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Southern Indiana Arena Opening Date Remains Unclear

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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

 


EVANSVILLE - Originally, the University of Southern Indiana wanted its new arena to open before the coming school year begins. Then, the goal certainly was to have it ready by the start of basketball season.

Less than three weeks before classes start, it's unclear when it will open, but it won't be in 2018. The final beam was installed just three weeks ago. The roof isn't finished. It's not fully enclosed yet, either.

No one knows for sure when it will open. It's a $66million question.

"We lost about 30 work days in the winter and spring because of weather and some issues," USI Athletics Director Jon Mark Hall said during Wednesday's media tour of the construction. "They are a little bit behind but have been working tirelessly to catch up."

The current plan is to at least play all eight January and February Great Lakes Valley Conference doubleheaders inside the new facility. We'll see if that deadline gets pushed back, too. No one can control Mother Nature.

"When it rains, it rains inside for about another two hours," said Gary Burgdorf, the construction project manager. "There were some days the ice was so thick on the steel, we didn't want anybody up there. We didn't want anybody injured. I'd like to send everybody home in as good of shape as I got them."

If Hall and the rest of the USI administration had their way, Wednesday's tour would have been an all-access look at what are expected to be state-of-the-art facilities. But instead, we were left to imagine the end result while staring at slabs of concrete.

"I'm really hoping mid-fall we will have an idea when we can get in because we'd like to plan for what will be that first event, the first game," Hall said.

Obviously, it feels much more like an arena than the Physical Activities Center, which doesn't differ from most high school facilities, considering the seats pull out from the walls and it has a capacity of 2,700 people. If USI can fill it, the atmosphere could be one of the best in college basketball.

The new arena, which remains unnamed, will seat roughly 4,700 and will be fully equipped with four suites as well as an area for Varsity Club members.

The roof is almost complete and the exterior glass is expected to be installed in the next month. Once the arena is enclosed, the air conditioning can be turned on to draw moisture out of the space so drywall can be installed and painting can proceed.

The men's basketball non-conference schedule hasn't been released yet, but the women's is already out. There normally aren't many notable opponents, anyway. But if it indeed is ready for 2019, get excited for a marquee showdown with, uh, Truman State for the opener on a Thursday evening.

Nothing has gone to plan thus far. There is an outside chance it will be nearly an entire year until the volleyball and basketball teams get to compete inside.

For now, there's nothing to do but wait for more updates.

"Everybody is anxious to get inside," Hall said. "But I think when you drive by every day, you see progress and know it's going to happen at some point in time."

Three-stripe life

USI also announced Wednesday it has agreed to a contract with adidas to be the official uniform of all 17 athletics programs until the 2022-23 academic year. The company had already supplied the men's and women's basketball programs, cross country, soccer and track and field.

This coming academic year will be a transition period for programs, such as volleyball, that had been sponsored by other brands previously.

"It brings us all together," Hall said. "When prospective student-athletes come to our campus, it gives them a feel we're all one the same page wearing the same brand."

E.I. Sports & Apparel, a locally owned dealer, will service the account. That means if someone needs a new pair of shoes or a jersey replacement, there will be availability in town. The women's program has been wearing adidas apparel for about six years now, according to coach Rick Stein.

"They can be in our building every single day, if needed," he said. "If I needed something tomorrow morning, they'll have things in stock."

It should be another help on the recruiting trail, considering adidas' placement in popular culture now with athletes and even music artists, such as Kanye West, having their own shoe lines.

"We've been wearing adidas the last two years, but I wish we had been with them long before that time," men's basketball coach Rodney Watson said.

"What I have found in recruiting, in terms of shoes and gear, kids want comfort and they want cool. Adidas provides great comfort and they are cool," Watson added.

Chad Lindskog is a Courier & Press sports columnist. He can be reached at chad.lindskog@courierpress.com or on Twitter: @chadlindskog

Chad Lindskog

Columnist

Evansville Courier & Press


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August 2, 2018
 
 
 

 

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