by Kent Sterling
It was bound to happen eventually as what can be sold will always be sold, but the renaming of Assembly Hall as Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall will allow the most unique arena in college basketball to be upgraded and enhanced in a way that will improve fan and player experience.
The naming rights didn’t come cheap, as Cindy Simon Skjodt will write a check for $40 million that will cover the renovation of a building that is more or less exactly the same as it was 42 years ago when it opened.
There is a new scoreboard and scorer’s table, some trophy cases and pictures that weren’t always there, and a new floor, but the rest is almost exactly as it was during the 1980s when I was a student there.
The name will become a permanent fixture of Assembly once the work is completed, perhaps as early as 2016.
So what with $40 million buy these days?
According to the press release from Indiana Athletics:
Refurbishments of Assembly Hall will focus on improving amenities to enhance the fan experience while preserving the current seat configuration and seating capacity. The south lobby will be restructured with a new entryway and dramatic atrium. Escalators will replace ramps in the south lobby. Throughout the arena, new branding and graphics will be updated to celebrate the tradition and success of IU basketball.
Existing bathrooms and concession stands will be remodeled and new bathrooms will be added. A large state-of-the-art video scoreboard will replace the current bifurcated scoreboard, improving fan experience for all fans in Assembly Hall, especially those sitting in the balcony. Box seat-style seating will be added above the south baseline bleachers and will generate revenue to pay for this seating and to help fund ongoing upkeep of Assembly Hall.
Behind the scenes, Assembly Hall’s HVAC and other infrastructure systems will be updated and a state-of-the-art broadcast technology center will be added to enhance IU Athletics video production and game day broadcasts.
There are fans brought to tears by any change, I suppose because change reminds us of our own mortality, but if anyone can explain to me how this is a bad thing, I’m all ears.
This is a woman who graduated from Indiana in 1980 and sees the preservation and enhancement of a building of which she has great memories as being worth a $40 million check. As a robust thanks, IU is going to put her family name on it. As long as she is cool with that deal, why should anyone else grouse?
Simon Skjodt said of her families relationship with IU and Assembly Hall, “I grew up going to Indiana University games and have great memories of watching basketball games with my father,” said Cindy Simon Skjodt. “The atmosphere in Assembly Hall is truly unmatched anywhere in college basketball.”
“Everyone in our family has enjoyed incredible experiences with Indiana University,” added Simon Skjodt. “We feel fortunate for our IU relationships and it is rewarding to give back. We hope others in Hoosier Nation who are able to do so will also give back to help make the Catching Excellence campaign a success.”
Assembly Hall has morphed in our perception from a bizarre error born of great intentions into to a beloved and iconic building that captures all the memories – good and bad – of a basketball program that has been the chief branding point of Indiana University for more than a half century.
This gift will allow for the arena to be given a facelift, rather than falling so far behind the arc of current stadium science and design that the only rational option is to replace it with something bereft of the shadow of Knight, Buckner, May, Thomas, Dakich, Alford, Cheaney, Guyton, Davis, Sampson, Zeller, Oladipo, and Crean.
People can call a building what they like. If Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts sold the naming rights to Wrigley Field, I would never call it anything but Wrigley Field out of an impossible to break habit and to be a pain in the ass to a profiteer who is resolute in throwing a triple-A team on the field year after year despite the third highest average ticket price in baseball. But I will refer to Assembly Hall and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall because I appreciate an IU grad stroking a check to make an IU icon new.
For those who are steamed Assembly Hall will never be named after Bob Knight, do what Knight should have done when he was in his teens like the rest of us – grow the hell up. He won’t come back to be a part of the fabric of a place that employed him for 29 years despite all the people who ran him out being long gone? That tells me all I need to know about Bob Knight.