The arena would serve as home not only to the men’s and women’s basketball teams, but also to the women’s gymnastics teams. (Rendering courtesy Alabama Athletics)
With the University of Alabama (UA) men's basketball recently reaching No. 4 in the Associated Press poll ranking, its highest in 16 years, fan excitement around the program has reached a fevered pitch.
The Crimson Tide plays its home games at two facilities, including the 17,000-plus-seat Legacy Arena in downtown Birmingham, a venue extensively renovated two years ago. However, the team's on-campus arena in Tuscaloosa, Coleman Coliseum, is 54 years old and lacks the features of the Southeastern Conference's two newest courts, Auburn's Neville Arena and the Pavilion at Ole Miss.
AL.com noted that after initially revealing renovation plans to Coleman Coliseum in 2018, the university in February 2022 instead approved a plan to build a new 10,000-seat arena on campus with an estimated cost at the time of $183 million.
But athletics director Greg Byrne noted during an interview with the Tuscaloosa News, followed by another with Crimson Tide Sports Network in September, that UA had not expected inflation to rise to 40-year highs as 2022 progressed. He reiterated that complication again on Dec. 15.
"The planning for that is still ongoing," he said in speaking with Crimson Tide Sports Network. "What we're trying to navigate and still really trying to get our arms around is inflation has been significant, and it's actually been more significant in the facility-construction [business]."
Byrne added that Coleman Arena will only get older, and the university must find a way to address the problem, citing the importance of a strong venue for men's basketball coach Nate Oats, women's basketball coach Kristy Curry and gymnastics coach Ashley Johnston.
"I know sometimes people will say, ‘Hey, you've got the money,' [but] I'm like, ‘Well, I haven't quite found that money.'" he explained. "We have a fiduciary responsibility for our athletic department — that's part of what we do, and at the same time, too, we've got to do everything we can to make sure we grow the [athletic] program and put us in the best possible position. With the momentum that we have with our basketball programs and gymnastics, it is important that we find some solutions down the road. So, we're working on it, and obviously it is something that we all want very much."
Building Costs Have Risen Sharply
University of Alabama President Stuart Bell, who oversees Byrne and the athletics department, also addressed the cost of a new arena during a meeting with the Rotary Club in Tuscaloosa in November, the Tuscaloosa Thread reported.
"We are certainly working on the design of it," he said. "A real challenge we've had over the past 12 months is construction costs and we're trying to watch and see where those are going."
Bell told the club that construction costs had risen 30 to 40 percent.
"[That] is not in our plan to do," he explained. "You wouldn't want to be bidding a project like that today, that's for sure."
The documents presented to UA's board of trustees last winter called for construction bids on the arena project to be let in April 2023, with multiple locations on campus under consideration, according to AL.com.
The basketball facility is part of the second phase of UA's "Crimson Standard" fundraising plan, which included renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium in its first phase. A proposed $27 million complex for the university's golf program is still in the university's plans.
Conceptual plans for a new University of Alabama arena were unveiled by athletic director Greg Byrne, with the school envisioning a 10,136-seat, $183-million facility to replace Coleman Coliseum. (Rendering courtesy Alabama Athletics)
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