UNF Arena renovations progressing, completion slated for October

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

After roughly six months of construction, renovations to University of North Florida (UNF) Arena are coming along nicely as the Ospreys anxiously await their newly-updated home.

Plans for an updated UNF Arena were revealed by director of athletics Nick Morrow at basketball media day in October of 2021. The main focus was the installation of a Bank of England Hospitality Suite on the Arena’s west end. Morrow sees this project as a stepping stone for future progress, saying, “This will be a catalyst for future fundraising projects.” 

Renderings of new lounge area in hospitality suite.
Renderings for the new suite were revealed at media day, giving fans a look into the future state of UNF Arena. Photo courtesy of UNF athletics.

Luxury seating has been of high priority for many collegiate athletic departments in recent years. These areas offer a place for schools’ wealthier alumni to return to campuses for events and socialize with other boosters. The new space will also serve as a bit of a facelift for a nearly 30-year old venue that has begun to show its age. 

Construction on the hospitality suite.
The Bank of England Hospitality Suite will overlook the west baseline of UNF Arena’s court, behind the basket nearest UNF’s bench. Photo courtesy of Brock Borgeson.

As seen in the photo, there is still a bit of work to be done on the luxury suite before it is ready for use. The area will feature 72 chairback seats, along with a bar and lounge.

Due to construction, UNF volleyball will be without a home for the first bit of their 2022 season. Road games make up much of the early schedule, with four home games being played at rival Jacksonville University’s Swisher Gymnasium. The Ospreys are slated to open up the new-look UNF Arena on October 21 against Jacksonville State University.

Basketball will follow suit, likely in December as the majority of their early schedules— which are yet to be released in full — will see the teams on the road. The combination of an enhanced facility and the largest freshman class in school history should help create quite the gameday environment.

Atmosphere is everything in college basketball. This was seen firsthand by UNF fans as men’s basketball head coach Matthew Driscoll hopped on the microphone following last season’s homecoming win against Florida Gulf Coast. “This is what this place should be like,” Driscoll told a fiery student section following the game.

An empty arena
Liberty Arena’s club seating areas help the venue serve as a host for events other than basketball games, leading to more revenue for the university. Photo courtesy of Liberty University.

New basketball venues are nothing new in the Atlantic Sun (ASUN), with many of the conference’s members prioritizing their most popular sport. One example is Liberty University’s new $65 million home, which opened in 2020. Liberty Arena actually airs on the smaller end when it comes to capacity, but there’s no denying that it is — much like the program itself — the crown jewel of ASUN basketball. 

UNF Arena’s makeover may not foot a $65 million tab, but it will help freshen up the home of the University’s most profitable sport. Plans for renovation have floated around since the Ospreys’ 2015 March Madness run, but these plans will soon be a reality.

In addition to structural changes, the court will be receiving a new look. It’s sure to catch anyone’s eye, as it will feature a gray-stained look with the navy blue border that previously existed. The University partnered with CSI Companies, a local staffing agency, whose logo will appear on the new floor.

New court design featuring a gray floor with navy border.
UNF revealed the new court design in June 2022. Photo courtesy of UNF athletics.

Other additions include a revamped sound system, along with a colorful LED lighting network that will shine down on the new court.

As the excitement of the new school year begins to wane following the opening weeks of classes, a new excitement will return alongside athletic events on campus. Home crowds have been a bit mild in recent years, largely due to COVID-19, but the growing student body and updated facility are sure to make UNF Arena the place to be this season.

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