Indiana University Updates Iconic Assembly Hall
Renovations of Assembly Hall at Indiana University in Bloomington will wrap up in time for basketball season, and fans will enjoy an enhanced experience.
"We wanted to create a new front door," says Beth Feickert, Spokesperson in the Office of the Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities at Indiana University.
The University Athletics Department received the largest gift in its history to renovate the hall. Alumna Cindy Simon Skjodt, and her philanthropic organization the Samerian Foundation, donated $40 million in December 2013. Indiana University will rename the building the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall when construction wraps up this fall.
The gift also kicked off the IU Athletics $150 million "Catching Excellence: The Campaign for Indiana University Athletics" capital campaign. Skjodt recalled growing up and attending games with her father, the late Melvin Simon, founder of Simon Property Group. She called the atmosphere in the hall unmatched in college basketball.
"I am thrilled that this project will preserve the best home court advantage in college basketball while also greatly enhancing the total game day experience for every fan, player, coach and visitor," said Fred Glass, Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at the groundbreaking in April 2015.
The men's and women's basketball teams have played in Assembly Hall since the 1971-72 season, welcoming more than 12 million fans. Assembly Hall is regarded as one of the loudest and most intimidating venues in college basketball, according to a university release. Big Ten men's basketball players judged Assembly Hall to be the toughest home arena in the league, according to a 2012 ESPN poll. Concerts and other university events, including IU Bloomington's winter and spring commencements, also are held in the facility.
"The renovation gives a new look to an iconic building," Feickert says. "The building is important to the campus and has a history. This is a way to give it a fresh look and make the fan experience better."
Improvements and Additional Student Space
SmithGroup JJR of Washington, D.C., and CSO Architects of Indianapolis designed the addition and renovation. Eggers & Higgins of New York designed the original building.
Shiel Sexton in Indianapolis began renovating the approximately 17,000-seat arena in April 2015. The project entails creating a new curved front entrance, with glass doors across the front, and a south lobby, with an Athletic Department Hall of Fame display of memorabilia. Fans will be able to search by name to access portraits, photos, bios and videos for each Hall of Fame member. When fans enter from the south side, they will be able to look through a glass curtain wall to see the action on the basketball court.
The work includes building club seating and an event space to accommodate 200 people; refurbishing the seats; upgrading the HVAC, plumbing and electrical; replacing the flooring; upgrading emergency alarms; renovating the concession stands to simultaneously handle more fans; adding escalators and an elevator; updating the restrooms and adding more; and making the building more accessible for people with disabilities. In the seating areas, the railings are being replaced with acrylic panels so no one's view is reduced. Crews will install a new large video board with improved visibility in the balconies and throughout the seating bowl. The project also includes new ticket windows and signage.
In addition to the building renovation project, a broadcast technology center will be added to enhance video production and game day broadcasts. University alumnus Mark Cuban donated $5 million for the Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology, a student-focused center.
Overcoming Construction Obstacles
The university provided the contractor with as-built drawings, but some things had been changed over the years.
"When you are dealing with a building of that age and you are tying new elements into old elements, construction can get tricky and some unforeseen obstacles must be overcome," says Joel Scheele, Project Manager for Shiel Sexton.
Shiel Sexton began work on the inside, including building a temporary arena wall, with waterproofing, on the south end. Crews cut a large opening in the concrete wall and placed temporary bracing and then poured new permanent concrete columns to keep the building structurally sound.
"An aluminum and glass storefront system will be what fills the hole cut in the south arena wall, which will give patrons the capability of looking down onto the court when immediately entering the new south lobby addition," Scheele says.
When basketball season started, crews moved to the outside to avoid disrupting the fans, and then moved back in to finish the inside. Work continued through the relatively mild winter.
"It's gone very well, with the construction scheduled around the basketball season," Feickert explains. "Everyone worked well together."
Scheele considers the demolition portion of the work the most challenging aspect of the project, due to the electrical and mechanical equipment in the basement mechanical room that served the building.
"We had to install a lot of temporary waterproofing protection and shoring to protect the equipment from the elements," Scheele says. "We couldn't afford to risk shutting the building down from some electrical gear getting wet. A lot of strategy and planning went into the successful implementation of these temporary protection measures."
Crews placed plywood and rubber roofing material over the opening to keep things dry below. Shiel Sexton also relocated underground water and sanitary systems on the outside of the building. A new water main will be installed at the west entrance. A pipe chase was installed underground for drainage as well as airflow for the building's heat and air conditioning.
The concrete addition sits on a combination of existing foundations, new foundations and new drilled piers, drilled down to rock, and then concrete was poured to create the foundation. The new south addition structure utilizes a combination of structural steel and cast-in-place concrete beams, columns and slabs. The building's curve and glass faÃ§ade create a dramatic entry. The project remains on schedule to open in October.
"It's an iconic building," Scheele says. "I know there a lot of IU alumni and staff excited about it. It's been a pleasure being part of this project and has been a great experience working with this team and IU."