University of Richmond offered media outlets a sneak peek into the future of Spider basketball Thursday, unveiling the $17 million renovations to the Robins Center.

Taking their seats around noon, athletic director Keith Gill, women's head basketball coach Michael Shafer and men's head basketball coach Chris Mooney gave a press conference from the center of the newly polished and painted hardwood floor. The renovations, which began in the spring, have turned the Robins Center into a brighter, fresher and especially louder venue. The deep blue ceiling, in addition to the new rows of floor seating and mammoth television screens occupying each of the four corners of the arena, have the Robins Center ready to host a noisy season opener for the men Nov. 8 against University of Delaware.

"[We wanted] to make sure that coach Mooney and coach Shafer have the best opportunity to get that sixth man or sixth woman involved to really give us that home court advantage," Gill said. He said a more raucous home venue was by no means the only addition.

"We've got four state-of-the-art video boards that are brand-new." he said. "We'll have a live game action now. We'll have replays as well. We'll also have crowd prompts and all the great things that you see going on in college athletics and college basketball venues."

Gill was also pleased to say that throughout the renovations, the Spiders were still able to practice on their home court, on their normal schedule, he said.

Gill also said that although there is not yet an official count on seating capacity, it would be a little over 7,000\0xAD--about 500 more than the school had originally planned. Pre-renovation, the Robins Center could hold a maximum of 9,071 fans. Certain seats had to be removed to fit in the four corner screens, which are placed in the middle of red brick as a tribute to the architectural style of the rest of the campus. However, Gill said the result would be a more intimate feel to the arena, and added that the school had already seen "a pretty significant increase in season ticket sales."

Not all of the renovations are complete, as the university is still working on private boxes and a center-hung LED display. The university hopes to have the Robins Center completely finished by Jan. 18, Richmond's Atlantic-10 Conference home opener against University of Dayton.

The head basketball coaches echoed the excitement that Gill had for the newly renovated Robins Center. "We're really humbled," Mooney said. "We really appreciate and embrace the tradition that is Richmond basketball, and our team, myself, the coaches, the players--we're just humbled to be the first team that's able to play in the new Robins Center."

He also commented on the new student seating section. He said: "I think the most important seating section for any arena is the student section. The student section is in the bleachers, so we're encouraging our students to stand up and cheer."

Shafer repeatedly mentioned how impressed he and his players were with the new arena. "It's like Christmas Day every day they walk in here," he said, referring to gleeful looks on his team's faces. "It's a tribute to the commitment level that goes with our basketball programs here at the University of Richmond. We do things the right way, and we do our best to do it well for our student-athletes."

Shafer said he couldn't wait until the rest of campus was able to enjoy the new-look Robins Center. "We walk in here every day, and we're wowed," he said. "So, for people that haven't been in here yet, I think it's gonna blow them away."

Contact reporter Jacob Steinfield at jacob.steinfield@richmond.edu

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