Via the N&O's Andrew Carter
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham is interested in renovations that would modernize the Smith Center and provide more “revenue drivers,” he said during an interview on Saturday.
The UNC men’s basketball team is in 28th season playing at the Smith Center, which opened in 1986. Improvements have been made over the years – a video ribbon board debuted this season, and in recent years the sound and lighting systems were replaced – but the basic interior of the building has largely remained unchanged.
Cunningham said he is interested in adding luxury suites to the Smith Center, which was built before such amenities became commonplace in indoor sports arenas.
“We have suites and club seats in football (at Kenan Stadium) that work,” Cunningham said. “But we have an iconic structure here. You have to be very careful on how you do that. I think we want to make sure that the fans get the experience they expect when they come to a premier place.”
Cunningham said he envisions a renovated Smith Center would include “all the stuff that you would expect.” That could include luxury suites, a modernized concourse and new concession stands and bathrooms.
Okay, show of hands of everyone who heard "28th season playing at the Smith Center" then felt old?
This certainly would be an interesting project since it would have to be done in its entirety between March and November whenever UNC gets around to actually undertaking it. Moving homes for one season to Carmichael Arena is probably not an option since it would result in a massive revenue hit because of the fewer seats. Then again, UNC could buy a couple of extra months by playing the cupcakes of the early schedule in Carmichael and any "big" games like the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Kentucky, Texas, etc could be played in Greensboro.
Obviously the thrust of the renovation would be the addition of luxury suites which some think would open up lower level seating for fans of a more rabid ilk. In other words, kick the more *ahem* seasoned fans up to the suites and allow for more students and in turn a better atmosphere. I have my doubts. UNC would likely continue to rake in gobs of cash from the lower level seats remaining high value Ram Club seats and add the suites on top of that. I would assume the point is to make more money, besides any renovations have to be paid for from somewhere. The selling of the suites will likely be part of that.
As for a timetable, there really isn't one. Cunningham noted that Fetzer Field is a higher priority than the Dean Dome. However given basketball's revenue stream and the fact the Roy Williams era is heading for a conclusion some time in the next 7-10 years, chances are it gets done sooner rather than later. Probably easier to push the project through and raise money while Williams is still in command of the program versus after he has retired.