Bradley’s Athletic Complex: ’Breathtaking’

Bradley’s Athletic Complex: ’Breathtaking’

The Journal Star

Bradley Athletics Complex: ’Breathtaking’
By Dave Reynolds

Bradley’s new athletic facility a mix of old school and state of the art

Bradley’s state-of-the-art $50 million athletics palace is, at once, new and old school.

New school technology and comfort coupled with strong nods toward old school designs, traditions and history.

It’s a formula that’s worked well in recent years with modern sports stadiums, particularly baseball parks.

And it should be a big hit with fans of the Braves who may miss the aura of Robertson Memorial Field House, but prefer to forget how drafty/sweltering the old barn usually was. Not to mention its hard, backless bleachers and impossible parking.

Bradley officials showed off their new facility to the media Tuesday, walking through most of 165000 square footage of state-of-the-art eye candy that should vault BU athletics forward exponentially.

“There are a lot of different touches throughout the building that give nods to the Field House,” said BU athletics director Michael Cross. “The top of the building has a domelike structure that reflects the Field House. There’s the archway design in the atrium (and actual hardwood sections from the Field House floor laid in different parts of the new building).

“Heritage Hall (a museum-like room that celebrates the school’s athletic history, complete with Field House artifacts). The lettering font in the entry facade and other places is of the Field House.

“All of these pieces together make this a Bradley facility. It honors Bradley and represents Bradley in a first-class matter.”

Added Shelley Epstein, associate vice president for communications: “The outside look is very similar to the (newly constructed) Markin Center and (under construction) Alumni Center with that graystone academic look.”

The public’s first opportunity to take a peek at the new arena is Aug. 27 when the BU volleyball team hosts a tournament.

But the big day for the general public will be Oct. 15. Building dedication takes place that afternoon followed by facility tours.

Midnight Madness is later that evening when the men’s and women’s basketball teams are unveiled. Jay Leno will be on stage the following night.

“When you walk into this facility for the first time and have an opportunity to see what’s been built here, the word that I would use to describe it is breathtaking,” Cross said.

The 4,200-seat arena, despite astoundingly clear video boards and a well-balanced color scheme, is too small to be considered grandiose in and of itself. It’s the less visible things that give this building its modernistic feel.

Like the well-appointed player lounges and video viewing rooms for the basketball and volleyball teams. And the video cameras installed in the men’s basketball practice wing (controlled by remotes in the video editing room down the hall) that can make a just-completed play accessible on a coach’s nearby laptop in seconds.

Then there’s the cutting-edge underwater treadmill in the training room. And the training room itself, three times the size of its Haussler Hall forerunner.

A large glass-enclosed Braves Club room overlooks the arena court on one corner while a similarly enclosed room with a patio overlook of Main Street encompasses another corner.

The latter, complete with video capability, will be used for pre-game functions, meetings or receptions.

“The facility is a splendid space that will serve as a focal point for this campus and this community for decades to come,” Cross said. “It’s on par with anything that’s out there nationally. We’ve been given a tremendous gift and now we have an obligation to use it to its full potential.”

That will include using the popularity of the men’s basketball team to help prop up ticket sales for other events through a Personal Seat Option plan.

For $1000 per year, a BU fan gets a guaranteed padded courtside seat for all events in the building plus ticket cost.

Besides Midnight Madness, the Red-White scrimmage, a preseason exhibition game and potential postseason tournament contests, a limited number of men’s regular-season games against low-profile opponents will likely be played at the campus facility.

“Negotiations are ongoing (for the expiring contract with the Civic Center, which doesn’t allow regular-season home games to be played elsewhere),” Cross said. “We haven’t yet made the determination whether we’ll play a men’s regular-season game in here. (This year) it could be a Jackson State or an Eastern Illinois or another opponent.”

Whatever is decided, Peorians are in for a big treat when the new facility opens this fall. And Bradley coaches and athletes are already finding out they’re in for a much bigger one.

Dave Reynolds covers Bradley athletics for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3210 or at dreynolds@pjstar.com.

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