Arena in final stages of completion
When Towson volleyball coach Don Metil was considering coming to Towson after spending six years at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, there were a number of factors he said that influenced his decision to come to Towson.
One factor was the prospect of the new Tiger Arena opening.
“The addition of the Tiger Arena was an added bonus,” Metil said. “Every time I go in they make progress. It’s pretty exciting.”
After years of planning and construction, the new arena is almost ready, and will host spring commencement on May 22, 23 and 24.
Director of Athletics Mike Waddell and then President Robert Caret first announced the project in January 2011, saying it would cost $68 million.
Originally, the university had planned to renovate the current Towson Center.
After examining the cost of a renovation, it was determined by the university that they could spend the same amount of money and build a new stadium, according to Director of Facilities Management Scott Guckert.
When working on the plans for the new arena, construction management originally wanted to put it on the west side of the current Towson Center, according to Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Roger Hayden. But the arena was moved to the east side of the Towson Center after members of the community voiced concerns with the other location.
The University set up meetings with the community as part of an agreement with the Rodgers Forge Neighborhood Association.
According to an article published in The Towerlight on February 16 after a forum was held on the arena, most community members were concerned with the noise level of the arena.
After a series of meetings, the site of the venue was eventually moved.
“The whole process starts with our planning department,” Hayden said. “Our department will look at what do we need, how much space we have, and then we look at some thoughts and ideas that let [help us] when we go into the architectural phase.”
Hayden said facilities management then brought in several architects to start designing the arena.
According to David Mayhew, the director of Architecture and Engineering in Facilities Management, the architecture of the building was built from the basketball court, up.
“From the very beginning, it was designed with sight lines and intimacy in mind,” Mayhew said. “We started at the court and created a bowl arrangement that would be the most intimate they could get with 3,000 seats. Then [the architects] added the mezzanine environment to add on 2,000 more seats.”
Outside of the arena, a new tiger statue similar to the one outside Burdick Hall will be placed next to the promenade, which is the main entrance to the arena. The main promenade will also be wheelchair accessible, Guckert said.
When attendees enter Tiger Arena, they will immediately see a new scoreboard that hangs over the floor. LED lights illuminate the scoreboard, making it more eco-friendly.
On either side of the scoreboard is a group of four stereos, which make up the arena’s sound system.
Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball team Pat Skerry said these amenities and more will draw a bigger crowd at all sporting events held in Tiger Arena, especially basketball games.
“I think any time you have a good venue on campus, obviously it’s a better place for your students, your faculty, staff, your alumni, your donors,” he said. “People in the community can come out and enjoy themselves.”
The experience that patrons have in Tiger Arena should be much improved over the games that were held in the Towson Center, Guckert said.
The top of the arena is surrounded by glass panels to allow more natural light into the building, but retractable blinds were built in to control the amount of light when events are held during the day.
Guckert said when the seating arrangements were installed, each seat was designed to give fans the best vantage point possible to the court. While the 5,000-seat arena doesn’t hold many more patrons than the Towson Center, Guckert said it will be a much better viewing experience for fans.
The seats closest to the floor are all retractable, according to Guckert.
Those seats will be available for fans to purchase, while the upper level of seating will be the student section.
In addition to standard seating, the east side of the arena is lined with suites.
During game breaks, fans will have the opportunity to get food from concession stands located all around the main concourse.
There is also a team store located at the north end of the stadium.
While men’s and women’s basketball will hold some of the most-attended events in the arena, volleyball matches and gymnastics meets will also be held in Tiger Arena.
“I just think this is not just going to be a top-notch facility for the NCAA but for the northeast section of Division I volleyball,” Metil said.
Guckert said the venue was also designed with outside events in mind.
For example, the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team will be making a special trip to Towson to play three games between June 19 and 21 in the arena.
However, Skerry said the new arena is especially important to his team, which had a much-improved 2012-13 season. With the new arena opening, Skerry said it should give a popularity boost to the men’s basketball team.
“It’s been proven time-and-time again that your basketball [team] can be a wonderful front porch for the rest of your house which is the University,” he said. “Our guys are jacked up about it.”