The Palumbo is turning a bit more posh.
Duquesne University announced Wednesday a $1.8 million plan to upgrade the interior of the A.J. Palumbo Center, the school's on-campus home to men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball teams and the site of commencement ceremonies and concerts.
Construction began Monday and, according to Duquesne athletic director Greg Amodio, will finish in early September. It includes the installation of chair-back seats from top to bottom on the north side of the arena and replacement of existing treads, risers and chair backs on the lower level of the south side. A custom-designed center-hung Daktronics video board and four lower-level corner scoreboards also will be installed.
The basketball capacity will shrink from 5,358 to 4,406 but will include 560 premium seats between the free-throw lines on both sides of the playing floor.
Such first-class seats have become commonplace on the Division I college basketball scene as a way of creating an additional revenue stream and enticing corporate partners into using the tickets as an entertainment commodity.
"There is no doubt that, in my time here, in my five years here, I have heard numerous times that the corporate-based entities and alums have not had the level of seating that they felt appropriate for business purposes," Amodio said.
Current basketball season ticket-holders soon will receive a mailing from the athletic department explaining the specific seating and pricing structure of the reconfigured arena.
This venture has nothing to do with the university's decision in January to cut four sports (baseball, men's swimming, men's golf and wrestling) at the end of this school year, with funding for the upgrade coming from the university's capital-improvements budget.
While Duquesne's men's team has improved under coach Ron Everhart -- going from 3-24 the season before he arrived (2005-06) to two consecutive postseason tournament appearances -- the facilities upgrade could provide an even greater springboard moving forward.
"The improvements will impact our program by adding to the game-day atmosphere and, at the same time, contribute greatly to our home-court advantage," Everhart said.
"A new-look Palumbo Center will greatly help us in recruiting. This could not come at a better time for our program."
Same goes for women's basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio.
"We have very loyal fans who I know will enjoy the added amenities," she said.
This is the second phase of a three-step Palumbo plan.
In 2006, offices for the men's and women's basketball departments as well as the athletic administrative staff were constructed along with a recruiting suite, a video-breakdown room, a student athlete-only strength and conditioning room and an athletic training room on Palumbo's concourse level at a cost of $2 million.