Assembly Hall isn’t going anywhere, AD Fred Glass says

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Fred Glass knows how the script goes.

From growing up in the Indianapolis area, to now as Indiana’s athletics director, Glass would watch the same scene play out over and over, year after year: Opponents would enter Assembly Hall optimistic, maybe even confident, and then after looking up at the wall of 17,400-plus fans clad in cream and crimson “going absolutely crazy,” they cringe. They unravel.

In a world of college basketball that has become increasingly known for its games being played in multi-purpose arenas, Indiana’s Assembly Hall is becoming the anomaly. Since the 1971-1972 season, the building has been home to three national champions. The tradition, the history, even the angle of the building’s seating in relation to the court, is exactly what makes Assembly Hall different from any other college basketball venue. And for Glass, being far from the norm is exactly what he wants.

“When the lights come on, Gus Johnson doesn’t need to say you’re in Assembly Hall,” Glass told Inside the Hall in an interview in his office at Memorial Stadium earlier this week. “You know you’re in Assembly Hall.”

But for a building that has been around for more than 40 years, it has flaws. The steps are at different lengths. Not all the seating is considered “premier.” A segment of fans want the building torn down and replaced with a new, state-of-the-art arena. That’s not happening, Glass said. But he is quick to admit Assembly Hall needs renovations, especially to make it more “fan-friendly.” He is ready to lead that effort.

“I really try to never go to the bathroom there if I can because the restrooms there are so nasty,” Glass said. “We just need to do better with that sort of thing.”

Some of those improvements, which Glass said will include the concourse and the overall environment of the building, will be made as part of IU’s major fundraising campaign for its upcoming bicentennial in 2020. Though IU’s athletic department has not definitively selected which projects they will pursue, one or more Assembly Hall renovations are at the top of the wish list.

An announcement could come as early as the end of the calendar year.

“I think we need to do some things to improve it as a venue,” Glass said. “But not anything that would dramatically change the bowl or the essence of the place.”

Still, there are those who want Assembly Hall replaced with a modern arena to compete with the improved facilities of other teams. Glass said that he believes the addition of Cook Hall, a modern training facility with its own “bells and whistles,” extends the life of its neighboring arena but if that’s not enough, the amount of money it would take to build a new “Assembly Hall” would be just an unreasonable amount.

A rebuilding project that would satisfy IU’s wants would cost around $300 million. And though that money could be earned through commercial naming rights, University policy does not allow corporate sponsors to name campus buildings. Yes, IU could pursue the private donor route, but Glass believes that is simply unreasonable due to such a high cost.

“That would suck the oxygen out of everything else we’re trying to do. I mean, that’s just a crazy amount of money to raise,” Glass said. “We could probably raise it, but everything else would sort of stop while we’d do that. I don’t know how long that would take.”

And then, Glass refers back to the environment and history of Assembly Hall. It’s the building in which fans have reached noise levels of 116 decibels, louder than sandblasting or even a rock concert. It’s where teams ranked No. 1 have come to lose in each of the past two seasons. It’s where Glass grew up watching Indiana basketball play. It’s where his four kids have had the chance to watch Indiana basketball.

You can make an argument, but for Glass, there’s no decision to be made.

“I personally think tearing down or replacing Assembly Hall is the wrong thing to do,” Glass said. “One, because it would be so unbelievably costly, and two, because it would by definition, change what right now is a really terrific venue that is different from any place else and gives us that competitive advantage.”

  • Ole Man

    The place is loud, good teams and bad:
    Because of the passion of Indiana fans
    Because of the built in acoustics of the “bowl shape”.

  • marcusgresham

    I love Indiana, but don’t disparage him for pointing out all the things Tom Jurich has done. It seems like every sport at U of L has a new facility.

  • PDXHoosier

    What a terrible, terrible idea

  • marcusgresham

    If it were previous IU football teams I’d counter with “at least SOMEONE is using the end zone in Memorial Stadium.”

  • marcusgresham

    …but the Yum! Center isn’t owned by U of L; they’re just a tenant.

  • marcusgresham

    Well, then they took it in both holes because the football stadium is named for the crappiest pizza in America.

  • marcusgresham

    “Chicken” is a damn big word for UK fans to spell.

  • AJ_IU_ColtsFan

    Seriously? You think I was saying “Take away from the basketball nature in order to accommodate secondary functions”? No, and please don’t read extremism into my post. I was saying that multiuse functionality has to be taken into account when upgrading the facility. There is zero contradiction between keeping the essential nature of Assembly Hall as a basketball temple and improving interior design in order to allow for better secondary use.

  • Kevin Tolliver

    I will agree there are a lot of terrible seats, but I would rather go to the game up in the upper main level corner where I can’t hear the PA or see the scoreboard than stay at home and watch it on TV. Yes I’ve sat there before and it is awful but I’ll tell you I sat in that awful upper corner for the IU / Mich game back in 1989 and except for the IU UK game in 2012 I’ve never had a better sporting venue experience in my life. ( yes i’ve been to a lot of other arenas.) AH was LOUD when that shot dropped. I enjoyed just looking down amoung all the fans watching them enjoy the game… that in itself was something I will always remember. Sorry I didnt mean to go down memory lane there.

  • IUMIKE1

    Well put. It wouldn’t hurt anything to just look at some different layouts and if there isn’t one that jumps out at almost anyone that looks at it then renovate, and if it does, look into building it further. Something tells me that if the businesses that were asked to submit examples was told that incorporating the main things that makes Assembly Hall THE AH is of paramount importance and the only chance a new venue has of being built is if it is built that way they would go the extra mile to make sure that those features were for sure included in their layout. And yes I realize you can’t build the memories into ANY new venue but incorporating all the good stuff from the present AH and adding new memories in a new AH would be a win win. All those great memories, and I have more than one or two myself, aren’t all of a sudden erased from everyone’s memory just because something newer and nicer is built to replace it. JMO, but let the down votes begin anyway.

  • IUMIKE1

    Other end of the spectrum, mid 50′s and I understand as well.

  • IUMIKE1

    LOL ! Instant mental picture of a toothless inbred scratching his or her head trying their best to figure out how to spell it, or better yet some inbred pUKe fans that I know doing exactly that.

  • HoosierDavey

    While Lucas Oil and Banker’s Life are fabulous facilities, they are not as loud as their predecessors. New, comfy venues seem to sacrifice the loudness advantage of an older venue. Is it worth it? I don’t know for sure. But it sure is awesome when it’s so loud in an arena that it obviously rattles the visiting team.

  • yimyames

    They should care, at least the ones that work should. They are helping pay for it with taxes.

  • yimyames

    I realize this, and if the owner can’t make it work then the Cards are either gonna pay more (which they have already started to do) or they are gonna be looking for another place to play. Just pointing out that it’s not as simple as making a “bold move”.

  • Eric Arnold

    The reason there will never be another place like AH to watch a basketball game is that nobody in their right mind would ever, ever, not in a million years build such a dysfunctional facility ever again.

  • Eric Arnold

    AH is not Wrigley Field or Cameron Indoor. Its only a little over 40 years old so let’s drop all the tradition nonsense. The only thing traditional about it is the fans absolute passion for the game and the team and the programs dedication to doing things the right way.

    I get it, the players and coaches won three national championships but every single recruit we are going after was born at least 8 years after we won our last championship with a team that played there. Corporate sponsors could care even less so. Without top 5 recruiting classes and corporate $$$ to pay the ever growing salary bill for top notch coaches we are going to fall even further behind today’s blue blood programs – news flash, Louisville passed up some time ago while we spent a decade in the Wilderness getting our coaching situation straightened out. You can continue to pretend that new facilities don’t matter to recruits or if they do, that we don’t need those kind of kids (news flash – your wrong on both counts). You can pretend that corporate $$$ don’t matter but when CTC leaves for whatever reason and we can’t land a good coach because we don’t have the $$$ to get someone here, you’ll be scratching your head and asking why he went to UNLV or Ohio State or even Purdue which just did a $90 million renovation of Mackey.

    I’ve seen two nationally televised games where the producers have stuck cameras in seats to show the national audience just how horrible the sight lines are. Plus I hate to burst people’s bubbles, AH doesn’t own the market on loud or intimidating and to think that architects couldn’t come up with something that’s both remotely functional and loud is really not giving those kind of folks much credit. Other than seeing a team I love and the passion the crowd, AH is absolutely the worst major sports venue I’ve been to since old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and guess what, there were tons of people who didn’t want to see Memorial Stadium go either because those teams had won three World Series playing there. But guess what, they got Camden Yards which set the standard for being both new AND traditional.

    Tradition can be a great thing but traditions that don’t drive an organization forward or make it stronger can, in the long run, destroy the very thing they portend to protect. Let’s face it, despite a pretty good two years of BB by the team, IU is not what it used to be. Its not a national brand the way Duke, UNC, Kansas and even Louisville are today. I think that without a replacement or a renovation that is nearly expensive as a renovation, we are going to fall even further behind. Maybe not today but 20 years from now after we still haven’t won a championship, maybe not even a Final 4, we’ll all be wondering what could have happened if we had the courage to let go of AH and see if we can’t build something just as special yet relative to today’s college basketball player and fan.

  • edrewarnold

    Kevin – I think you are very much alone in this opinion. I don’t know of many people other than season ticket holders hoping for better seats years down the road or those with just too much money in their pockets and this was the best scalp they could get would rather do that than stay at home with their 60″ HDTV and save the 30 minute trek to concessions or a bathroom at AH. AH just plain blow chunks from a gameday experience standpoint. What you love about it are the fans and the team, not the building. Lets be honest with ourselves. Glass is still trying to recover some of the youth magic in the bottle. He is stuck in the past. Every building project that he gets credit for except the academic center and scoreboards was started by Greenspan.

  • dirk

    Corporate sponsorships not allowed on university buildings a show stopper…..hmmm for a supposed big shot lawyer with lots of sports experience I am sure workarounds abound if we are willing to pursue them. Example – University leases the property to a group of investors who then build the arena and sell the naming rights. IU then pay ownership group for use of the arena from ticket proceeds, increased concessions, advertising, etc plus the extra 3-5,000 tickets sold. Or state of Indiana owns the building. Or Cuban. Come on, the opportunity is there is we want to take it. Didn’t university almost just sell every single parking spot on campus for 99 years? Bottom line, Glass still wants to capture some of that youthful 22 year old undergraduate magic in a bottle. He is stuck in the past and if we are not careful, IU is going to lose its tenuous grip on being a true basketball blue blood. Duke and Kansas get away with old arenas because unlike assembly hall those can and have been economically upgraded. Assembly Hall is suck an architectural basket case, it can’t. Hey Fred, the reason people know their in assembly hall isn’t a good one – nobody is their right mind would ever, ever, not in a million years go that route ever again. Hey, that’s a point. If the design is so, so great why are their not more like it? Food for thought.

  • Dee McDonald

    We need to think of a new arena from the fans perspective. The problem with new arenas everywhere else is they’re thinking about revenue (reasonably so to pay for the monstrosity) & recruiting/publicity/corporate dollars. If we build/renovate, we need our #1 priority to be staying true to the original Assembly Hall… I’m convinced it could/can be done with the right perspective and architect. That’s just my 2 cents.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Nobody in there right mind would tear it down either. In today’s world of remarkable engineering anything is possible with the renovations.

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Exactly sir

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Any change regarding our football team makes buzz. They have to break the mold out of necessity. The basketball team doesn’t. I think most people that were positive about the changes to the football uniforms were just relieved that they didn’t bring back the black and red oval I U logo. That part of IU history makes me sick to my stomach. When I see that gear STILL being worn makes me cringe. Randle El is the only thing I think about positively during that era.

  • IUMIKE1

    Was it favorable or unfavorable ? Sorry not gonna pay $ 5.95 just to find out.

  • IUMIKE1

    Agree. Just about anything is possible these days when it comes to giving a building a major face lift but, one has to look at what the, ” correct & necessary ” renovations would cost and if it’s going to be a large portion of what a whole new building, done the way we are talking about doing it, is going to cost if it wouldn’t just make more sense to go that route. As with so many other things the devil is in the details and dollars.

  • jmfriedman

    Go sit in the balcony for a game and let me know how that goes for you….

  • jmfriedman

    I’m sure a new arena would be no factor at all for any kid getting recruited…… Not one kid we recruit, or Duke for that matter, cares where he will play his college hoops. Thanks for clearing that up

  • Ole Man

    ed….AH doesn’t blow chunks; and except for you and a few others who don’t get it, the majority posting here share an opinion similar to Kevin’s.
    Tell ya what:
    Move to Louisville and start going to the Yum Center.
    That’s more suited for fans such as you.

  • Ole Man

    It wasn’t dysfunctional when they built it.

  • Ole Man

    Take your loyalties to Louisville and the Yum Center. That’s more your style.
    And you’re wrong about both Duke and Kansas. A little research would demonstrate that fact.

  • Jay Matthews

    If you played in a mudhole it would give you a competitive advantage too. But why would you put your fans through that?

  • Gibby

    I wonder if they had these same discussions before deciding to build AH. Imagine us still playing at the old fieldhouse just for traditions sake. For years Bob Knight talked about blowing up the north/south walls to get more seating and possibly a better student body section instead of placing us up in the rafters and spread out. Anyone remember screaming down to rows below you to tell u how much time on clock or score? When u call for tickets to IU ticket office they still warn u of limited viewing of certain seats. That is just unacceptable. I have great memories of my time in AH but those memories were about my team, coach, students, and friends. The facility itself was for discussion for ridicule because of no student section, overhang of balcony limiting view of back rows of Main Level, not to mention everything wrong about the balcony. And to hear my daughter complain about the same things I did as a student, is it so wrong of me to want or expect something better. I hope when my grandkids are matriculating to IUB they still wont be complaining of same things.

  • HoosierDavey

    Usually where I sit…

  • HoosierDavey

    Didn’t say it has NO factor, just responding to the notion that we (and Duke) don’t get highly ranked recruits because of older arenas….because both still are despite that

  • N71

    Fred has done a great job, better than I could have and I’m very impressed with myself. He’s an IU and Indy guy and knows how to sync all the elements involved. We’re lucky to have him.

  • J. M. Orrell

    So I am a little confused with the reluctance for Mr. Fred Glass and IU basketball fans to move the basketball program forward for years to come. We are fortunate to have a very good and proactive basketball coach in Tom Crean who has again established IU as an elite program. There comes a time,
    however, that we need to afford him the luxuries of the current times, as we
    did with Bob Knight with Assembly Hall in 1972.

    Mr. Glass states that “the tradition, the history . . . is exactly what makes Assembly Hall different from any other college basketball venue.” What Mr. Glass needs to understand is that the tradition and history of Assembly Hall is really only important to those of us that are old enough to remember the great moments over the last 40 years. Recruits today were not even born
    during the championship teams that have played in Assembly Hall. If IU basketball tradition and history in a particular building is so important to Mr. Glass, then why not spend the money renovating the Wildermuth Center. After
    all, we did win 2 championships, six perfect seasons, and the nickname “Hurryin
    Hoosiers” was dubbed under the direction of Branch McCracken while in “The
    Fieldhouse.” The problem is that none of us today can relate to the 1940’s and
    1950’s personally so it is not as important for us to renovate this facility for the basketball program. Besides that, we all know that it would be a ridiculous idea. The same is true when it comes to Assembly Hall. There comes a point in time that it is just as ridiculous to advance our basketball program in an antiquated
    facility. To renovate Assembly Hall is like keeping a terminally ill patient on life support. You are only prolonging the inevitable at a great expense.

    I find it interesting that the campus model in the Union does not even include Assembly Hall. In fact, there is a new arena just south the Hall. This is because the Indiana University Trustees already approved demolition of Assembly Hall and construction of a new arena. This was the case in 2007 at which time it was estimated that renovations to Assembly Hall would cost at least $115 million. Wow! The cost of Ohio State’s Value City Arena in 1996 was less than this at $110 million. This is currently the largest arena in the Big 10.

    Mr. Glass should also take note of current college arenas that have been “renovated.” Mackey Arena looks great from the outside after its $100 million facelift, but it still looks like a generic 1960 era stadium – nothing fancy. Rupp Arena in Lexington is similar. Even after renovations to Rupp, it still looks like a larger Market Square Arena on the inside.

    As far as the uniqueness of Assembly Hall, it is entirely possible to build a new facility that is just as unique. Indiana University has always impressed me in keeping new buildings with the unique architectural style of its older buildings. I agree that many modern day college arenas are quite generic. The Value City Arena in my opinion is very pleasing inside, but nothing more than a large box on the outside. The Dean Dome is even worse aesthetically on the outside. The Breslin Center is a little nicer and bigger than Mackey but still fairly generic with its concourses and seating. Many have mentioned the Yum Center in Louisville here. It is nice but it is not something that the University of Louisville can call their own. Besides, U of L cannot hold a candle to IU as far as pure beauty of the campus and surroundings. If you want a true college experience then come to IU. If you want a metropolitan experience then go to U of L or IUPUI (which in my opinion is nicer). Cameron Indoor is very small – but keep in mind that recruits to Duke are drawn there because of Coach K and not a fancy arena. After coach K’s retirement (someday), I predict that Duke will be a thing of the past in regards to college basketball. Coach Crean is a great coach, but he is not at the level of a coach K. No one is. We need all of the advantages we can get for the top recruits – including a new state of the art arena that is sure to impress.

    Back to Assembly Hall . . . Fred Glass does acknowledge the “flaws” of Assembly Hall. I have been a season ticket holder for more than 20 years. As a student nearly 30 years ago, I was fortunate enough to work in Assembly Hall – at times alongside the Great Bob Knight. Unfortunately, I have not been able to donate enough money apparently to get a seat without some type of restriction during that time. Unless you are lucky enough to get seats below the entry ways, you will have some sort of obstruction like not being able to see the scoreboards on the walls (a problem when the mid court scoreboard is temporarily showing a video). I love the Hoosiers. I have enjoyed Assembly Hall. But I am ready to move on.

    I have read so many comments on how wonderful our student section is. It could be better in a new arena! As a student in the late 80’s, students were not able to get a seat to every game. This is still the case today. There simply are not enough seats to accommodate all of the students (or the public) to see the Hoosiers. We need more seats!!! And yes, we need corporate boxes. Hopefully this can free up seats closer to the floor for the students – not just the wealthy old farts who can barely cheer.

    So please . . . do not waste millions of dollars in renovating a facility that has served its purpose but is now a relic. It is time to move ahead and to assure Indiana Basketball’s place among the elite.

    J. M. Orrell BA ’89, MD ‘93

  • Andrew

    Glass had NOTHING to do w/ the north end zone project. That was being built way before he came on board. Nice try.

  • HoosierD

    Wrigley and Fenway have flaws too, limited view seating, awful restrooms, etc but have or are undergoing renovations for improvements and fans still come. It made them better without destroying the history and atmosphere. Loved Tiger Stadium as it was my first game as a kid, seeing Chet Lemon hit a walk off HR… They tore it down for a new stadium but doesn’t feel the same, IMO. I’d hate to see AH torn down, renovated yes.

  • J. M. Orrell

    Duke recruits so well because of coach K. Although Tom Crean is good, he is no coach K. No one is. Without coach K, Duke will be a side note.

  • BluegrassHoosier

    Completely agree. Freedom Hall was a great place to watch a game. Better than Yum but folks like the newness and amenities of Yum

  • BluegrassHoosier

    Well said. You nailed it. People will come around to your line of thinking. I just hope that happens sooner rather than later.

  • BluegrassHoosier

    Doc, you have the right prescription for AH!

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    Whoops. He said how he had heard so much about the place and then when he entered AH it seemed kind of old and odd. But then a man came and took him to a seat and he realized what it was all about. He said he could feel the history. He only sat there for a couple of minutes but said that it felt like forever and that he didn’t want to leave.

  • Coleman

    Can we at least get glass instead of that red metal bar in the front of balcony?

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