Cincy arena owner: NCAA wants snazzier locker rooms, might as well tear the whole place down

The NCAA has awarded a round of its 2022 basketball tournament to Cincinnati, for the first time in 30 years. Yay, Cincinnati! But this is conditional on Hamilton County making $200 million in upgrades to its arena. Boo, NCAA! But actually the NCAA’s upgrade demands aren’t that major or costly, it’s just the arena’s owner/operator who’s trying to leverage this into a major upgrade:

U.S. Bank Arena needs to add two locker rooms and greatly expand media space below the seating area if it’s going to host the first- and second-round games, Ray Harris, CEO of Nederlander Entertainment, which operates and is majority owner of the arena, told me on Wednesday…

Harris is shooting to make those changes as part of a planned massive overhaul of U.S. Bank Arena that would likely cost anywhere from $200 million to $350 million, he said.
“We’d certainly advocate the major renovation that addresses what the NCAA needs and provides additional amenities as opposed to losing events,” Harris said. “That’s certainly our hope. We think this is a great time to address all the shortcomings of this facility. It would put Cincinnati on the map to be competitive with all the major cities around us.”

Well, sure, you’d advocate that the city chip in on $200 million to $350 million of upgrades to your arena, rather than just adding two locker rooms and some media space. And what would that greater renovation entail, exactly?

[Harris] said Wednesday that the current plan to prepare for the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball championship includes tearing down the arena and building a new, larger arena in its place.

Okay, then!

Some backstory: Harris has been proposing a major overhaul of the arena for two years now, with the minor snag that he wants the county to help pay for it, and after coughing up big bucks for new stadiums for the Reds and the Bengals, spending nine figures on an arena whose highest-profile tenants is a minor-league hockey team isn’t exactly likely to be a priority. But if it’s about making the NCAA happy, and “putting Cincinnati on the map” — hey, sure, maybe somebody will buy it. Not anyone on the county commission, admittedly — commissioner Todd Portune replied yesterday, “Go do it. It’s your arena. We’ll be happy to help with permits and zoning, but don’t think that the county has a pot of money over here that we’re waiting to make available” — but maybe somebody somewhere.

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5 comments on “Cincy arena owner: NCAA wants snazzier locker rooms, might as well tear the whole place down

  1. I just checked and there not 1 Cincinnati in USA but 2 at lease. I can understand their problem, They don;t want to get confused with another Cincinnati 150 miles away.,+Ohio/Cincinnati,+Indiana/@39.3633542,-86.7439887,8z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x884051b1de3821f9:0x69fb7e8be4c09317!2m2!1d-84.5120196!2d39.1031182!1m5!1m1!1s0x886c460ed4e39fd7:0xff8aaa061ccd66e1!2m2!1d-86.728891!2d39.0200468?hl=en

    1. On my map, there’s no Cincinnati at all. Of course it’s a natural terrain relief map. But still, if the new arena were massive enough, like the size of a small mountain, they’d have to include it.

  2. Cincy plays 3 miles away in a stadium that is in the process of being renovated. Xavier plays 5 miles away in a stadium that was built in 2000. Across the river, all of 7 miles away, Northern Kentucky built a nearly 10,000 seat arena in 2008. It seems to me that this push is about all the other arenas in the area going to be better than his one.

  3. Stadium costs already amount to over 16% of the total county budget. You think they’re excited to see that number go up still further? A quote from another of the county commissioners: “We already own two stadiums. We are full-up on stadiums,”

  4. Darn NCAA rounds always wrenching with great plans. In Cinci, they have to tear down and rebuild to make a suitable arena. In Seattle, the NCAA wants to use the old arena and it would delay a rebuild.

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