The finishing touches are being put in place on the Times Union Center's $19.6 million renovation.
With about a year of construction nearly complete, there was an unveiling of two 14 x 70-foot LED screens on the TU Center's South Pearl Street entrance Monday afternoon. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy flipped the switch illuminating the screens for the very first time. They’re big and bright, and plans call for them to be used in conjunction with events inside. McCoy says "Downtown Albany should become a destination, and we're changing the whole cohesiveness of downtown. And to highlight these two screens that we've put on the outside of the Times Union Center. Not just for advertising but to really when fans start to come to a Siena basketball game, we can have highlights being played on the screens while they're outside enjoying the nice weather, or trying to get into the arena. Also, for concerts, to start pumpin' up the crowd."
Upgrades include a newly enclosed atrium, new escalators, carpeting, a three-story waterfall and a state-of-the-art climate control system. Bob Belber, the Times Union Center arena general manager for the past 23 years, believes the renovations will help attract big ticket events to the county-owned facility. "We'll have advertising on it, we'll have upcoming event announcements, we'll even be able to bring people in and allow them to bring their own lawn chairs on certain summer nights when we don't have events and show movies on the screens. And inside the building there's an RFP out right now for renovation to the concession stand, there's an RFP out for renovation of the suites. An award has just been made for repainting the entire concourse. All the bathrooms have completely been renovated and the upper-level seating will be replaced next summer."
McCoy adds the entrance work will soon be done. "This project should be completed in the next three weeks, on time, under budget, and it's gonna be really beautiful when you walk into it."
Times Union publisher and chief executive George Hearst, part of a local ownership group for a new football team, sees the return of the Arena Football League paving the way for more opportunities at the TU. "This is an opportunity, with all the investments that the county has made, with the renovations at the center. I think there's a kind of a confluence of activities, the announcement of the Patroons, I think there's a level of excitement here that we can capitalize on."
The 17,500-person arena, managed by Philadelphia-based SMG, opened in January of 1990 as "The Knickerbocker Arena," with a performance by Frank Sinatra. It was later branded "Pepsi Arena" until 2006 when naming rights were sold to the newspaper. The renovation is part of the plan that connects the TU Center with the Empire State Plaza and the Albany Capital Center on Eagle Street.