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Board gives nod to plans for new UM basketball arena

OXFORD — The University of Mississippi is taking concrete steps toward building a new basketball arena.

The state College Board has approved plans for Ole Miss to spend $6 million for architects to design a 10,000-seat venue, a parking garage and other facilities.

The arena would replace the 9,061-seat Tad Smith Coliseum, built in 1967. Ole Miss says the current arena is outmoded and worn out.

It’s not clear how much a new arena would cost. Chancellor Dan Jones said that’s one issue a design would help settle. In its ongoing $150 million athletic fundraising campaign, the university has projected raising $70 million for the arena.

On the website for the campaign, called Forward Together, Ole Miss says it has raised $13.7 million toward the arena, in the form of gifts which include a priority to buy tickets to future seats. The overall campaign, which has a $150 million goal, has raised $77.6 million according to the web site.

“We are pleased with the progress on fundraising for the arena,” Jones said after the meeting.

He said designs that would be paid for out of that donated money could be complete later this year. The university is hiring Los Angeles-based AECOM, the nation’s largest architecture and design firm, to be assisted by the Jackson, Miss., firm of Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons.

Ole Miss had once said it would start work this year on a new arena, but that appears increasingly unlikely.

The campaign is also supposed to raise money to enclose the north end zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to add football seating.

Besides basketball, the arena is likely to host concerts, commencement and other student events, Jones said. Plans call for it to include an everyday dining hall for students, a 750-space garage, an athletic history museum and the Rebel Shop. Documents presented to the College Board say the arena would be built in the parking lot west of Vaught-Hemingway, but Jones said architects would re-examine siting issues.

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