CINCINNATI -- It’s a Xavier tradition for the student section to loft handfuls of newspaper confetti into the air when a Musketeers player scores the first basket of a men’s basketball game at Cintas Center.
Most of the paper is swept away when the game ends. But in the 11 days between Xavier’s regular-season home finale and Selection Sunday this year, the student section was removed as part of a planned renovation.
Piles of vintage confetti were discovered beneath the seats.
Next season the students will have all new confetti -- and all new seating -- as Cintas Center continues its eight-year, $30 million facelift. What started as a seven-year, $25 million project has increased in scope to accommodate expenses in a grand scale remodel of the nearly 17-year old facility.
“The Cintas Center is such an important facility to all of Xavier because it’s the most visible and the most trafficked building that we have on campus,” XU Athletic Director Greg Christopher said. “I think the total number of people through the building each year is around 500,000, which is more than any other building on campus. It literally is our front porch. So to make sure it’s in its best condition for its next 20 years, both from an event standpoint and a team standpoint, is our top priority.”
Original Cintas Center renovation plans were revealed in June of 2015. The first phase was designated for student-athletes and focused on the creation of the Crawford Student-Athlete Academic Center and a new 5,000-square foot, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning facility for all Xavier athletes.
An expanded sports medicine area was also on the to-do list, but construction delays have pushed back its completion date until this summer.
In the meantime, Phase II is underway. These changes, designed to enhance the fan experience, will provide new, upgraded seating options while more than doubling Xavier’s hospitality areas. Fans provided a fair amount of feedback about congestion in hospitality areas, particularly in The Joseph Club.
“What we’ve tried to do is add more hospitality space. The Joseph Club will still be used but instead of 1,400 people trying to get into a space for 175, that pie so to speak is going to be sliced into pieces and diffused around the arena,” Christopher said.
Christopher said the first step in the second phase was removing the north seating area (the student section) to gain wider access for the construction of The Lookout. That distinctive addition, a 12-foot extension from the bridge above the student section, will include 160 to 170 seats with food and beverage services.
Two modest-sized group hospitality areas will flank the ends of The Lookout, allowing small groups to gather.
- Courtside seating will expand from 40 seats to 85 seats and include a food and beverage service, in addition to complimentary food and drink from the new Courtside Club located between the men’s locker room and the court. That hospitality area mirrors similar areas in NBA arenas, from the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and allows fans to see Musketeers players before they enter the arena for tip-off.
- Xavier’s retractable Front Line seating encompasses the first seven rows of Cintas Center’s lower bowl. New Front Line seats will be wider (24 inches, up from 18 inches) and more comfortable than the old seats. The benefits of these seats -- high-level luxury, prime court views and access to the exclusive bar in The Joseph Club -- are similar to the perks of the Reds’ Diamond Club premium seats.
- The Joseph Club will house 48 loge-style seats in pods of four throughout a space dubbed the Living Room. The seats boast food and beverage services, plus the ability to watch in-game replays and check stats and scores.
- The men’s basketball pre-game show featuring Xavier Athletics Hall of Famers and radio team Byron Larkin and Joe Sunderman will move to The Traditions Club in the Crawford Student-Athlete Academic Center. That area will be a place for fans to gather after games and participate in a new call-in show.
Xavier’s 7,400 season ticket holders will begin selecting seats May 1. Fans’ reactions to picking new seats has been mixed, but Christopher said XU has tried to be proactive in its communications about the process.
“That’s why we’ve held monthly luncheons. We’ve probably met with -- in-person or on the phone -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 5,000 fans,” Christopher said. “I would say that largely, as we’ve been able to communicate and talk to people directly, it’s been understanding and positive as to where we’re headed.”
Forty-seven percent of ticket prices will increase, which is in line with what the university announced previously, and seating capacity will shift slightly. The current Cintas Center configuration is 10,250. Final projections put the new-look arena in the 10,200 to 10,300 range.
Phase II will be complete by the start of the 2017-18 basketball season. Remaining renovations will address team-specific projects (like refurbished locker rooms) and infrastructure (like improved Wi-Fi access, a new sound system and a new roof).
Most of the renovations are financed through private gifts.
Xavier has a site dedicated to the changes at ExperienceCintasCenter.com. The ultimate goal, Christopher said, is to give the arena a fresh look and updated feel for years to come.
“Cintas is a great arena and it has been a fantastic home court for Xavier,” Christopher said. “We just need to keep it that way for the next two decades.”