Boise State plans to enhance the Taco Bell Arena experience

The Broncos hope to upgrade the video board, sound system before next season.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comMarch 3, 2014 

Boise State is hopeful that potential upgrades to Taco Bell Area will benefit its basketball programs during the season. Athletic Director Mark Coyle is also hoping the NCAA Tournament returns to Boise soon, despite Taco Bell Arena’s size (12,240) and lack of modern gadgets. The arena has hosted the NCAAs eight times, the last time in 2009, and won’t again until 2016 at the earliest. “We’d love to host it again. New boards, sound, lighting, that helps, and we want to be part of it,” Coyle said.



    Taco Bell Arena has hosted the NCAA Tournament's preliminary rounds eight times, the most recent in 2009. But it is not among the sites that will host games this year or next.

    Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle hopes potential upgrades to the facility will help it return.

    "One of the first things people asked me when I started (in 2011) was, ‘When is the NCAA Tournament coming back?’” Coyle said. "We want to be in a position where if we get the opportunity, we can take it on."

    The NCAA has chosen more NBA-sized venues to host those games in recent years — six of the eight sites for the second and third rounds this year seat 18,000 or more (Taco Bell Arena seats 12,240). However, empty seats at those big venues don’t make good TV.

    "I think we're just under the capacity requirements, and I've heard discussions they may lax it a little bit to where we could host again," Coyle said.

    Sites for the opening rounds of the 2016-18 tournaments are expected to be announced in November.

— Both Boise State basketball teams will host their regular-season home finales this week. When they return to Taco Bell Arena for the 2014-15 season, fans may see the venue in a new light.

With an outdated video and sound system, especially compared to neighboring Bronco Stadium, Taco Bell Arena is the next frontier for facility improvements. Boise State has received estimates for a new video board, sound system and LED signage courtside and between the first and second levels of the arena.

“We’ve got a list of things we’ve got to focus on, and those are the top,” Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle said. “It’s a priority for us. We definitely want to make some adjustments.”

The video board that hangs above center court was installed at the same time as the sound system — prior to the 2001-02 season.

“You look around our conference, and we’re behind from that standpoint,” Coyle said. “We’ve got to address those things now … Ideally, we’ll have it in place next season.”

A potential hurdle, as usual, is cost.

Coyle said he does not want to take on more debt. The school is trying to pay off the $22 million Bleymaier Football Center and the Stueckle Sky Center, but noted fundraising efforts are under way to help arena upgrades.

Still sorting through estimates, Coyle did not have a specific number on the potential cost, though the No. 2 team in the nation had a similar upgrade prior to this season. Wichita State added 180-square-foot high-definition screens and a new sound system last summer for $1.8 million. Bronco Stadium got a 2,100-square-foot HD screen and new sound for $1.5 million in September.

“It’s doable — we were able to move pretty quickly when we got the go-ahead, and we’re hoping we can do that again,” Coyle said.

Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice’s eyes are fixed on the floor, which is a new one installed this summer, but he is an advocate for a visual upgrade on the screens above him.

“I hope we can keep upgrading it, because it’s a great place to watch a game,” Rice said. “We need to give the fans a better experience, and new screens would absolutely be a big part of that.”

Upgrades like the $3 million Arguinchona Basketball Complex in 2011 and a new floor and signage in the practice gym this winter have been a boost for players. Next is something Coyle hopes helps players, potential players, fans and NCAA Tournament officials.

“We want 18-year-old kids to say ‘yes’ to Boise State, and we’ve done things like build the Arguinchona Complex, upgraded the auxiliary gym,” Coyle said. “Those are some of the behind-the-scenes that help our program that the fans don’t see. I want to make sure we do things that are more visual that help us get those kids and that help our fans.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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