Fred Glass takes pride in the obvious new attributes of the new and improved Assembly Hall. He took pleasure showing off the freshly renovated Ken Nunn Champions Plaza. He spoke in depth about the massive new jumbotron screens.
However, what the IU Athletics director seemed to enjoy most Thursday as he gave a tour of the new Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall was the little things — the terrazzo floors, the clear acrylic panels and the removal of any blue throughout. Those were the traits Glass reveled in as he explained the renovations. Glass said he wanted this to feel like a complete revamping of the building.
“I didn’t want it to be like a diamond on a cigar band,” he said repeatedly.
This is the Assembly Hall that Glass wanted, and now the $45 million project is nearly complete. Glass and company made a list of the traits they wanted to be incorporated into the new arena once the money was raised. As the plans went further, certain ideas had to be thrown by the wayside.
The core items on the original list all made it, Glass said. They wanted new bathrooms, the jumbotron, better and more comfortable seating, nicer floors and the improved south atrium.
IU was starting to fall behind in facilities, Glass said. He admits the school avoided a disaster when a beam fell from the ceiling before a Feb. 18, 2014, game against Iowa. So the bicentennial campaign to upgrade facilities came at the right time.
The south atrium, called the Ken Nunn Champions Plaza thanks to a $2 million donation from the local lawyer, is what Glass calls the crown jewel of Assembly Hall. It’s the “front yard to our new front door,” Glass said.
The first sight after walking through the entrance is “Indiana” spelled out in large block letters on the ceiling. Workers were still filling the many trophy cases in the lobby as Glass gave the tour holding a large styrofoam Steak ‘n Shake cup. The area is lined with interactive touch screens that take people through IU history and escalators that can take people up the higher floors.
Going up the stairs or escalators in either direction, people can look up to some original Assembly Hall scoreboards that were up from 1983 to 2001. If one walks straight through the lobby, one can look through the clear glass windows that give those entering a straight view of the court and jumbotron.
“It’s bigger, clearer and tighter than the old scoreboard,” Glass said.
The jumbotron has two large screens facing each seating section. The two screens facing the east and west crowds are 552 square feet and the other two are 206 square feet. For comparison, the old scoreboard was 140 square feet.
Starting Monday the south lobby will be open and staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. People can come in and check out the facilities without needing an appointment. It will also be staffed from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for Homecoming.
In terms of functionality, Glass said Assembly Hall has improved disability accessibility and there are much larger bathrooms, including 16 all-gender bathrooms.
There used to be none.
There are no more blue tiles on the floor — Glass mentioned that often. He didn’t like all of the blue seats in the stands and the blue tiles on bathroom floors, so all of those are gone.
Originally, the north lobby wasn’t going to have escalators. Then Glass’ wife, Barbara, asked, “What kind of stupid are you?” She said the north lobby needed them even more than the south because older attendees and donors come from the north more often. Glass listened.
The seats were also redone, now with cushy padding. And despite the addition of the Henke Spirit of ’76 Club above the south student section for hospitality seating for donors, Assembly Hall still seats 17,222 people. It lost about 250 seats, but Glass was quick to mention Michigan lost 1,000 and Illinois lost 1,500 during their renovations.
Add in the Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology that came by way of a $5 million donation, and now IU has greater media capabilities. The center has FreeD technology, green rooms and puts the student information directors in the office so Glass said IU can “tell our story better.” In the halls at court level is the production room that he said makes drastic improvements from what IU had before.
“It’s gone from ‘The Flintstones’ to beyond ‘Star Wars,’” he said.
What made Glass smile was the fact most of the work done in the renovations came from in-house workers. They were people who worked for IU or are local workers. They’ve told him it’s been the thrill of a lifetime working on the building.
Some people weren’t sure if they liked the idea of renovating such a historic building. Lately Glass said those people have been coming to him and saying something different:
“It feels like home.”