation plans will cost roughly $30 million, and will begin immediately. Along with the new video board, fans can expect to see a new hardwood court, expanded concessions and restrooms, and fresh seating (and yes, the wretched “yellow seats” will be a thing of the past). The new seating will feature padded blue chairs on the lower level, red chairs on the top level, and a Zona Zoo section with red colored seats in the configuration of the Arizona “A”.
The most prominent upside to a refurbishing of McKale Center will be the positive effect that it will have on the basketball program. When head coach, Sean Miller, brings young high school recruits into a newly restored basketball arena, complimented by the already rich history and tradition of Arizona, you can imagine the combination may entice quite a bit of talent.
It is an inescapable fact of college sports that state of the art facilities make all the difference. In 2009, the construction of Richard Jefferson gymnasium caused quite the splash, and since then, Miller has reeled in three consecutive top ten recruiting classes in the country. A similar occurrence took place at the University of Louisville, when the Cardinals shoveled $240 million into KFC Yum! Center in 2010. Within three seasons of the facilities construction the men’s basketball team has been to the Final Four twice, and were even crowned national champions in 2012.
Miller understands the importance of bringing arena improvements to Tucson.
“It will put us on course, I think, to compete for a national championship and to be able to compare ourselves to the other elite college basketball programs”, he stated.
Anybody who has stepped into McKale Center can tell you that a boisterous energy is gushing out of the foundation. Fans permeate a sacred oomph and liveliness that seems to fuel the fiery willpower of the athletes to such an extent that McKale needed an update. The rickety seats and creaky wood floor could no longer contain our excitement, our vigor, and our wildcat pride. Finally, Arizona will have an arena worthy of its own legacy.