If you like the new D’Artagnan’s Deck and the skyline silhouette on the court, you’ll love what’s coming next. It’s all part of a seven-year, $25 million renovation of the Cintas Center, a makeover of the Xavier landmark that’s well underway, as fans discovered last year.
Already, $1.2 million in improvements have been completed at the 10,250-seat arena, including a new “fueling station” in the weight room for athletes as well as concession upgrades. The changes enhance the experience for fans and players and ensure that Cintas Center remains one of the premier basketball venues in the country for years to come.
“The improvements will continue to enhance an already exciting atmosphere…and will positively impact our recruiting and our ability to develop student-athletes to compete at the highest level,” says Chris Mack, Xavier men’s basketball head coach.
For fans, the makeover creates a more welcoming experience as they head to the game. New signage. New lighting. Redesigned concourses. Other improvements target the game experience itself. New club seats and party suites. A redesigned, more fan-friendly Joseph Club. New hospitality areas. Cup holders!
For student-athletes from all 18 teams, the renovations bring improved practice courts, locker rooms, strength and conditioning facilities, and a consolidation of academic tutoring space and study halls into one locale. And the entire building will benefit from significant technical upgrades and structural improvements.
Xavier Athletics Director Greg Christopher says that while the expenditure includes a portion of the revenue from the BIG EAST/FOX-TV contract, the largest portion of the funding comes from private gifts. Already more than $10 million in commitments has been secured from donors, including a generous lead gift from Robert J. Kohlhepp, chairman of Cintas Corporation and a former chair of Xavier’s Board of Trustees.
Kohlhepp, who received his MBA from Xavier in 1971, was a major force behind the creation of Cintas Center. His name graces the Kohlhepp Family Auxiliary Gym in the center.
“Cintas Center is Xavier’s front porch,” he says, “and making sure it is in top condition for the next two decades is one of my top priorities.”
Constructed at a cost of $46 million, the Cintas Center opened in the fall of 2000. Attendance now exceeds 2.3 million fans for men’s basketball, with an average 10,013 fans over 231 games—a 97-percent capacity.
But after 15 years, the center is showing its age. Most pressing is the need for new technology. Cintas is not HD-compatible, Christopher says. Its developers in 2000 could not have envisioned thousands of fans using smartphones at the same time during games. So technical upgrades, including more robust WiFi and enhanced LED video boards, are a big priority.
When Christopher joined Xavier in 2013, the Musketeers were about to join the BIG EAST. He recognized the Cintas Center was a key strategic resource because the Musketeers play on their own campus, while other schools must lease playing facilities.
So not only does Xavier have an on-campus advantage, it also gets to keep the revenue from sports and other Cintas events. It costs roughly $500,000 a year to maintain and operate Cintas, Christopher says, and thanks to basketball revenue and the stand-alone conference center, it essentially breaks even.
So each November for the next few seasons, fans will find new features aimed at keeping Cintas a great venue for basketball and other community events. Every spring brings a host of high school graduations. Plus, it’s also hosted LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers twice, while brain cancer patient Lauren Hill’s first collegiate basketball game, memorial service and the upcoming Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic also found a home at Cintas.
But most visibly, it’s an important home court advantage for Xavier basketball, Mack says. Cintas ranks as one of the country’s toughest venues for visiting teams, and the University wants to ensure that reputation endures. In its first 15 seasons at Cintas, the men’s basketball team compiled a 201-30 home record, thanks in large part to a packed arena every game.