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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: McKale feels like new arena

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett

Volleyball fans prepare to leave the new renovated McKale Center after Arizona’s 3-0 win against Alabama State. Arizona volleyball’s win against Alabama was the first game played in McKale after the completion of the new floor and seats.

While composing an article over the summer on the UA’s athletic facilities for the Daily Wildcat’s annual Campus Guide issue, I wondered what I should call Arizona Stadium on second reference.

The old stadium, which dates back to 1928, was often called the “Old Gray Lady” by Wildcat fans. I debated whether to put that, since the stadium doesn’t feel so old anymore. It didn’t seem to fit.

Ultimately, I settled on “once affectionately known as the ‘Old Gray Lady,’” but the newish feeling still remains. I grew up going to UA games, and, according to my mom, I was going to games before I was born.

Last year, the $72.3 million addition to Arizona Stadium, the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, opened. While most of Arizona Stadium looks like it was built early in the 20th century, the facility looked just like an NFL facility.

A few years ago, I toured the Denver Broncos’ stadium, what is now called Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and the Lowell-Stevens is right on par with it.

If you sit in the northern seats or go inside Lowell-Stevens, Arizona Stadium feels like a brand new venue. The recently added southern end zone scoreboard has that NFL feel to it, without all that baggage and guilt.

Lowell-Stevens was the jewel of the athletic department.

Then, last week, I got to see the new McKale Center in one of its first public events since it underwent most of the $80 million renovation.

Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller had proclaimed that McKale Center will feel like a new arena, but I was skeptical. McKale Center has seen some upgrades over the years, but still felt like it was built in the ’70s, just with a somewhat fresh coat of paint.

However, the changes in the last few months absolutely do make McKale Center feel like a new arena on the inside. (Outside, it still looks not so hot, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?)

The new scoreboard is definitely NBA-caliber. Even though we usually sat courtside last season, I often preferred to watch the video board over the guys in front of me.

The lighting is also better and much more crisp.

I didn’t see any of the locker rooms, but the photos the UA’s various Twitter accounts have tweeted make it look like they are as good as the magnificent football locker room.

The big change is the seats, which are so cushioned, you feel like you’re sitting on a giant marshmallow with a red “A” sewn on.

Even the ZonaZoo seats, which are not cushioned for obvious reasons, are more comfortable than the old seats. Miller may start to fear that UA students will be compelled to sit more, like the veteran Arizona fans.

Truly, in the last couple of years, the transformation of Arizona’s athletic facilities has been astounding.

—Follow James Kelley @jameskelley520

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