Nov 12, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats forward Justin Jackson (5) beats North Carolina State Wolfpack forward Kyle Washington (32) at the tipoff at Fifth Third Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Will Cincinnati's Fifth Third Arena Renovation Plans Be Complete By End Of May?

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The Fifth Third Arena v. US Bank Arena debate has been raging in Cincinnati’s fanbase for months now but recent events suggest the school might be close to selecting a venue. In mid-April, Cliff Peale at the Enquirer dropped all sorts of details on UC’s intentions for a renovated on campus arena:

  • Reducing capacity to 10,000
  • Replacing roll-away bleachers with chairback seats
  • Pared down, cheaper version of original $107 million gutting

Now a recently published, somewhat related Enquirer article regarding Cincinnati pulling out of the race to host the Republican National Convention because US Bank Arena is a bass ackwards place to watch anything suggests UC is moving closer to keeping Bearcats basketball on campus.

Nederlander’s Harris has made no secret he wants the Bearcats to move in. Some Downtown leaders and big donors continue to hope that UC would do that, sparking a major renovation. But that possibility is fading. UC is concentrating now on a plan to renovate the on-campus Fifth Third Arena, taking out as many as 3,000 seats, improving sight lines and making all seats permanent. Campus architects said they hoped to create such a plan by the end of May.

Also this.

Athletic Director Mike Bohn said he has yet to see a formal proposal from the owners of U.S. Bank Arena.

“We’re trying to figure out what our best option is,” Bohn said.

Those snippets combined lead me to believe that 1) Nederlander is all talk about renovating US Bank Arena (especially after their hilariously small proposed contribution) and 2) UC is more than willing to move ahead with 5/3rd Arena no matter how much other parties are dragging their feet.

It’s a bold decision by Cincinnati but one that the basketball program and all of Bearcats athletics desperately need to make. One could argue that this is more posturing by UC to get a good deal in any situation that would require them to play downtown but the fact that Nederlander hasn’t even presented the school with plans leads me to believe we’re that much closer to keeping the team in Clifton. Ono and Bohn just can’t wait any longer and quite frankly I don’t blame them.

For the record, I’m still in the camp that moving to a fully renovated US Bank Arena is better for the program and the city long term. However if the owners can’t even get to the planning stage for construction and evidence suggests they only want to front a fraction of the final bill, I’m very much OK with UC moving forward with Fifth Third Arena. Hopefully the renderings for the Bearcats’ on campus basketball venue are as stunning as those on the football side.

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