Construction to begin this fall on SLU arena

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Construction will begin in September on a new on-campus sports arena at Saint Louis University, a project that has been delayed by rising construction costs, lagging fundraising, even Hurricane Katrina.

Details of the new 10,600-seat arena were announced Monday. The arena is expected to be complete by March 2008 just off of Interstate 64, on the east side of campus. The project will cost about $80 million.

In 2003, the university announced plans for a $70-million arena that would have seated 13,000. As fundraising efforts fell short and time went on, costs began to skyrocket.

"Particularly after Hurricane Katrina hit, the cost of building materials started going up," arena project manager Jeff Fowler said. "Also, people were contributing to the Red Cross and Hurricane Katrina funds, and rightly so," instead of to the university fundraising campaign.

In December, Fowler said the university revisited the original plan and made changes aimed at keeping the cost manageable. Seating was reduced, but a two-court practice facility, strength and conditioning and sports medicine areas, and offices for the university's athletic department were added. Overall, about 92,000 square feet were pared from the original project.

"In a few short months, the project was completely redesigned," Fowler said. "Most importantly, it's something the university can afford."

Bonds and tax-increment financing will fund construction and will be paid off with revenues generated by the arena, the university said.

Saint Louis University, a Jesuit school with about 11,800 students, does not have a football team. The men's basketball program provides the bulk of support for the athletic budget. Officials expect the on-campus arena to improve game attendance by students and aid in recruitment of athletes.

The men's basketball team has played home games at the Savvis Center, which is also home to the St. Louis Blues and indoor soccer's Steamers, and often hosts shows and concerts, making scheduling of Billikens games difficult.

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