Diddle to be ready for beginning of hoops season

Beth Sewell

With the men’s and women’s basketball seasons just over a month away, Western administrators say Diddle Arena, which has been under construction since April, will be usable for the beginning of the hoops season.

The seats in the arena were covered with half-an-inch of dust Wednesday, and the court was buried beneath a floor cover, steel poles and sawdust. The scene was an indication of some of the delays the project has encountered since it began in April.

But Construction Management director Ed West said the arena will be “playable” when the basketball season begins in November.

“We’re pretty close to schedule,” West said. “We’re going to get a lot more done than we originally planned.”

But some features, including concessions and air-conditioning, may not be available.

“We’re going to be right down to the wire if we have to have air-conditioning in November,” West said. “But we’ve played without air-conditioning before, and if we have to go a few more games, we have to go a few more games.”

Assistant Athletics director Craig Biggs said the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms and some offices will also be unavailable at the beginning of the basketball season.

“We’re behind on some things and ahead on others,” Biggs said. “But we will have everything done, with the exception of an office or two, for the Sun Belt Tournament.”

Biggs said fans will be able to purchase food and drinks during games, even though concession stands will still be under construction. For the mean time, he said, concessions will be sold in the stands. As for the delay on the men’s and women’s locker rooms, the teams will be able to use new locker rooms that have been added to Diddle.

The $28 million arena renovation began in April with minor demolition. In May, the more than 250 employees in Diddle were moved out of the building so the arena could be gutted.

When Diddle is finished in September 2003, the arena will boast a number of features, including four new entrances, two 48-foot scoreboards, 16 luxury boxes and a 36-inch red cloth air duct which will run around the ceiling of the arena providing air and decoration.

The arena will also have a new lighting system. West said the new system is being installed by a company who placed a new system in a Philadelphia arena where World Wrestling Entertainment performed.

“Once we get the computer systems ready, we can unveil the light-shuttering system sometime this season,” West said. “It’s going to be a guarded secret once we figure out what game it is going to be.”

The biggest addition to Diddle is an auxiliary gym behind the arena. The gym will include two basketball courts with an acoustic partition between them.

Biggs said phase two of the arena renovation will begin after the completion of the basketball season. During that time, new seating and flooring will be installed and landscaping on the exterior of the building will be completed.

“We had a lot of overhead work,” Biggs said. “It had to be done this year in order for those things to be done.”

Reach Beth Sewell at [email protected]