Artist rendering of Redbird Arena's north entrance and northeast tunnel. This depicts the area near the arena's former U and V Sections. The project is expected to be completed in September 2019.

Redbird Arena is a fixture in Illinois State University’s community, and as a Redbird basketball fan, the renovated seating seems to be something worth the excitement.

ISU’s Athletic Director Larry Lyons was more than thrilled with the progress Redbird Arena has made in its modernization of the lower bowl.

Not only do fans, students and student-athletes benefit from the physical effect of improved seating, it appears that this sort of renovation came at just the right time.

On the cusp of following its NCAA Tournament bid last season, Redbird volleyball fans will be the first to experience the allure of the arena’s novelty.

Looking to attract more people to its fandom, volleyball is in a great position right now to do so, with help from both its sucess and new and improved home court.

This revitalization also comes at a great time for men’s basketball as the team recovers from the ashes of last year’s disappointing season.

Although Lyons says the renovation will be beneficial for more than just sporting events – which it will be – the new Redbird Arena’s impact will more than likely take shape in the form of men’s basketball season tickets.

Picture this, a modernized Redbird Arena donning sections without confusing double letters, knee-pinching seats and nowhere to put your drink.

ISU’s athletic department is installing cupholders in these new lower bowl seats ... come on, that’s an extra step above expectations.

Complementing these bells and whistles – wider seats, new suites and the featured intimacy of stands on the floor – another student section is set to be built on the opposite entrance of the one that already stands.

As far as the new arena’s impact, the athletic department inadvertently is telling students they care about their experience at sporting events, so much so they’re willing to spend $6.2 million on something this lucrative.

However, this is where the students come into play once again.

In a previous column, I suggested that the declining attendance at sporting events, more specifically men’s basketball, is caused by the fact that student tickets are not free – giving broke, college kids more of a reason to not spend their money to see a struggling basketball team.

That could change, though. Maybe this $6.2 million atmosphere augment is rooted in the fact that 50 students sat in the student section per night last season.

That’s neither here nor there now, but as far as driving up attendance rates, I think RBA’s revitalization only solves part of the problem.

Yes, it will look nice. $6.2 million nice. That could be comparable to the construction of the Bone Student Center this past year. If you have ever been inside the newest wing of the Bone Center, it feels like you’re walking into NASA’s headquarters – then seeing that you’ve apparently travelled back in time after walking 30 feet to the other side of the building.

This sort of design mishap could affect Redbird Arena as well if it happens. Its effect on students, fans, visitors and student-athletes will solely be about how the university mixes its old charm with a fresh coat of paint.

Despite possibilities, I’m excited for its completion; I’ve been to dozens of men’s basketball games sitting laptop-clad on press row during my time as sports editor. But, experiencing it as a fan in this new intimate seating arrangement could be what I, and die-hard Redbird fans, are looking for.

Let’s hope this step truly is ‘big’ for students to buy tickets and attend.

JONATHAN BARLAS is Editor in Chief of The Vidette. He can be reached at jgbarla@ilstu.edu. Follow him on Twitter @janveselybarlas.

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