“It will rival the best arenas in the America East Conference.” These are the words of UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski III prior to the new Retriever Events Center being unveiled in January. With a $90 million investment in state-of-the-art facilities, UMBC has increased their efforts to be seen as more than just an academic school. The building will play host to Retriever basketball and volleyball games, as well as concerts and student engagements.
Successfully building a new Event Center starts with early planning. “I started as Athletic Director in July 2013, and plans were already in place to build it,” explained UMBC Athletics Director Tim Hall. “My role was looking at the drawings and renderings and making sure [the building] had what we needed to have a comprehensive athletic program. We re-conceptualized square footage [for efficiency]. ”
The 172,000 square foot multipurpose facility that seats 6,000 people for concerts and sports events has come a long way since that time. After initial tweaking of the plans, the next step was to get qualified workers to bring the drawings to life.
“We brought [Barton Malow Company as] the general contractor on board and worked very closely with facility [and event management done by Pinnacle] management,” Hall said. He also said that CannonDesign drew the building and Oak View did the event promotion.
Although the Event Center stands on the grounds of a public university and is built with funds from student tuition and fees, campus architect Joe Rexing declined to reveal the specific cost of each infrastructure or contractor. However, in general, it cost about $90 million to complete the project, and from that, $68 million was used for construction, architecture, licensing and fees. Despite the tightness of the labor market in the Mid-Atlantic region and a strict budget, the Event Center was completed on time.
Hall spoke about UMBC’s relationship with Oak View and Pinnacle Venue Services.
“We have had a great relationship with them,” Hall said. “They are very experienced with event management and we are an important client for them. Their customer relations is very good, labor [from them] is attentive and helpful, and the cost is in line with expectations. Pinnacle takes care of ambulances, security and ticket sellers, as well as promoting events. They were chosen because of their experience, ability and relationships with the promoter companies.”
So how will the event center improve fan support for UMBC basketball and volleyball?
“I always say that when you build something new, it’s a tangible sign to the outside communities that you take it seriously,” Hall said. “Division one athletics is important to the university, and it would help the team’s recruiting because it is one of the nicest facilities in the league. [The event center] will be better for fans because of the use of the video board and [because of] the possibility for interaction with the fanbase. We could not do that in the RAC because it is so dated.”
The Event Center is not the last big renovation for UMBC Athletics. In fact, the Event Center is not done just yet. “A few items remain to be completed,” Rexing said. “When weather allows some exterior work and site work will be completed.”
In addition, there are already plans in place to improve the track and lacrosse stadium, as well as add general turf fields for student use. The RAC would also be renovated to exclusively handle student recreation wellness, intramurals and club sports.
Finally, Hall spoke about creating a culture where students like to come to games.
“We (Athletics) want to work closely with the Division of Student Affairs, SEB and SGA to [find ways to] get students more involved in coming to games,” Hall said. “We want to make the games an experience.”