Savage RebornWritten by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Brandi Barhite
Toledo Free Press Special Sections Editor
UT’s Savage Hall will debut as John F. Savage Arena and Charles A. Sullivan Athletic Complex on Dec. 3 when fans arrive for the first home men’s basketball game.
“For those who have been there before, it is totally a new facility,” said Chris Ewald, vice president of SSOE Inc., architect for the $30 million project. “Starting from where they enter the building, everything has been enhanced. The direction we were given by the athletic department is that this is about the fan and the student athlete.”
“After 31 years, it was simply time to renovate,” Athletic Director Mike O’Brien said. “We gutted the building. Savage Hall was becoming a tired facility, and so we have been discussing it and we had plenty of studies on it. The best solution was to renovate.”
In addition to men’s basketball, the women’s basketball and volleyball teams will play in the new Savage.
“People are really excited about it,” O’Brien said. “It is what I call the perfect storm. Two new coaches, coupled with the excitement of the new facility.”
Most spectators will come into Savage via the Sullivan Athletic Complex, the multipurpose athletic facility attached to the basketball area on the northwest corner of the building, according to Ewald, project manager.
“When you came into the building before, you walked up a ramp; there was no celebration of arrival,” he said.
With the reconstruction, fans enter on the event level and most people will take the grand staircase or elevator to the concourse level. During their ascension, the stone work and glass will be noticeably different from Savage Hall’s former self.
Fans will take in the landscaping around the building, as well as some new and improved views of the Ottawa River. Once inside the Sullivan Athletic Complex, fans can visit the Varsity ‘T’ Hall of Fame area featuring plaques of nearly 200 former UT student-athletes, coaches and administrators. Souvenirs can be purchased at the Rocket Shop, a full-service apparel store featuring more than 150 different Rocket gift and clothing items.
Ewald said Savage Hall resembled a high school field house more than a college arena. There were no suites, loges, clubs seats or any premium seating. A totally new sound system “will knock the socks off patrons,” he said.
Instead of four separate sections of seats converging on the basketball floor at right angles, the seats are configured in a bowl shape around the court, with courtside seats 3 feet from the sidelines.
We used the space we had and actually carved the space from the existing box,” Ewald said. “It’s all about the fan and athlete. The intention was not to claim square footage.”
Savage Hall was 151,075 square feet, compared to 190,163 now, which includes the addition to Savage and the Sullivan entry.
The Charlie and Nancy Creech Fitness Center is nearly four times larger than the previous Savage weight room and will contain more than 30 pieces of training equipment. Connected to the strength and conditioning center is the Sports Medicine Center, which has two physician’s examination rooms and a rehabilitation area that has two hydrotherapy pools, one of which has an underwater treadmill.
Plans for the project were designed by architectural firms SSOE, Inc. and Ellerbe Becket. SSOE is a Toledo-based firm that previously has worked on many projects on UT’s campus, including the Larimer Building and the Glass Bowl renovation in the early 1990s. Ellerbe Becket, out of Kansas City, Mo., has designed numerous professional and college athletic facilities throughout the country, including Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
“We have had a long and successful history with the university and really felt we could add to the success of the university by being involved,” Ewald said.
“The only similarities between Savage Hall and the new complex
is the name Savage,” he said. “Many of the comments we get, even
before it is complete, always start with ‘wow.’ ”