Key elements in place for tournament

Jessica Sasseen

Mother nature hasn’t been kind to Diddle Arena.

Crews have struggled to complete the auxiliary gym, offices, locker rooms, entrances, concession stands and masonry work. This portion was to be completed by March 1 in order to host the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Workers have been unable to finish the brick exterior of Diddle Arena and pour concrete due to the snow and cold temperatures.

“Pretty much everything outside that we wanted done was shot by the weather,” Construction Manager Ed West said.

All four entrances to the building will be accessible during the tournament. Entrance three, the one closest to University Boulevard and the parking structure, will be used for media access only, the other three entrances will be open to the public.

Though the entrances will be open, they will not be water tight, West said.

“If it rains during the tournament, there will be water dripping down in those areas, so that could cause some problems,” West said. “If we have some freezing, we’ll have to make sure we don’t have an icing problem.”

Assistant Athletic Director Craig Biggs said there are still a few bugs to work out inside.

“The fire alarm goes off about every hour, and sometimes the lights work, sometimes they don’t. But that’s just part of the process,” Biggs said. “There haven’t been many problems, except the ones we knew about going in.”

The training and press rooms are open, and the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be moved into their locker rooms by the time the tournament starts, West said.

Brian Fremund, director of athletic media relations, said he was excited about the changes.

“The facility compares favorably with any in the nation, but we haven’t lost the atmosphere or the mystique on the playing floor that makes Diddle Arena one of the toughest places in the country for opponents to play,” he said.

Equipment for the concession stands will also be in operation by the tournament.

“The concession stands are functional but not complete,” said John Osborne, associate vice president of Facilities Management and campus services. “The equipment, including lighting, counters, menu boards, are in, but will go down to the wire on being ready.”

Osborne said the key elements are in place for a successful tournament.

“It’s obvious that the university is going to great lengths that it is making efforts to spruce the place up,” he said.

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