U of M assessing options for Williams Arena renovation, new venue

U of M assessing options for Williams Arena renovation, new venue

U of M assessing options for Williams Arena renovation, new venue

One of the oldest sports venues in the country could soon get a facelift or even be replaced.

Documents show that the University of Minnesota has hired international architectural design firm Populous to explore possible renovation ideas for Williams Arena — the home of Gophers basketball — or consider new construction.

The nearly 100-year-old arena, known as “The Barn,” opened back in 1928 and has had major renovations in the past, including a project that installed scoreboards and a sound system before the 2013-14 season. However, the university is looking for ways to further upgrade its basketball facility.

“The (athletics) department would like to consider multiple aspects of the arena which impact the experience of student-athletes and fans and impact their ability to generate revenue through special events,” part of the agreement with Populous states.

According to the $50,000 contract, Populous is to offer perspective on multiple renovated, expanded or new areas of the arena, ranging from enhanced seating options, concourse and concession areas, locker rooms, entertainment systems and the possibility of adding volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics competitions to the arena.

The agreement just calls for Populous to assess the facilities and offer its perspective on the feasibility of such changes.

Conversations about the study between the university and Populous started at least as early as August, according to documents obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Populous has worked on thousands of major projects around the world, including several sports venues. The company’s past projects in Minnesota include Target Field and Allianz Field.

University of Minnesota students who frequently attend games at the arena say it’s a historic and charming atmosphere.

“The only raised court in basketball definitely makes it unique compared to other arenas,” said Adam Johnson.

“Feels wholesome, very inviting,” added Luther McCoy. “It’s been very energized and hype and I feel like it really holds that down.”

When asked about the options to either renovate or replace the facility, Johnson says he would hope the University takes public input. Both students agree there is one thing that they would not want to see go away.

“The floor has to stay, the stadium can change some things but the floor has to stay,” said McCoy.