ALBANY — The long-rumored renovations of UAlbany’s athletic arena will start next month.
The university formally announced the project Monday, a renovation that will leave the Great Danes basketball programs without use of their traditional home court for the 2022-23 season as the facility undergoes its most-significant changes since it opened in 1992.
UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said the project will start in August and cost approximately $12 million; the school’s press release issued Monday said the “University intends to finance it completely through private funding, with $8.5 million having already been pledged toward the project.” LeChase Construction Service will do the work, which consists of what’s been described as a “complete renovation of SEFCU Arena’s interior,” and is expected to be completed in November 2023.
“It’s going to be a real showcase facility for us,” Benson said of the remodeled arena.
“SEFCU Arena has long served as an integral part of UAlbany’s success, and will continue to play a critical role in our future as a leading public R1 institution,” school president Havidan Rodriguez said in the university’s press release. “This renovation will enhance our achievements and help us reach our goals by creating a world-class facility for our athletic programs and the Capital Region.”
Benson said confirmation of the renovated arena’s name will be unveiled “in the very near future.” The arena has been called “SEFCU Arena” since 2006, but “Broadview Federal Credit Union” is the announced name of the recently merged credit unions SEFCU and CAP COM.
The changes to the arena will include new seating and locker rooms, as well as upgraded amenities for spectators including hospitality areas. The running track and jumping pits will also be removed from the arena, and relocated elsewhere on campus. Benson said the current basketball court will remain in use, as will the video scoreboard that was added into the arena several years ago.
The basketball court, though, “will change from a north-south orientation to an east-west orientation. This change will allow for a more immersive fan experience by creating improved sight lines and upgraded amenities,” the school’s press release stated.
In a recent interview with The Daily Gazette, Benson said planning for the renovations started in earnest a few years ago, but an overhaul of the arena is one he’s wanted to see come to fruition since his hire at UAlbany in 2014.
“For me, I’ve wanted to do this since the moment I walked on campus. We’ve had some other projects that have needed some investment, and we’ve invested in SEFCU; we’ve put in a new video board, we did all new lighting, we did some ADA work that we needed to come come up to compliance with,” Benson said, “That kind of got us moving, and I think it was important to show improvement to our fans and our student-athletes, that we were making progress while we’re planning this. Being a state institution, you have to work through a certain process, and then we got to the point where we could actually start talking to our potential donors who might want to invest in this project, and help make it a reality.”
Of the fundraising effort, Benson added: “It’s a combination of some alumni, some community members, we’ve got some corporate support that will help us do this — and we’ll continue to talk to all those folks in the future. There’s some naming rights opportunities that are available, whether it’s the hospitality spaces, the actual name on the court. . . . Through this renovation, there’s a number of new [naming-rights] opportunities.”
It’s unclear where UAlbany’s basketball teams will practice and play home games during the renovations. Benson said that the school is “finalizing details” regarding that information, and will be released in the coming weeks; recently, men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings said “hopefully we can announce that when we announce our schedule.”
Notably, the UAlbany women’s basketball team was 16-1 at SEFCU Arena during a 2021-22 season that ended with a trip to the NCAA tournament. The men’s team was 4-8 at home during a 13-18 campaign.
The changes to the interior of the arena will reduce the seating capacity, which was 4,215 last season for basketball. That number will drop to approximately 3,800 due to the changes, which include seatbacks for nearly every seat. In the current arena’s setup, the vast majority of seats do not have seatbacks.
“Right now, very few of our seats have backs. In the renovated arena, they’ll all have chair backs with the exception of one student section in an endzone,” Benson said. “So because the seats will be wider, our capacity will diminish. I think the trade-off is definitely worth it.”
Besides SEFCU Arena, UAlbany has made improvements to a variety of its athletic facilities in recent years, such as Tom & Mary Casey Stadium and John Fallon Field. Renovations to the school’s PE Building are ongoing, and UAlbany announced Monday that the building is “set to receive new upgrades in a separate project funded by SUNY’s Capital Plan. The project, which is estimated to cost about $2.5 million, will provide a new home for UAlbany volleyball and additional practice space for athletics as a whole.”