On the basketball court and off, the University of Richmond’s Robins Center has been buzzing like a beehive — quite literally — as the Spiders near their season’s first home-game tipoff on Nov. 8.
When head coach Chris Mooney and his team started practices in late September, the 40-year-old arena was undergoing a $17 million overhaul. Players taking the court were surrounded by construction crews in the frenzied process of gutting the Robins Center to add a host of amenities. As work machinery whined, clacked and rumbled, Mooney struggled to be heard by his players. The team resorted to putting a wireless microphone on the coach, who was amplified by court-side speakers.
Teams don’t often get to practice their mental game against the kinds of distractions and decibels you might get from having a chip hammer or belt sander in the house. And given the new seating configuration that’s moving more spectators onto the court while taking away space higher up in the arena, the Spiders will have to contend with more noise.
The refurbished center will get its “official” unveiling on Jan. 8, 2014, when UR faces the University of Dayton in a nationally televised Atlantic 10 Conference game.
UR spokesman David Walsh describes the new Robins Center as “more intimate” — it’s losing about 2,000 seats to make way for hospitality suites and huge video displays, among other features. The 7,000 seats that remain took a trip to Michigan and back for new padding and upholstery. “With the smaller capacity, we’ll have more and more home games that do sell out,” Walsh notes.
The university also has taken pains to keep up with ADA regulations by adding elevators to the upper levels of the house as well as some prime seating for fans in wheelchairs.
The four large video displays in the upper corners measure 15 feet by 32 feet — some of the largest on the East Coast. And 40 new LED lights over the court should add a clearer view to the live action for everyone. One might even consider an informal bit of research into the lighting’s effect on the Spiders: Could the men’s and women’s teams see their shooting percentages spike this year?