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Replace or renovate Williams Arena? U of M is looking into it

Minnesota has hired an outside firm to conduct a feasibility study on The Barn.

Should Williams Arena be renovated? Or is a new basketball arena in order?

Those are the questions the University of Minnesota’s athletic department have been grappling with, hiring the architecture and global design firm Populous to conduct a concept evaluation to explore whether a renovation or new construction is the best way to proceed, according to documents obtained by Bring Me The News. The Pioneer Press first reported the news.

Populous was asked late last year to identify pros and cons of a renovation versus a new construction to replace Williams Arena and Maturi Pavilion. The firm was asked to give guidance to the athletic department for next steps as well as preliminary estimates. Populous is considering 20 different factors that impact the experience of student-athletes and fans as well as the ability to generate revenue.

Those factors include perspective on suites and other premium seating, courtside seating, concourse space, locations of concession stands, food storage and seating in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Any renovation is expected to include a reduction in capacity from The Barn’s current 14,625 seats, which the Gophers mostly haven’t come close to filling in recent years.

The firm was also asked to look at the competition floor, the locker rooms, the athletic training and equipment rooms, sound systems, HVAC systems and loading facilities.

Also in consideration is the potential of including volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics competitions in the basketball arena; currently, those events take place at the connected Maturi Pavilion. Populous, which also helped the U with the design process for Huntington Bank Stadium, is evaluating the feasibility of renovating The Barn. 

Populous is conducting a four-phase process that includes an initial weeklong kickoff to review scope of work, tour the facilities and meet with staff familiar with the architectural and engineering systems at the venue. Phase two — expected to last 3-4 weeks — is when the firm will provide conceptual designs in consideration of the objectives of the athletic department.

The third phase will take a week or two and will incorporate feedback based on the concepts presented. Finally, a final phase would also last another week or two and is when Populous would make any additional adjustments and provide its final recommendations, which are expected within the next few months. 

The timetable for any potential renovations or a new construction are unclear.

Based on the Populous study, the university will determine whether or not to perform a more detailed assessment of Williams Arena, which was built in 1928. 

Nebraska's Sam Hoiberg tries to pass around Pharrel Payne

Nebraska guard Sam Hoiberg (1) passes while Minnesota forward Pharrel Payne (21) defends during the first half at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Dec. 6, 2023.