Fans will see a revamped Gentile Arena when the men’s basketball team tips off its season Nov. 10. The Loyola athletics department announced in a press release Nov. 6 that seven new video boards have been installed in the arena.
For the project, Loyola installed three new video boards on the east end of Gentile which will be used for stats and live video. Two new boards were also placed above the tunnels with scores and time. The renovations also included a new media table, a new scorers’ table and 12 55-inch televisions on the concourse so fans at the concession stand can watch a live feed of the game. Gentile also became the first NCAA school to have a “space ring,” a circular screen installed over center court.
While Athletic Director Steve Watson said the project was expensive, he refused to comment on the final cost.
“It’s an expensive project. There’s a lot that goes into this,” Watson said. “It goes back to the institution and the department’s commitment to excellence. … As a department, it’s a logical next step for us to kind of step up and create that top-level Division I experience for our athletes and our fans.”
However, men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser told ESPN Radio that Loyola put $1.4 million into the boards.
The project has been in the making for the last year, according to Tom Sorboro, senior associate athletic director for external operations, and it was done out of necessity as the company who produced the old boards, White Way, went out of business.
“It became increasingly difficult to, as the equipment aged … keep [the old boards] operating at a high level and when they weren’t, get parts and service for them,” Sorboro said. “Initially, it was just a need to fix the existing equipment we had. Then, as we got into conversations with the facilities people and leadership, it just became ‘We’re going to have to do this out of necessity.’”
The company Daktronics built the boards for Gentile Arena, and Sorboro said Director of Video Production Austin Hansen has created content for Daktronics boards before.
“Developing the content has sort of been a group effort, but [Hansen] is the guy who has to produce and edit the video and come up with the graphics and all the things we’re actually going to be using on the boards,” Sorboro said. “He’s the guy who, from a hands-on operation standpoint, is the key guy for our staff in terms of maximizing those boards. ”
Hansen said he got familiar with Daktronics when he was at Tulane University prior to coming to Loyola, and while there weren’t as many boards at Tulane as there are at Loyola, his familiarity with Daktronics has helped simplify the transition.
The $1.4 million cost for the video boards comes in the face of a number of financial roadblocks for Loyola. Wayne Magdziarz, the university’s Chief Financial Officer told The PHOENIX the school will have to reduce salary and benefit costs and raise net tuition revenue in order to avoid a $4 million budget deficit in fiscal year 2021.
It is possible the money for the renovations came from Loyola’s Athletic Fund — a pool of money from donors to Loyola athletics — but the athletics departments refused to release where the money came from.
With his team’s season set to tip off Nov. 10, Moser said the boards will create an atmosphere similar to that of an NBA arena and he can’t wait to see them in action.
“So much of where you’re going with college basketball and pro basketball is you want to create a great atmosphere where people want to come back. You got to have a good product,” Moser said. “Also, it’s the way of life. The atmosphere [and] the surroundings play into it, and the video boards just completely enhance the arena. It brings a modern flare –– the video, the different things at timeouts –– it just can bring an added flare of excitement … I couldn’t be more excited.”
The boards will also be operational for the women’s basketball season, whose home opener is scheduled for Nov. 18. Head coach Kate Achter said she is impressed with how the boards have turned out.
“They’re absolutely incredible. I think … the thing that is most incredible, to me, is how crystal clear they are,” Achter said. “You have your HD TV at home, and you go into the arena and you don’t expect to have that kind of clarity and there it is. It’s like hitting you in the face.”
The new boards were turned on for the Loyola women’s volleyball team’s homestand Nov. 3-4, but had placeholder templates in place. Sorboro said the overall goal is to have them fully operational for the men’s basketball game Nov. 10.