Take a Sneak Peek of UC’s Fifth Third Arena

By Betsy Ross

Right now, there’s more dust floating around than confetti and more noise from a jackhammer than noise from a sold-out crowd, but with a little imagination, you can begin to see how the renovated on-campus home of University of Cincinnati Bearcats basketball will look like for the opening tip. 

With less than four months to go before the season home basketball opener Wednesday, November 7 against Ohio State, the new-look Fifth Third Arena is slowly taking shape as more of the major pieces are moved into place to get ready for the upcoming season. 

During a media hardhat tour Wednesday, UC Athletic Director Mike Bohn led an informal walk-through of the still-under construction site. The privately funded renovation started immediately after the final horn of the final basketball home game in March 2017, at a cost of $87 million.

The biggest change that fans will immediately notice is that they won’t have to walk up stairs (from the concourse) then walk downstairs into the main bowl—entry is on the concourse level. New restrooms and concessions will be added, along with a number of premium seating and hospitality options including 16 suites and 14 loge boxes. 

“From day one, the vision of this arena was to make the fan experience a premiere experience,” Bohn said, including new video boards, ribbon boards and a scoreboard that altogether will use some seven million LED lights to keep fans informed and entertained. 

Bohn also pointed out the intimate feel of the arena, bringing fans closer to the action. “You’ll see our bleachers come towards the floor, the student section seats on both ends come all the way to the floor. We want fans to feel energy and pride and a sense of spirit in knowing that this building represents one of the top 15 programs of all times.” 

The opening of the arena won’t end the improvements inside, either, according to Bohn. “With the tight timeline we’re on, we anticipate continued improvement as the arena matures and we learn how it operates, very similar to what the Cincinnati Reds did with Great American Ball Park and continue to provide upgrades and improvements.” 

On the student-athlete side, locker rooms will be upgraded with a players’ lounge, theater, dining area, hydro-therapy room and other sports medicine facilities. Classroom space also is included in the new arena. 

Fans already are sold on the new facility: As of this week, 76% of the arena seats are sold out, and nine of the 12 ticket price points also are sold out. That means about 2,000 seats total are available. 

“The arena was 27 years old and technology, video boards, seating opportunities, all those things have improved over time, so it was really a fortuitous alignment of all those different opportunities coming together at the right time for us to put it together,” said Bohn.

“Having our board and our leadership on campus understand the value of having an asset like this, everybody recognizes that it’s valuable and it’s an incredible commitment to our university, to our student-athletes, to our alumni, to the overall community to be able to come in and enjoy the different events that are in here.”