Idaho Arena: Our Platform for Success
After About 40 Years on the Drawing Board, Plans Underway To Make Idaho Arena a Reality
With open space that will fill with cheers and Vandals of all eras standing shoulder to shoulder, the Idaho Arena will showcase all that is right about the University of Idaho, Vandals and the state.
“It’s time to have an arena that will establish an identity for Vandals basketball,” said Don Monson, former UI basketball coach who led the team to championships in the early ‘80s. “Fans are hungry to get over the top. There is a need for an arena with good seats, lighting and tradition. When you get to a place where you have an established home-identity, then you really have something.”
The arena will not only be a home for Vandal court sports, but also a gathering space for a variety of events to enhance student life on UI’s residential campus.
The project has been on the drawing board for nearly 50 years. When President Chuck Staben hit campus two years ago, UI Athletic Director Rob Spear introduced him to the project and it quickly became a presidential priority.
“A modern, stand-alone arena is essential for ongoing excellence in basketball and volleyball,” Staben said. “It’s part of the recipe for an exciting campus environment for students and student-athletes.”
The arena also has become a priority for students, led by the enthusiasm of former ASUI President Max Cowan. Under his leadership, in 2015-16, the UI student body agreed to assess a fee against itself to financially support the project.
“The students came together to support this project. We know it can become an integral part of campus life, helping to improve the quality of the student experience,” Cowan said. “Connecting students, alumni and faculty and staff around athletics and other events is a great way to grow Vandal pride.”
“I’m grateful our students share that enthusiasm for the future of Vandal Athletics and our residential campus,” Staben said.
UI’s vision and support of the project has brought donors out of the woodwork. It is the university’s desire for the arena to be constructed using Idaho’s natural, renewable timber resources. Forest industry partners and architects have been quick to show their support of the desire to use engineered wood in the construction. So far, UI fundraising has secured about $15 million of the $30 million project.
Preliminary plans include the arena to be made in large part with wood and wood products. About 70,000-square-feet of space will be encased in wood — a contemporary building technique that blends thousands of years of construction technology with modern desires to use renewable materials.
The arena is also a teaching lab. From the College of Art and Architecture’s Design Lab through the College of Engineering’s civil engineering program to CNR’s renewable materials program, students and faculty members from a variety of programs have the opportunity to get hands-on experience during the design and construction of the facility.
When it’s finished, the university will have a beautiful, sustainable structure for Vandal Athletics. It will be an exciting new site for UI’s basketball and volleyball teams.
“An arena has been a passion of mine since I became director of Athletics, because it is easy to visualize the success that is possible in our court sports with a dedicated facility,” Spear said. “This facility will enhance our ability to recruit quality student-athletes and build on already competitive programs.”
The arena’s current plan will seat 4,700 people, providing a vibrant and intimate experience for fans — a vital part of building a competitive athletic program.
The new facility will be a showpiece for UI’s student-athletes, tell the story of Idaho’s heritage and provide a unique gathering place for generations of Vandals to come.
“Between students, alumni and friends of the university, I’m proud of how we’re coming together as partners to build something special,” Staben said. “This is an investment in Vandal excellence, and a significant statement about what we can achieve when Vandals join together.”