Nov. 29, 2000
Bowling Green, Ky. -- The Louis & Henry Group, the lead organization in a comprehensive study commissioned by the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation, the city of Bowling Green, and Warren County, has presented its final report on options available for consideration in determining the feasibility of 1) renovating E.A. Diddle Arena on the Western Kentucky University campus, or, 2) building a new facility as a cooperative project of the city, county and WKU.
In a nutshell, the results of the research, a project that began in the spring, indicate that the renovation of Diddle Arena would be the practical route for all parties.
"The Hilltopper Athletic Foundation is very pleased with the final product of the arena feasibility study," said Ron Sowell, immediate past president of the HAF. "At the outset of the study, I believe most felt that a replacement facility could be justified and financed. However, the demographics of our region and the aggressive competition for arena events led to the conclusion that the renovation of Diddle Arena is our best option.
"At age 37, Diddle Arena is in need of major renovation to provide our student-athletes and coaches the competitive edge they need to be successful," he added. "The HAF applauds both WKU President Gary Ransdell and Athletics Director Wood Selig for taking the initiative to investigate the options available via this arena feasibility study. We trust that this study will be used as the foundation for developing a partnership with the local city and county governments to provide the necessary funding support to create an enhanced entertainment venue which will benefit economic development and enhance the quality of life in our region."
Representatives of the Louis & Henry Group of Louisville and The Goal Group of Clifton, Va., were in Bowling Green July 27 to discuss preliminary findings of their research. Other entities taking part in the study consortium were: Price Waterhouse Coopers of Dallas, HOK Sports of Kansas City, and Turner Construction of Cincinnati.
The renovation of the Arena is expected to be accomplished in three phases.
Phase I (targeted to begin in March, 2002) is expected to include remodeling the current facility with 8,000 new chair seats, 16 luxury suites, a new portable floor, air conditioning, an elevator, and parking for 1,400 additional cars.
"Revitalization of long-standing and valuable community resources is vital to making our future as good as our past," commented Bowling Green Mayor-Elect Sandy Jones. "E.A. Diddle Arena is one of those resources. The completion of this feasibility study gives us vision for the future. WKU is a very strong thread in the fabric of Bowling Green and Warren County and I welcome opportunities for us all to work creatively together as we form the future of our region."
Bowling Green City Manager Chuck Coates added: "We are more than willing to work with Western Kentucky University over the next 12-15 months in developing a financing plan for the renovation of Diddle Arena. This is being considered because of both the importance of Western as a major factor in our local economy as well as the potential benefit to our growing convention activity through coordination with the Bowling Green/Warren County Convention Center and a renovated Diddle Arena."
Phases II and III will feature the construction of a 30,000-square foot addition at the rear of the building to include practice gymnasiums and the plans call for the creation of a convention/exhibit area as well.
"My compliments to Louis and Henry and their consortium of experts who completed such a thorough analysis of a complex arena issue facing Western Kentucky University, Warren County, and the city of Bowling Green," WKU Athletics Director Dr. Wood Selig said. "The total cost of construction and the projected annual operating costs of a new arena are simply too much.
"Therefore, we can now turn our focus and collective energies to a renovation scenario for Diddle Arena that has the potential to benefit the entire community and region," he added. "A renovated Diddle Arena has tremendous potential to work in concert with the existing convention center to create intriguing business opportunities for this region. The University is currently having preliminary discussions with the city and county to determine what the level of interest is to modify Diddle Arena into a multipurpose facility serving the needs and interests of the area. We hope to continue those discussions in the coming months so that we may accurately plan for the most comprehensive renovation scenario possible.
"The University will begin a 15-month intensive effort to make phase I of the renovation a reality," he continued.
Four funding sources (expected to generate $1-1.3 million annually) for what could amount to a $10-14 million phase I of the renovation project include: student fees, luxury suite lease income, ticket surcharges for all Arena events and naming rights. Funds must be secured in their entirety before work on Phase I can begin.