Every student will pass through the University of Cincinnati's Fifth Third Arena for convocation, graduation, or some other event. The renovation and modest expansion transformed a pragmatic and dismal gymnasium box — untouched for nearly 30 years — into a state-of-the-art NCAA Division I performance venue.
With access issues, no view of the court upon entering the building, poor sightlines, and narrow and disconnected concourses, the exiting arena was the source of complaints from students, fans and staff. Designing a performance bowl within the confines of the existing footprint, which was landlocked on three sides, was a primary challenge of the project. Another significant challenge was surgically demolishing most of the interior structure while maintaining the existing roof structure, exterior shell, and two floor levels below the court.
The utilitarian box was turned into a 360-degree seating bowl, adding new seating options and fan amenities, such as suites and club lounges. The existing main concourse was enlarged, and an entirely new upper concourse was created within the existing shell. Honoring the past and respecting the future, graphic and branding elements support the experience, university achievements and sponsorship opportunities. The men's and women's basketball locker rooms, coach locker rooms, film room, team dining area and training suite were reimagined into a one-of-a-kind homage to the Bearcats.
“The University of Cincinnati has a reputation for signature architectural design. The utilitarian existing arena could have easily been demolished and replaced in favor of a more modern structure. However, the university and design team took a sustainable approach toward reuse and deserve recognition for a well-executed transformation of the facility.” — William Schenck
“This project is really successful from a fan experience standpoint, with exciting graphics and lots of different offerings.” — Steve Chung