GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: Mackey Arena celebrating 50 years

Staff Writer

Extensive renovations to Mackey Arena earlier this decade were meant to extend the life of Purdue’s basketball arena for 50 years.

So as the historic venue celebrates its 50th anniversary, one wonders what the next five decades hold in store for the gym on Northwestern Ave.

According to Al Capitos, Purdue’s assistant athletic director for facilities, no more major projects are planned at Mackey Arena. However, the school keeps a watchul eye on its property on Northwestern Ave.

“It’s constant upkeep,” Capitos said. “It’s still a building and it’s not new anymore. We work with the university, and they walk through the building and give recommendations on everything from the roof to the outer skin to all the mechanical systems. They give us the lifespan of what we have.”

Mackey Arena and Michigan’s Crisler Arena both opened in December 1967, making them the fourth-oldest Big Ten basketball venues. Only Minnesota’s Williams Arena (1928), Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena (1953) and Illinois’ StateFarm Center (1963) are older.

StateFarm Center underwent a major renovation recently, and one is currently underway at Welsh-Ryan.

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Only two of the league’s arena’s have opened since 1998: Maryland’s Xfinity Center (2002) and Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena (2013). Nine of the venues were built prior to 1990.
While those arenas are built to last, programs must continue to modernize their facilities to keep up with recruiting trends and the expectations of their fans.
Purdue did just that with a significant renovation of Mackey Arena from 2009-11. From major changes to the concourse to the addition of the Cardinal Court practice area, that project helped transform modernize Mackey without destroying the aesthetic of nostalgia in the bowl.

Capitos said some HVAC modifications remain, though most of that work was addressed in the 2007 renovation. Purdue is currently exploring ways to repurpose unused office space throughout the building to better meet the needs of various sports who want more access to video and other technology.
Capitos also said fans will notice some exterior changes to both Mackey Arena and Ross-Ade Stadium as early as spring 2018.

Mackey Arena currently has a single marquee near the athletic ticket office off Northwestern Ave. Ross-Ade Stadium does not have signage visible from the main roads nearest the stadium.

“We’re going to add a little bit of flair to the building to set it off a bit as Purdue athletics,” Capitos said.
Mackey Arena will one day reach the end of its lifespan. Unlike schools such as Northwestern — whose adjacency to Chicago has allowed it to use All-State Arena while Welsh-Ryan is renovated this season — there is no suitable secondary venue locally.

At some point, Purdue may need to begin building a replacement venue while it plays its final games in the “House that Mount Built.”

“I think 50 years from now a complete modernization would have to probably occur,” Capitos said. “I think we maxed out the modifications of Mackey — what we’re able to do with the mechanicals.
“You might have to look at a whole new complex. Lambert (Fieldhouse) stayed there and we moved over to Mackey. Who knows? It could be the old Mackey and Lambert’s gone and something else is there.”

Reported by Nathan Baird, Lafayette Journal and Courier.. Distributed via HSPA InfoNet.

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