Basketball Arena A Top Priority For Mike Bohn

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

With Nippert Stadium setting the Bearcats on a more sustainable fiscal course for the future everyone acknowledges that finding a more suitable home for the Bearcats basketball teams is a top priority. But what are his options?

From the Enquirer

"I know the importance of a new venue, an improved venue," Bohn said, "and the commitment to the sport as quickly as possible. We want to catch up to the football stadium as quickly as possible."

"It's the total fan experience that we're working on," Bohn said, "the arena, the pre-game opportunities, the egress after games, all those pieces. We're taking a full bore down into all of those different issues to ensure the commitment to basketball is well-represented and fully demonstrated. We have some of the nation's top people helping us work on that."

That Fifth Third Arena is on its last legs is a fact. It was a poorly conceived venue from the start and has not aged gracefully in the 25 years since it opened. In the pecking order of Cincinnati area arena's it probably comes in 4th behind US Bank Arena, Cintas Center and the Bank Of Kentucky Center. Rank them however you want, but Fifth Third is no where near the top.

The place is not without its charms. When the Bearcats are rolling and the house is packed it can be a special place. The problem is that when the crowd is half full it can be a dreary place, and it is generally a dreary place whenever you leave your seat. So, what are Bohn's options?

  • Renovate Fifth Third Arena
  • Move to US Bank Arena
  • Build new Arena at undisclosed location

There is much talk of the Bearcats becoming a primary tenant of a renovated US Bank Arena. That idea has been out there for a while, and it only seems to be gathering steam. Mick Cronin hasn't been super vocal about it in the media, but everyone in the know says that downtown is his preferred option.

Renovating Fifth Third is a popular choice among some because keeping games on campus matters to them. The problem with renovating Fifth Third as a concept is that the return on investment is not going to justify the cost of the project. The Nippert project works because it is creating very lucrative revenue streams that did not exist previously. It when all is said and done, and all the seat licenses and suites are sold football revenues will come very close to doubling.

There is no such windfall that can come from renovating Fifth Third. It already has suites, 16 of them, and it already has club seats. In reconfiguring the layout and building a permanent lower bowl it might be possible to make the existing suites better, or building a club seating section that doesn't hover over the proceedings like the hovercraft in the newest Tron movie. But that's not creating new revenue, its augmenting what already exists, and at a heavy price. I can't imagine a project to make Fifth Third a first class arena coming in at less than 80 or 90 million dollars, which is out of the budget. It can be made a better basketball venue for much less than that by keeping the configuration as is, but with permanent seating in the lower bowl for 40 or 50 million, but that won't work either IMO. Renovating Fifth Third on the cheap is a half measure, just like building Fifth Third as a combination Basketball Arena/Rec Center/Athletic Department Hub was a half measure to start with. It doesn't fix the problem, it just makes it livable for a bit longer.

If the renovation of US Bank Arena plays out as rumored, with the Bearcats pitching in a portion of the renovation, but nothing close to the full amount, and probably less than half if the rumors are true. Nederlander Entertainment the owners of the arena acknowledge that it will cost big money to renovate US Bank to current standards. So long as the Bearcats aren't footing the entire bill themselves I would be perfectly happy to see Basketball move back downtown.

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