New-look Assembly Hall is “seriously sweet”

Sunlight sprayed through the windows and into the South lobby where Quinn Buckner was standing inside the newly-renovated Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Buckner, a former Indiana University men’s basketball great and current university trustee, has known this old building, its halls and walls, its creaks and limitations for more than four decades. And at Friday’s dedication ceremony, Buckner was struck by the transformation.

“This is seriously sweet,” Buckner said.

Sweet and sleek, old and new. Indiana basketball fans are in for a treat this season and in years to come.

That’s the message from university brass now that the venerable basketball arena is now open to the public, thanks to a $40 million gift from Indiana alumna and philanthropist Cindy Simon Skjodt.

At the dedication ceremony for the building that now carries her family’s name, Simon-Skjodt called the new look an “iconic masterpiece.”

“When we began this odyssey in 2013, I never dreamed this day would be quite as thrilling (as it is),” Simon-Skjodt said.

After university officials asked fans for their patience during last year’s extensive in-season renovations, the building is now fully prepared to host the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball seasons next month.

IU women’s basketball coach Teri Moren said her team practiced on the arena floor on Thursday afternoon, appreciating how the renovations have kept the traditional feel of the building intact.

Moren also said some of the cosmetic enhancements, including the glass windows along the South lobby and the new 1,500 square foot scoreboard that hangs overhead, only add to the experience.

“Looking up, the natural light that has an opportunity to come in now makes it brighter,” Moren said. “Certainly, looking up at that videoboard is a pretty incredible thing to see, but it still really felt the same as far as for our players and staff. I think that’s one of the things we wanted to keep, and that was the tradition.”

By moving the overflow press seating from the south baseline to the east stands, 98 additional student bleacher seats were able to be created. All told, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said the renovation process eliminated approximately 250 seats in the seating bowl, brining the new capacity to 17,222.

But Glass said similar renovations at Michigan and Illinois in recent years disposed of far more seating than what was lost at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

The new-look arena still has the same old feel, and coupled with the bells and whistles, it continues to feel like home.

“From the start, the goal of this renovation was to preserve the best home-court advantage in college basketball,” Glass said. “As we stand here today, I trust you’ll agree that we’ve not only preserved it, but we have dramatically enhanced it.”