As I reported in March, Georgia Southern University commissioned a feasibility study on a new 6,500 seat basketball facility to replace Hanner Fieldhouse. There’s been no word since as to how that study turned out. But Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein offered us a glimpse in his regular “From the Desk of T.K.” segment last Thursday:
New video boards will be installed into Hanner to replace the old scoreboards. We also will now have video displays on both sides of the court during basketball games. This video enhancement will create a new level of game day atmosphere for volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball that I know fans will enjoy.
Along with the video enhancements, work has already started on the rear auxiliary gym of Hanner Fieldhouse. This work is the beginning process of transforming that gym from an auxiliary gym which is currently shared by academics, both basketballs, and volleyball into a practice facility dedicated to men’s and women’s basketball. This new practice area will allow our players to have a dedicated practice space all year long that can be utilized around their academic schedules. These projects are part of a bigger plan for Hanner that we will be announcing very soon.
We don’t know for sure, but it seems like the university is changing direction. It’s one thing to do small, cosmetic updates to Hanner, that’s happened several times over the years. It’s another thing entirely to announce a “bigger plan” in the works. Probably safe to say that the feasibility study came back negative on the idea of a new 6,500 seat facility.
It certainly makes sense. While a fancy new arena has been a dream for a sizable segment of Eagle Nation for years, the basketball team only draws in the neighborhood of 1,800 fans per game. Unlike football, college basketball attendance is largely driven by the student body and the community that surrounds campus. For a number of reasons, neither has supported the team all that well in recent years. Outside of winter graduation and an occasional concert here and there, Hanner rarely hits capacity.
Not only that, but funding is an issue. For reference, when the University of West Georgia built their 6,500 in 2009, it cost $24.7 million to construct. That kind of money doesn’t just grow on trees. Smart, creative renovations might be the more prudent route.
So we’ll see what Tom Kleinlein comes up with in the coming weeks and months. The video board is much needed. Transforming that auxiliary gym into a real practice facility will help out both basketball teams. I’m no architect so I can’t tell you what to expect with the rest of the renovations. But I am excited to see what a new Hanner might look like.