GODFREY - Doug Stotler couldn’t help but smile. In fact, his grin was nearly ear-to-ear as he showed off the progress on the refurbished River Bend Arena. With good reason.
The George C. Terry River Bend Arena, as it’s officially known, is undergoing a major overhaul. And while the exterior looks pretty much the same except for a new roof, the changes to the interior are nearly overwhelming.
If the last time you were inside it was before this past spring, you’d hardly know the place.
“It’s pretty darned impressive,” said Stotler, the L&C athletic director and men’s basketball coach. “There are so many updates, it’s amazing.”
It’s a $2.48 million project.
Updates to the arena, which opened in 1993, include new offices, new HVAC system, a new roof, waterproofing, training room and weight room.
And then there’s Stotler’s pride and joy, a new hardwood gym floor for his men’s basketball team, the women’s basketball team and women’s volleyball team.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked. “It even sounds wonderful - like a basketball court. There’s nothing like the squeak of basketball shoes on a real wood gym floor.”
It seems you can’t beat that squeak.
Freshly varnished, the floor smells great too - at least for now, since no smelly sneakers have been allowed on it to this point. The varnish on the wooden slats gives off a glow that takes your breath away, with or without the varnish.
The shiny new gym floor replaces the Teraflex synthetic rubber-type surface floor and it’ll be a welcome sight not only for the L&C players, but the opposing teams as well. The entire gym surface has been replaced, including a second court adjacent to the main one.
The previous floor at the River Bend Arena had a rubbery surface that became all the rage in the 80s and 90s for multi-purpose halls. But it quickly wore out its welcome as a gym floor. Gyms across the country slowly but surely began replacing it with good ol’ hardwood floors.
The River Bend Arena replaced the gym in Hatheway Hall as the site of L&C basketball and volleyball contests. The old gym’s still in Hatheway, but it’s now used as a multi-purpose facility. It still has the wooden floor.
While there is considerable work to be completed on the project, the new gym floor is ready. It will be used for the first time Sept. 11 when the L&C volleyball team plays host to Frontier Community College.
While the project is being completed, fans for events in the gym will enter through the rear door of the gym adjacent to the parking lot for the McPike Math and Science Complex.
The lobby, offices and locker rooms are being renovated as well. There will also be a new, larger training room and a weight room near the back of the office area.
The project started in April and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. That meant coaches’ offices and some classrooms were relocated to Wade Hall elsewhere on campus. The Hanks Dental Clinic, which shares the front portion of the building, has remained open throughout the construction and hasn’t been affected.
While the focus is on the shiny and the new, the seating area for fans remains the same and an infamous ceiling-to-floor divider curtain between courts will return. But that shiny new floor is a dramatic step in the right direction.
“After 25 years, we finally got a wood floor,” Stotler said, still smiling. “I can’t wait for our athletes to play on it.”
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