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Adams Center Rises from the Rubble of Renovation to Link UMs Sports Venues
by Cary Shimek
One could sense the weight lifting from Wayne Hogans shoulders. The UM athletics director was giving an alumni group the first public tour of the renovated Adams Center on Homecoming weekend. After four years of planning, sixteen months of construction, and one long season of displaced basketball teams, Hogan was enjoying giving people a glimpse inside the newly revamped forty-six-year-old sports complex. The finish line was in sight.
The first day I was here--in October 1995--the first thing President Dennison said to me was, We need to do something about that field house, Hogan told the alumni amid the final flurry of construction work. Getting this built wasnt easy, but now I think people understand that the wait was worth it. The facilities we have now match up well against anything in the Northwest. We transformed what was really an old gym into a modern arena.
New Best Place
The $14.7 million remodel gives the former Harry Adams Field House a modern look, inside and out, enhancing comfort and convenience for fans while bringing the building up to code for people with disabilities. The center is named for former UM athlete and coach Harry Adams, who had an impressive forty-five-year run as a UM coach --from 1921 to 1966.
The centerpiece of the remodel was a face-lift for the main basketball arena, which now includes 5,500 cushioned, chair-back seats--upholstered in UM maroon--easily accessed by wider aisles. The basic pitch of the arena is altered as well, providing a better view of the action from every seat. The northeast side of the gym still contains 2,000 bleacher seats, giving the place an overall seating capacity of 7,500. Seating can be augmented by folding chairs on the floor for events such as concerts.
The renovation cut seating capacity by a thousand, but Hogan said those seats were situated in remote corners and were nearly unsellable. We decided to sacrifice total seats for comfort, he told the alumni on his tour. I think this place has a nice atmosphere, and the noise level should be pretty intense in here.
A plan for a large central video scoreboard was scrapped in favor of four scoreboards in the corners. A video scoreboard would have been too heavy and expensive.
A Sky View
The redesign wraps concourses around the main arena that feature improved concessions and restroom facilities. Hogan earned a cheer from the group when he said the new center offers six times as many restrooms as the old field house, which should cut down on long lines.
The Adams Center has a virtual plethora of food and beverage choices compared to the single concession area in the old field house. Hogan hopes the enhanced variety, with vendors such as Pizza Hut and Baskin-Robbins, will increase UMs concession profits significantly.
Two Gyms in One
The Adams Center also includes a new private practice facility--large as an aircraft hangar--which is really two gyms in one. Half of this West Auxiliary Gym has a hardwood floor; the other half, a synthetic surface. This new gym is UMs volleyball venue, with seating for 1,200 fans.
Usually about five hundred to a thousand fans attend our volleyball games, Hogan told the group, so this creates a better home-field atmosphere.
He said the center improved UMs athletic offerings in ways not often noticed by the public. The weight room, for example, doubled in size to 8,000 square feet and is equipped with $140,000 in new strength-training equipment. Areas such as locker rooms, dressing rooms, laundry, equipment storage and medical facilities also have been expanded and improved. In addition, the center now includes a new computer-equipped study room for UMs 270 student athletes.
Hogan said parking should be less of a hassle around the Adams Center; a new major entrance was added to the east side of the building, giving people access to that side of the building. And people with disabilities will get around more easily with the addition of two elevators.
The new gym connects through a hallway to the Grizzly Pool. With the connection to the pool, rear entrance and new landscaping tying the Adams Center to the area that includes Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the Recreation Annex and nearby practice fields, the northeast corner of campus has emerged as an integrated venue for athletic activities.
An Economic Boost
Now that the renovation is complete, however, the Adams Center must pay for itself. Hogan said no tax dollars were used for the project, so the sports complex must generate about $1 million in revenue each year to cover the bond payment. He hopes a $1-per-ticket price hike and increased concessions revenue will cover that cost. He expects a quarter of a million people will attend events at the center yearly.
Hogan said the Adams Center should be a big boost for the Missoula-area economy. A recent economic impact survey showed that UM athletic events bring about $27 million into Missoula County every year. The same survey completed ten years ago showed about a $4 million impact. Hogan said completion of UMs Washington-Grizzly Stadium in 1986 was key to the increase, and he expects the remodeling of the Adams Center to have a similar effect.
The sports complex was officially unveiled to the public during an October 29 open house. The first regular-season basketball games and a grand-opening ceremony were held November 19-21. Hogan said the new Adams Center should go a long way toward making up for last season, when construction forced basketball fans to watch the Grizzlies and Lady Griz in a Missoula high school gym.
It was hard for everybody, he said, but I think you can go through a lot of pain and suffering if the end result is ecstasy.
Cary Shimek is a news editor for University Relations and a frequent contributor to the Montanan.
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