IRVING, Texas — Baylor athletics is exploring major athletic facility upgrades, including a project involving the Ferrell Center.
The Ferrell Center, which is home to both Baylor basketball and volleyball programs, is the university’s oldest athletic facility. Athletic department officials are considering whether to renovate the 30-year-old facility or build a new one.
“Some universities have gone in and done remodeling to where it looks completely different,” Baylor president Linda Livingstone said. “Some have done new facilities. It’s certainly one of the elements of our [strategic] plan.”
Several comparable programs have undertaken major renovations to their basketball arenas in recent years. TCU’s upgrades at Schollmaier Arena helped turn the venue into one of the best in the Big 12. SMU upgraded Moody Coliseum, which helped transform the program into one of the state’s best.
Officials estimated renovations would cost approximately $75-80 million and constructing a new arena would cost at least $50 million more. Fundraising will ultimately determine which direction the university chooses to go. However, Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades emphasized any renovations or upgrades would be significant.
“Anytime anyone hears renovation, I’m not sure how enthusiastic they are,” Rhoades said. “If we went that route, we would certainly want to do it where when you walk into the arena, you don’t even recognize it, where it looks like a brand new arena.”
The estimated price tag seems to support that position. Moody Coliseum’s facelift cost $47 million. The bill for Schollmaier Arena’s upgrade came in at $72 million. Any Baylor project would likely cost more than either. Rhoades also noted that any changes – whether renovation or building new – would almost certainly include downsizing the current facility’s 10,284-seat capacity.
While both Baylor men’s and women’s basketball programs are major draws, both struggle to consistently fill the arena. Even during Baylor women’s basketball’s heyday, the team averaged about 9,100 fans. TCU and SMU also downsized their respective arenas during renovations.
Basketball coaches Scott Drew and Kim Mulkey are among the most successful coaches at the university. Mulkey led the Lady Bears to a pair of national championships, while Drew has a pair of Elite Eights to his name.
“Those are two very successful coaches and two very important programs for us because of the national exposure that they give us,” Rhoades said. “As we look to the future, that’s an area we have to invest in.”
Other major upgrades
In addition to the Ferrell Center, the strategic plan calls for three other major facility upgrades.
The university hopes to build a facility to house both the volleyball and acrobatics and tumbling teams. If the Ferrell Center is renovated, the university could build a 2,500-seat add-on to the arena for both teams to use for practice and competitions. Under the new arena option, the add-on would likely be a practice facility. Both teams practice at Marrs McLean Gym on campus.
Baylor is also proposing a new football operations facility that would house the staff. When the football staff moves out of its current home, the Simpson Athletic Complex, Rhoades plans to repurpose that facility.
“We would really turn that into something special for all of our Olympics sports,” Rhoades said. “We would expand our student-athlete development area and our academic space, because it’s really crowded right now.”
Baylor is still in the exploratory phase for all of the facility upgrades. However, the athletic department has a green light to start fundraising. Livingstone estimates that it will be a few years before any of the projects come to fruition.