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Notre Dame Athletics: Home remodeling

Bobby Griffin | Friday, October 6, 2006

When Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White announced the $24.7 million renovation on the current Joyce Center arena Thursday, there were three particularly satisfied faces present to absorb the news.

Because for Irish men’s basketball coach Mike Brey, women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw and volleyball coach Debbie Brown – all three whose teams use the facility for home games – the improvements will not only provide a better atmosphere for fans, but also an additional allure for high school recruits.

“It’s great in recruiting and with some of your young guys in the program … Certainly it’s a recruiting jolt,” Brey said after White’s press conference Thursday. “I think it clearly says, ‘We’re going for it.'”

Like Brey, Brown – whose team finished 30-4 last season with only one loss coming at home – understands the importance of having an attractive facility to show recruits when they visit campus.

“Every improvement that we have helps,” Brown said. “When kids come into the arena … and go, ‘Oh wow,’ it’s a good thing. Every little thing added to the arena will help. Even having video on the scoreboard will help.”

White said specific changes will include new seating in the entire arena – including the replacement of the upper-level bleachers with individual chair back seats. With that change, the arena will be able to fit approximately 9,800 people – down from the 11,418 it currently holds.

It will also feature a 16,500 square foot stadium club/hospitality arena in the south end of the building with premium club seating and a separate entrance from the rest of the arena. The premium club seating will also have private bathrooms and food stands.

McGraw hopes the addition of seat back chairs in the upper level will affect the number of fans the team draws – especially from a season ticket standpoint.

“I think it’s going to impact our program dramatically from coast to coast,” McGraw said. “I think from our fans perspective, our season tickets are capped in the lower bowl. Our fans don’t want to sit in the bleachers.”

The arena’s renovation is the next step for the basketball program, which received new locker rooms and team rooms before the 1999-2000 season, and a remodeling of its coaches’ offices last season.

The only question in Brey’s mind concerns where they will seat the students.

“Strategically moving our students … where do we strategically put our sixth man so it really becomes a home court advantage?” Brey said. “Maybe [we’ll] get our sixth man really on top of the court.”

According to the statement released Thursday by the Notre Dame athletic department , “work on the renovation will begin after the project is fully funded and designed. The University is actively seeking additional contributions.”

But for Brey, regardless of construction, the arena’s redesign is already being used for recruiting purposes. The coach said he has copies of the renderings in his office to show recruits and their families on football weekends to display the “new look that they will play in one day.”

“Big time commitment comes across,” Brey said. “I want the place to become a tough ticket.”