Costly Campus Arena

With a projected $213.5 million price tag, the University of Oregon’s proposed 12,500-seat arena could well be the most expensive of its kind ever built, and comes in at well above the $160 million estimate university officials most recently used.

According to The Register-Guard of Eugene, the disparity is accounted for by the cost of land needed for the 400,000-square-foot building. Allan Price, UO’s VP for advancement, told the paper the lower estimate was based on construction costs only.

The proposed venue has been the victim of fits and starts since the project was first shelved three years ago because of its high cost estimates – pegged at $180 million for a larger 14,000-capacity arena at the time. The university wants a replacement for the aging McArthur Court, which lacks modern amenities and other revenue-generating features like private suites, club seats and improved concessions, according to the paper.

"The best-case scenario is we would be able to build an arena that is going to serve the needs of the university for the next 100 years … a facility that’s going to help stabilize the budget of the athletic department and move it from self-supporting to self-sustaining," Price said. "A building like that is not inexpensive."

The Web site of TVA Architects, which is working on the design with Ellerbe Becket, calls the proposed facility a "theater of basketball" that evokes McArthur Court’s history while "addressing present-day needs for safety and modern amenities."

Up to $123 million of the funding needed to build the arena is expected to come from private donors, including Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike. Bonds repaid from arena revenues would contribute another $55 million. A private nonprofit formed by the UO Foundation is expected to build, own and manage the arena.

The proposed arena would be the most costly college arena ever built. The next most expensive campus arena to date is the 15,000-seat John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia, with a construction cost of about $150 million, including a parking garage and new road, according to the Register-Guard.

The city of Louisville, Ky., is planning a $250 million, 22,000-seat downtown arena that will be the home of the University of Louisville basketball teams.