Utah basketball: Huntsman Center to be renovated in offseason
Bill Cosby was the star of the first major show at the Huntsman Center. That was all the way back in 1969.
Mike Newlin one of the leading scorers in Utah history recorded the arena's first basket, and recently talked about it at a university fundraiser.
Along the way, the Huntsman Center housed Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It stood tall during the Rick Majerus era, has hosted a grand total of 81 NCAA Tournament games and is the place where Larry Krystkowiak is putting together a Utah men's basketball resurgence.
In other words, the Huntsman Center is a historical place. But like most historic places, it needs renovating and upgrading. And that time is almost here.
A long-awaited renovation of the old arena is set to begin after the Utes basketball and gymnastics teams clear out for the season. Construction is scheduled to begin on March 20th.
"It has been and will continue to be a great basketball venue," Krystkowiak said. "But over time, all great things need a bit of a face-lift. We're going to dress it up, and enhance some things. This is a tremendous facility and it's going to be great for fans to come and see some of the things we have in store."
In a sense, the upgrades have already begun.
Taking a stroll around the bowels of the building, some changes are already in place. New video screens were added to the scoreboard in 2006, and the Utes lockerroom was upgraded a few years ago.
Construction was originally slated to begin in early in March, but has been delayed in the event the Utes host a postseason game.
Utah athletics director Chris Hill said the project should be finished by early fall. When it is, the Huntsman will have a brand new floor. It will have a new scoreboard. It will have a new sound system and new lighting.
The old floor will be ripped up during the initial construction and replaced by a temporary floor to accommodate graduation. In all, the renovations will cost $6 million, a sum that will be paid for by Auxiliary Services, the company that owns the Huntsman Center.
"This is going to be great for the fans and the student athletes," Hill said. "We're really excited this is going to happen. The new lighting is going to be a tremendous benefit because it won't use as much electricity and that will help save money. The infrastructure wasn't as good as it should be, so this should make a difference."
The arena's seating won't be changed during these renovations, so the Huntsman Center will continue to hold 15,000 and continue to be the largest venue in the Pac-12.
Hill said an even bigger arena renovation is planned for down the road, a face-lift that will include the installation of premium seating and concourse renovations. But the Utah AD stresses that is a long-term plan.
Hill also says there are plans to put draping around the upper bowl for volleyball and women's basketball games in order to create a more intimate home court atmosphere for both sports.
This marks the first year the volleyball team has played all its games at the Huntsman Center. But even when they or the women's basketball team draws relatively good crowds, the arena still looks largely empty. The draping should help offset that.
"It will do a great job of shrinking the gymnasium and create more of an advantage," Hill said. "We're really looking forward to the end result. We think it's going to be a major upgrade."
About the Huntsman Center
• Holds 15,000 for basketball.
• Is the largest arena in the Pac-12.
• Has hosted the NCAA Tournament 12 times.
• Has been the site for a total of 81 NCAA Tournament games.
• Was the site of the NCAA title game battle between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in 1979.
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