By: Brent Raines ~Sports Editor~
With major changes coming to the fan experience at the Cintas Center, students can look forward to a larger student section. Xavier revealed the changes last week, which mostly revolved around more gathering areas and a revamped seating arrangement. The parts of the renovations that got the most attention were the addition of several new clubs within the arena, new luxury seats around the court and the Lookout, an overhanging section built over the student section. The renovations will be completed after the 2016-17 basketball season.
However, the change that students will notice the most is the larger student section size. “We can fit about 700 students, right now, in the student section, anything above 700 and they have to go in the upper deck,” Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher said. “We think when this is done, while there’s no final manifest yet, we believe we may be able to get up to 1000 right there in that same piece of pie.”
Xavier plans to do this by removing the retractable, chair-back seats that currently populate the student section. “The driver in everything is replacing the retractables,” Christopher said. “After 15 years, those are just worn out. We thought, ‘If we make them bleacher- style, we can fit more in.”
Christopher said that there were some initial discussions about moving the location of the student section or the band. Xavier ultimately decided against it due to the success of the X-treme Fans. “That was from the first moment we sat in this room to talk through, we aren’t going to move the students,” Christopher said. “We’ve got a fantastic student section, (and) we are one of the few places that has not had any decrease in student attendance. Let’s not mess with success. In fact, is there a way to get more students there? So that was part of the equation that led us to where we are.”
The Lookout, according to Christopher, solved a dilemma that plagued the original designers of the building who felt that the open wall above the student section needed to be closed in. “It puts stands and seats on all four sides going around. Adding a couple hundred seats, right there with the students, is going to make an atmosphere at the end where the students add even greater energy.” Christopher said. “That’s going to add a dynamic that we haven’t seen before. It’ll be fun, it’ll be different.”
X-treme Fans President Sydney Schubert added that there will be more small changes that students will notice over the years, such as improved wi-fi that will come with the renovations.
“I think that overall, the renovations in general are going to enhance the student experience in Cintas itself,” Schubert said. “Students and fans have something to look forward to every year when they come to Cintas.” While these renovations are just Phase II of a seven-year, $25 million project, Christopher noted that you are unlikely to notice any of the other changes. “Past this, it’s the stuff that isn’t real sexy. It’s the wifi, the new roof. The lights need to be changed, the HVAC is 15 years old,” Christopher said. “You’ll see new things, you’ll see changes, but they’re not stuff that people get really excited about.”