Hinkle facelift underway

Hinkle Fieldhouse is in the midst of receiving another major facelift that will modernize and help preserve the landmark venue, according to athletics department administrators.

Butler President James Danko announced in May the university’s Board of Trustees approved the $34-million renovation for the fieldhouse.

Funding for the project comes from the Campaign for Hinkle Fieldhouse. The task began last year with repairs that included refurbishing windows and tuck-pointing bricks to Hinkle’s exterior.

Renovation to the fieldhouse is needed to maintain the building and provide the best experience to student-athletes and fans.

“A lot of the work that we’re doing is for the life of the building,” said Mike Freeman, associate athletic director for external operations.  “The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work is really so that the building will last for 50 more years.

“Beyond that, it’s providing a better experience and better service for our student-athletes and our fans.”

The second phase of the process began in May, shortly after graduation ceremonies were held. Work moved to the fieldhouse’s interior.

The area that formerly housed Hinkle’s natatorium until 2002 is being converted into 17,700 square feet of office space and facilities for student-athletes. The three-story space in the northwestern corner of Hinkle will contain an academic center where student-athletes can work and meet for study tables.

The space will also have a new strength and conditioning room with a new weight room and a new sports medicine center. Coaches and administrators will utilize office space in the new addition to the fieldhouse.

The completion of renovations in the swimming pool area is slated for the end of March, athletics director Barry Collier said.

Freeman said fans attending events at Hinkle will not notice much of the renovation this year.

“A lot of that construction is in the pool area,” Freeman said. “The vast majority of people who come to men’s basketball games or women’s basketball games, they may know that there’s a pool back there, but it doesn’t impact the game.”

The third and final phase of renovation will commence once basketball season ends in spring 2014. The renovation should be completed by the beginning of basketball season in November 2014.

The most significant change made during this phase will be the installation of a new center-hung scoreboard containing a video board to enable replays.

The sponsor signs along the baselines will be removed due to the advertising capabilities of the new scoreboard.

New chair-back seats will replace the bleacher seats in the lower bowl of the fieldhouse in time for the 2014-2015 season. The seating capacity will be reduced from 10,000 to about 9,100 seats.

The widening of the south concourse, which started last summer, will be completed during the third phase. Renovation to existing locker rooms for men’s and women’s basketball, as well as the addition of new restrooms, will be made during the third phase.

Sarah Hamm, senior center for the women’s basketball team, said the improvements to Hinkle could aid recruiting.

“Hinkle for student-athletes is kind of like a second home because you’re there all the time,” Hamm said. “So just having that extra space and having a new academic center is only going to help.”

Expansion of the Wildman Room hospitality suite is expected to be completed before the 2014-2015 season.

The Athletic Annex on 52nd Street will now be home to coaches’ offices and locker rooms for the baseball, softball, golf, tennis, track and cross country teams. The building previously served as a daycare facility.

Hinkle’s designation as a National Historic Landmark requires the athletics department to preserve the venue’s historic value.

“It’s really important that we maintain the historic nature of the building,” Collier said. “We have agreed to (not change Hinkle). We did not want to change that piece of it, so that fits right in. We haven’t been told no because we’re not trying to change what the building stands for and its historic landmark status.”

Hinkle Fieldhouse will not appear much different to fans than it did decades ago, even once the renovation is complete, Freeman said.

“When we have 9,100 people at a men’s basketball game, the only thing that will look different than it looked 50, 60, 70 years ago is that it will have a different scoreboard, and some different video boards,” Freeman said.

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