Renovated Indiana University Basketball Arena to Be Renamed Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall

by Kent Sterling

Assembly Hall's south entrance won't look much like this in 2016 after the completion of the $40 million renovation.

Assembly Hall’s south entrance won’t look much like this in 2016 after the completion of the $40 million renovation.

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.

7 thoughts on “Renovated Indiana University Basketball Arena to Be Renamed Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall

  1. Robert Ashworth

    You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!!! Will still be among the worst designed buildings in history, a fan’s nightmare and light years behind every real power house arena; ie Yum Center, Rupp Arena, Crisler, etc.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Assembly Hall is weird, but it has become iconic. Raising the $300 million needed for a new arena would shelve every other project for a decade, unless Cindy had an extra $260 million in her purse. I think it’s a great solution. Assembly Hall plus Cook Hall entices recruits with history and a modern practice facility.

  2. Pauly Balst

    Good on Cindy Simon Skjodt! What an icon. The only other arena(s) arguably as near and dear to rank and file Hoosier hearts could potentially be the Speedway or Notre Dame Stadium.

    Thank you Cindy!

    As an aside, isn’t Wrigley the original eponymous naming rights deal?

    I’ll say this about Assembly Hall, its spotless, impeccably maintained. You cant justify tearing it down or moving it off campus.

  3. Larry Martin

    100% agree with Robert. The whole place needs to go and this is from a lifelong Hoosier and graduate. Its an embarrassment. We need someplace like Banker’s Life that has the history and the future of Hoosier Hysteria in one place. I appreciate what is happening but its a band aid. I have no problem with renaming either. This is almost 2014.

  4. Pauly Balst

    Fans should encourage Fred Glass to think big (literally) with the video screen. If you think about it, the design is perfect for a massive, thin hi def Cowboys style MF-ing scoreboard running the length of Assembly Hall. Larger than the court. The balcony works better than upper level seats at traditionally designed stadiums at that point.

    The Biggest Scoreboard in Basketball. Period. Nothing less will do.

    I’d much rather have our renovated Assembly Hall with the biggest scoreboard in basketball than the quiet, unintimidating cookie cutter Rupp, Value City, Dean Dome, Breslin, Kohl type arena plus $200mm in our pocket any day.

  5. Rob

    With do respect to Pauly, I hate video boards. Hate them. Fans watching a game or concert on a video board drives me nuts.

    I know, some video screens are impossible not to be sucked into watching. Even if I don’t want to do it, my eyes go to the Pacers video board hundreds of times during a game.

    I believe, and think I am right, that the greatest human experience is sitting in a seat at a basketball game and just taking it in through your eyes and what they can see – and you can feel – without a freakin’ commercial-playing, kiss cam-showing, wholly obnoxious ubiquitous board in my face. At this point, you have to go to a high school or small college game to get the experience.

    I’m all for the facelift at Assembly hall and appreciate the fact that the money will buy an iconic building decades more of life.

    But people watching the video screens instead of the game itself. Hate it. But then again, I hate the balcony too. So maybe a compromise. Just a video screen for the nose bleed seats, which is what Glass said they were kinda doing, though it will surely be a monster screen size.

    Compromise> Give the people at the game a freakin’ screen. But invest a couple bucks of the $40 million to about bring back the old, low camera angle for TV games. Now we’re talking improvement…


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