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Posted Feb 16, 2011, 8:55 pm
The University of Arizona has set up a working group to study options for new athletic facilities, including a possible arena downtown.
The Athletics Facility Planning Committee will "look into all options for the distant future," Athletic Director Greg Byrne said.
"There are no current plans to build a new arena downtown," he said.
"However, we believe that we are an important part of our community and we want Tucson and the surrounding communities to be as strong as possible. If there are ways for us to help the community and our program at the same time, then we need to at least explore different ideas," Byrne said in an email.
"We have not formed a partnership with the city or Rio Nuevo on any future facilities and do not have any plans to do so at this point," he said, although UA officials have met with representatives of the city and the downtown redevelopment district.
"Although our facilities have served us well over the years, many need substantial improvements going forward from a fan amenity standpoint and from a recruiting and student-athlete standpoint," he said.
Byrne has pointed to issues with restroom and concessions at many UA athletic facilities, including the 38-year-old McKale Center. Adding club seating and skyboxes to the arena, or building a new one, could add a significant revenue stream to the basketball program.
A proposal to build an arena downtown drew nothing but air in 2008 when cost estimates reached $200 million. An 18,000 seat facility could cost as much as $350 million, planner said.
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Byrne said the initial members of the committee are:
"This will be a long-term look while using our Facility Master Plan as a guide. By bringing together a group of individuals with ties to the Tucson community, we're taking a long hard look at all the challenges we face in working to position our facilities in the top third of the Pac-12," Byrne said.