Earlier in the week it was reported that renovations to the Dean Dome have been put on hold. Thevenue has been a staple on the University of North Carolina’s campus since 1986, but rumors of upgrades, or even a relocation, have been floating around for some time. UNC had ample reason to make some changes, but that won’t be happening right now.
The student section begins behind one of the hoops and continues up the section, as opposed to the now popular trend of having these sections surround the court. There are no premium seats or luxury boxes, just 21,750 seats. UNC has taken these issues very seriously and went as far as working with an architectural firm beginning in 2013. It was determined that these additions would require a brand new stadium or the university would have to spend a ton of time and money to revamp the Dean E Smith Center.
Bubba Cunningham spoke with Scout.com about the project, and he seemed to confirm that all their efforts thus far were simply testing the waters about how feasible these renovations were:
Part of the impetus of contacting them and getting some thoughts was, ‘Could we create some premium seating in the Smith Center just like we did in football?’ It would generate more revenue, it would allow us to retire the debt on that project, and it would fund some of the other sports.
He also went on to admit that the NCAA investigation was part of the reason the project has not yet come to fruition:
But given the NCAA issue that we had going on, there just didn’t seem to be an appetite to do that. So we put that on the back burner and just went full-speed ahead with the Olympic sport project.”
There are many different projects currently in the works for UNC’s athletic complexes, including a new practice complex for UNC football, a new soccer/lacrosse stadium, and a new track and field complex. These projects should be wrapped up by 2018, when the Dean Dome will enter the University’s crosshairs. Cunningham went on to say:
“Once the Olympic sport project is over, I think we could turn our attention to the Smith Center,” he said. “That’s probably five to seven years away.”
If renovations to the current structure are deemed too costly or too difficult, an off campus stadium is not completely out of the question. Cunningham has also acknowledged the issues, and the athletic department will continue to provide small upgrades where they can:
“We know our public space is a bit dated,” Cunningham said. “We don’t have premium space. If we can figure out ways to enhance that in the next couple of years, we’ll do that, whether it’s temporary or tents or things. We’ve tested a few other things. We’ll continue to look at ways to enhance the experience.”
The University of North Carolina’s athletic department truly is second to none. The updates to Kenan Stadium have been great, and I’m sure we will see the same on the products currently in progress.
Once UNC is primarily focused on the basketball program, I am sure they will end up with something that is state-of-the-art and an amazing experience. The Dean Dome is still a great place to watch college hoops, but even more of a home court advantage certainly wouldn’t hurt the Heels.