New arena will allow for numerous events

For some administrators and students at Northern Kentucky University, the 2005 tentative completion date for the long anticipated Regional Special Events Center isn’t soon enough.

Regents Hall, the current sports arena and event facility, was built in 1972 and is fast becoming outdated, according to the NKU athletic department. Cold hard bleachers, little seating, small locker rooms and an overall outdated feel are a few of the many complaints lodged against the 2,000-seat arena by the administration.

“Our facility is usually a disadvantage to us,” said Nancy Winstel, women’s basketball head coach. “It is a facility whose time has passed.”

Instead of bleachers, the lower level of the 6,500-seat RSEC will have theater-style seats. In addition, there will be 10 corporate luxury boxes that will have a view of the Cincinnati skyline.

These amenities will make NKU sports more accessible to fans, said men’s basketball coach Ken Shields.

“The bleachers aren’t comfortable and discourage middle-aged and older people from coming to games,” Shields said. “(With the new center) I look forward to an increase of fans. They would know there will be enough seats available, and they will be comfortable.”

The new RSEC will make it easier to bring in top-rate players, Shields said. “It would enhance recruiting. We don’t have here a facility that will attract players.”

One of the main concerns of the NKU athletic department is space, of which Regents affords very little, said Jane Meier, athletic director. She said the increased size of the new events center will be a tremendous asset to the sports program.

“Right now, we have poor athletic-training and weight room facilities mainly due to size,” Meier said.

The RSEC quadruples the seating capacity of Regents and will cover 160,000 feet of space compared to Regents’ 28,000 square feet.

All this space won’t be devoted to sports, however. According to the office of Campus Planning, the RSEC will host an estimated 114 community events per year. For such events, seating can be expanded to 7,500 and there will be room to add more seats at a later date, increasing the total capacity to 10,000. In addition, the RSEC will allow commencement ceremonies to take place on campus instead of across the river at the Firstar Center in Cincinnati. For this reason alone, Student Government Association president Katie Herschede said the RSEC is a sound investment.

“It is an embarrassment that a University of about 13,000 students has to go across the river to hold graduation,” Herschede said.

Herschede said she hopes the RSEC will bring more people on campus and increase NKU’s popularity in the surrounding community.

“It ties the community into the

campus,” Herschede said. “Wouldn’t it be great to walk into a store somewhere off campus and be able to buy NKU apparel?”

The RSEC will also beautify the campus by creating an additional plaza area and, thereby, increasing the amount of walking space on campus. The facility is slated to be built adjacent to Regents Hall where the southern portion of Nunn Drive is currently. The RSEC will be connected to Regents Hall which will provide an auxiliary court and practice facility for the sports teams. The new building creates a lawn area between the University Center, the Lucas Administrative Center and the RSEC. In addition, it creates a more inviting entranceway to the south side of campus, said Mary Paula Schuh, director of campus planning.

“The lack of a special event center is a void on campus and gives the campus a sense of incompleteness,” Schuh said.

With the state of Kentucky slashing its budget by $600 million, the building of the $42.9 million facility may be delayed. Winstel said she hopes this doesn’t happen and that the women’s basketball program will be playing in the facility as soon as possible.

“They can’t build it soon enough,” she said. “It’s been a long time in the planning. Hopefully now, the time and the situation is right.”