CLIFTON, OH (FOX19) - New projected renovation plans and photos of Fifth Third Arena has been obtained by FOX19 NOW as the University of Cincinnati continues to upgrade its athletic facilities.
"We want to be a national player and we want to play at the highest level," said UC Athletic Director Mike Bohn. "Our inspirations in athletics are to be the class of the league and to be the class of the league we want to have great fans, have great sportsmanship and have great facilities so we can continue to recruit and compete at the highest level."
The pictures show the potential changes to both the inside and outside of the building. Last month, FOX19 NOW showed detailed renderings inside the renovated arena. Any potential changes and renovation projects have to be approved by the University's Board of Trustees.
FOX19 NOW has learned the board is expected to approve the estimated $85 million project in August. Once approved, renovations would likely to start in April of 2016.
"It takes some time to get it right and we have heard very clear direction from our leadership that we want it to be right, we want it to be great and we aren't just going to do some type of renovation and not make it really something special," added Bohn.
UC would move athletic events to an off-site location for one season and return in the fall of 2017. The location is not determined at this time, but FOX19 NOW has learned the athletic department is considering four different local sites: U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati Gardens, NKU's BB&T Arena and Xavier's Cintas Center.
Bohn confirmed more than $10 million has already been raised during the initial "quiet phase" of fundraising.
The University says a design team for the renovation is already under contract, and the 13,176-seat arena is in "dire need" of a major rehabilitation.
The project description says the new seating layout would feature a 360 degree seating bowl, blowing out the retractable seating in the lower level. To accomplish this, the existing stairs, restrooms and concession stands on the main concourse would have to be demolished as part of the renovation.
UC says fans would no longer have to climb a flight of stairs in order to access their seats in the lower bowl, according to the renderings.
"Every seat will be improved - a bigger seat, a more comfortable seat. (It'll be) a better ability to circulate in the building to see friends. The ability to have concessions and restrooms on the upper level. I could go on and on...and that's why we're very, very excited about the concept we're putting together and want to make it as best as possible."
The University says the most significant change would be the creation of an all new upper level concourse featuring restrooms, concessions and retail kiosks for fans located in the upper bowl of the arena. Renderings show the current 500 level UCATS Club would be opened become part of the upper deck concourse. The 600 level UCATS Club would remain enclosed.
Additionally, a "significant portion" of the current upper level bench-type seating will be replaced with chairback seats.
The existing suites on the east side of the arena would be eliminated and become part of the lower level seating, according to the project description.