Originally created 01/04/03

Renovations make Littlejohn nearly brand-new

CLEMSON, S.C. -- From the state-of-the-art weight room to the big-screen television in the home locker rooms to the purple seats with tiny orange paw prints in the end zones, nearly everything is new in Littlejohn Coliseum.

Officials call the $31 million project a renovation, but Project Manager Paul Borick says by the time everything is finished in the fall, the only items remaining from the old coliseum will be some concrete risers and steel superstructure, Borick said.

"It's a nice coliseum for less than $35 million," Borick said. "I think they got a lot of building for the money."

The new Littlejohn opens Sunday night with a game against No. 3 Duke. It's far from finished. Officials aren't even sure they will have the court installed in time for the Tigers to practice Saturday.

Landscaping, sidewalks, a new basketball floor and the installation of 8,500 new seats - purple cloth with orange paw prints - will have to wait until the end of this season.

The new exterior is brick, and glass covers each entrance on the corner, which Borick said was a request from school president James Barker. The concourses are three to four times wider than before, and the coliseum will eventually have twice the number of bathrooms and concession stands.

Fans will also notice improved sight lines. The steep walls in the end zones are gone, with seats rising from just above floor level. That means nearly every fan in the building will be able to see the entire court, and may make the building louder by putting more fans closer to the action, Borick said.

Forward Chris Hobbs noticed the new seating arrangement immediately and can't wait to hear how much noise the students can make on floor-level.

"It's going to be loud. I'll love to hear it in comparison to Cameron Indoor Stadium," said Hobbs of Duke's arena, which is famous for rattling opposing teams with student cheers.

The school built new locker rooms. The visitor lockers, on the arena's third floor, are significantly larger than before.

Clemson's locker rooms, on the second floor, have wood lockers with padded seats. The men's locker room has a purple-covered pool table, while the women's locker room has plush couches, a big-screen television, microwave and refrigerator.

"It's something that not only Clemson, but Clemson basketball needs," coach Larry Shyatt said.

Some of the concession stands and bathrooms won't be open Sunday. Two days before the Duke game, workers were painting hallways and installing water fountains. They'll be kicked out at 10 p.m. Friday so clean up crews can tackle the thick layer of dust that has settled on everything.

Clemson officials were criticized for just renovating Littlejohn while Atlantic Coast Conference teams like Maryland and North Carolina State and in-state rival South Carolina built new arenas that had nearly double the seats of old buildings.

But Borick said the renovated Littlejohn fits the bill for small-town Clemson, because it was two or three times less expensive and the building always will be close to its 10,500-seat capacity.

"We've got a lot more arena than those new guys do," Borick said. "They went for volume, we went for quality."

Work began immediately after Clemson ended last season. Officials worried they wouldn't be able to get into Littlejohn Coliseum at all this season after structural problems were found in the roof. But contractors were able to put on a new roof in six weeks.

The Tigers have been vagabonds since March. With no courts to practice on in the spring and summer, they went to a nearby college. They played their first eight home games in the 5,000-seat Anderson Civic Center.

"It's good to be back and have a place to call your own," guard Edward Scott said.

Along with the renovated coliseum, Clemson also built the Huckabee Annex, which houses a full-size practice court.

"I think we have facilities now that can compare with anybody," Hobbs said.


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