Tuesday, September 07, 1999

Cintas Center rising on campus




BY TOM McCANN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[cintas]
Work continues on the Cintas Center at Xavier University. The arena, to include a dining hall and conference center, should be open for the 2000-2001 season.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        As concrete slabs and steel beams finally give some shape to Xavier University's new Cintas Center, Athletic Director Mike Bobinski can't help but feel like a giddy new homeowner.

        “It's finally hitting me that pretty soon, we're finally going to have a place of our own,” he said, “Not someplace we rent for the evening, but a place that belongs to Xavier.”

        Construction of the $44 million center, the future home of the Musketeer men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball teams, is right on schedule.

        The concrete seating-bowl foundation has been poured. The walls and roof should be added by December.

        And the building should be finished by May, in time to host Xavier's graduation ceremony for the Class of 2000, the first graduation held on campus since 1987.

ABOUT THE CENTER
The Cintas Center will be Xavier University's new on-campus arena for basketball. But officials tout it as the only known college arena that also will include student dining and a multipurpose conference center.

Cost: $40 million.

Arena capacity: 10,000.

Uses: Arena will be home to Xavier's men's and women's basketball teams and the women's volleyball team. The center will also have a practice gym, a dining hall seating 450, and a conference center and banquet hall for campus and corporate events.

Estimated completion: May 1.

Source: Xavier University

        “That's going to be the center's kickoff,” said Phil Jones, the center's director. “When they enter in their caps and gowns ... it's going to bring a great sense of pride and ownership.”

        With the arena's 10,000-person capacity, it will be the first time Xavier will be able to stage an event on campus for that many people.

        Mr. Jones wants Cintas Center to be “our own campus living room.”

        Its front doors are 55 feet away the Husman residence hall, and the cafeteria on its west side will feed 450 students three times a day. Mr. Jones plans to hold 12 concerts a year in the arena.

        Xavier's coaches and recruiters hope the facilities will put the school on equal footing with sports competitors when the teams begin their 2000-2001 seasons there.

        “It's going to really boost our program. We're not out of our weight class anymore,” Mr. Bobinski said. “When we bring athletes in to show them around, we used to hustle them past the weight room and the locker room. We've always had a great school to offer, but now we have the creature comforts, too.”

[cintas]
Mike Bobinski, left, athletic director, and Phil Jones, Cintas Center director, stand outside the site.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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        As well as attracting the sought-after athletes, the new arena will play better to TV and hopefully garner more network televised games. Cincinnati Gardens, the Musketeers' home since 1984, is notoriously bad for cameras, Mr. Bobinski said.

        “The new arena is state of the art, with much better lighting and fiber-optic work stations so networks can do production in the studio instead of bringing down trucks.” he said.

        To take care of the expected parking strain of a home arena, the university will add 1,300 parking spaces and ask nearby businesses to allow parking.

        Also, the center's location will tempt more students to go to games instead of having to make the effort to take a shuttle to the Gardens. “It will give students no more excuses not to come out and root for their team,” Mr. Bobinski said.

        Special seating for the center is nearly all sold. A thousand club seats, each costing $1,000 a year plus the cost of basketball tickets, have sold out. Only two of the center's 22 founder suites — at $40,000 a year — are left. The university will begin selling season tickets for the rest of the arena in March.

        But Mr. Jones doesn't want Cintas Center to be known only for athletics. It also has a conference center and banquet hall separated from the arena by a glass wall. They will serve as venues for alumni functions, presidential luncheons and major speaking events.

        Mr. Jones already has 200 events scheduled next year in the center. He even booked several weddings and a 50th wedding anniversary to help pay for the center's operating costs. Soon he will court businesses to hold conventions there.

        “We haven't even begun to tap into this place's potential,” Mr. Jones said.

        And even though the center is still in skeletal form on Xavier's campus, students already see how it will benefit them.

        “It will be a great addition to the school having it right here,” sophomore David Hines said. “In college, you don't have a car and you're too busy to take a bus anywhere. Now we can just walk.”