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Cassell Coliseum due for much needed upgrades

By Justin Cates | April 24
Cassell Coliseum due for much needed upgrades
Image Courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics.

One of the key projects in Virginia Tech's newly announced "Reach For Excellence" campaign is a $75 million renovation of Cassell Coliseum.

The overall funding campaign looks to infuse $400 million into Tech athletics. This will help cover coaching and staffing costs as well as capital improvements such as Cassell.

Opened in 1962, the Hokies have enjoyed one of the unique home court advantages in college basketball for nearly 60 seasons thanks to the Coliseum.

Cassell Coliseum 1964
Cassell in 1964. The Bugle (the Virginia Tech Yearbook).

The facility is named for the Virginia Tech administrator of the same name, Stuart K. Cassell whose bronze head resides inside the Washington Street entrance to the building. He was instrumental in gaining funding for what was originally known as the VPI Coliseum. It was renamed in his honor in 1977.

A number of largely cosmetic changes have been seen in Cassell over the recent years, from new lighting and sound systems to video boards and minor additions to the concourses. They also redid the classic wooden seats moving to a padded maroon version. These are far more in depth than even that. It's hardcore structural change to the building inside and out.

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Courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics.

The drawings released Tuesday show a remarkable balance between maintaining the building's tradition while upgrading for the longterm future.

Keeping the iconic arches and even highlighting them with new architectural features is a master stroke. Using glass modernizes but allows us to see in and out in ways we couldn't previously. Having so much natural light during day games presents an interesting new variable as well.

Expanding the concourses, adding concessions, bathrooms, and club areas will make a world of difference to the game day experience while hopefully enhancing revenue.

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Courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics.

In some ways, the new designs are reminiscent of a space age field house. The natural light could be a bit like Butler's refurbished arena which hosted NCAA Tournament games this past year including the Hokies.

Butler image
Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse. Image courtesy of Turner Construction.

Whit Babcock and Dr. Sands appear committed to making some big changes which will help long after both men are no longer calling the shots in Blacksburg. Tech's AD says he hopes to begin construction on Cassell within "4-5 years" and doesn't anticipate the teams being out of the arena during their seasons.

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Clemson played games at a local civic center while Littlejohn Coliseum underwent its own massive modernizing a few years back. A similar arrangement for Tech with The Berglund Center in Roanoke has been mentioned as a possibility if necessary.

In addition to Tech's men's and women's basketball teams the coliseum plays host to volleyball and wrestling.

The lofty funding goals remain a long way in the future. Still, the news comes as a nice boost to a fanbase that has been rather morose for some time now due to the, 'football situation'.

Despite that, many programs are doing well and in some cases as well as they've ever done. This theoretical cash infusion won't fix everything on the football side, but it will help considerably.

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Courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics.

Many questions remain. Will corporate naming rights become a factor in facilities upgrades? Will the current coaching staffs even be around to reap the rewards of this push? How will the landscape of college sports continue to change in the coming years?

That's a lot to consider for a very busy athletic department. Importantly, the coming years at Tech now have a vision, putting to rest one of the primary complaints lobbied against the Babcock regime.

The Hokies now aim to be in the top third of ACC schools in donations. The efforts of the Drive for 25 have helped, but more is needed.

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The initial ideas are a great starting point, particularly on the Cassell front. It would be nice to see reality stay fairly true to the guideposts in place on that.

And if you want to see very particular changes to the plans? I'm sure the right folks would be willing to listen once you've made a generous financial contribution to Tech's massive new capital campaign.

Justin Cates

Justin Cates

My Dad graduated from Tech in 1981 and I’ve been attending Virginia Tech sporting events since I first moved to Blacksburg in 1988. I myself graduated in 2008 with a Communication degree. During my time as a student I was the Sports Director for WUVT and helped establish and run Planet Blacksburg, an independent student-run news website. I’ve since written for numerous publications including SBNation, Inside The ACC, and Sports Illustrated's AllHokies. Currently, I host The Justin Cates Show in addition to other contributions here at Sons of Saturday and various other sites as the need arises. I now live in a fortified compound in upstate New York with my wife and numerous animals. The smell of popcorn makes me think of Cassell.

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