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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

VCU plans to add luxury suites in two corners and a center-hung scoreboard, and install a new sound system and an LED ribbon board, to the Siegel Center in time for next basketball season.

Designs and a cost for the suites have not been finalized, VCU officials said. The additions will be paid for with money generated from the suites, VCU athletics director Ed McLaughlin said.

The scoreboard ($1,062,230), sound system and LED ribbon board, which will go across the Tommy J. West Club, are a little more than $1.9 million combined.

VCU has been to four consecutive men's NCAA basketball tournaments, including a Final Four appearance in 2011, and has sold out 50 consecutive games. The university also has a $25 million basketball practice facility in the works that is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015.

"In our business, you have to always keep an eye on what is going to provide the best fan experience and be attractive for recruits that come to visit you," McLaughlin said. "I think these additions will make it a much better fan experience and a really fun environment for potential recruits."

Glenn Hofmann, VCU's executive associate athletics director, said there will be two suites with 16-18 seats, and two suites with 12-15 seats. The larger suites are $60,000 per year. The smaller ones are $45,000. Each carries at least a two-year commitment.

The Tommy J. West Club, which features 120 club seats and two suites, was added over the concourse of the south side of the Siegel Center in 2011.

"We won't design anything that looks completely different than what we already have," McLaughlin said.

The suites will replace seating in sections 1 and 37, and sections 10 and 11. A little more than 100 season-ticket holders in those areas will be relocated to section 16, which is in the end zone, Hofmann said.

Overall seating capacity (7,700) will be about the same.

The current scoreboards/videoboards at the Siegel Center are in the end zones. Those will remain but will be used more for statistics.

The center-hung scoreboard will feature video screens on each side.

"As we looked at the video component and the in-game stuff, that we do not only from a promotion perspective but from a corporate perspective, we needed an improvement there," McLaughlin said. "You look at pregame player introductions and things during the game and you're looking off to the side. I think the bigger part of the fan experience is to sit in your seat and look right up and see it and not be distracted from what's on the court."

McLaughlin said fans have made it clear replacing the sound system is a priority.

"We do not take for granted the sellout streak by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "We want to make sure we continue to do things so that people want to keep coming back to the Siegel Center for games.

"I think when you make improvements like these, they will continue to help us have a great product besides the product we have on the floor."

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May 23, 2014




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