Officials say new arena could be used for more than sports

The last steel beam in the new USI arena was put in its place Friday, marking a turning point in the construction.

The beam is just one in hundreds that make up the new arena's skeleton. For the community at the University of Southern Indiana, the beam has a special significance.

A certain excitement that follows it.

"We like that hype, that attention. You know it's excitement," said Jake Hansen, a senior admissions counselor at USI. "It's something you don't always get a chance to offer. The new arena here will bring attention not only to our sports but also to the whole entire university."

The beam drew crowds to the physical activities center at USI's campus. Students and faculty on campus had the chance to sign the beam so as to put their own personal stamp on the historic moment.

"I believe there wasn't much room left on the beam," Jon Mark Hall said. Hall serves as the athletic director at USI. "People still went by to sign and there wasn't any room left, so everybody was really excited at that opportunity to do that and be a small part of this opportunity."

Officials say that the beam being placed signals that work on the building is turning a corner from building the skeleton to now working on the interior.

"To see from the point where the old pool was to the gigantic building we have now has been amazing," Hansen said.

"I'm here a lot working and I see them out of my window and their putting in extra time and trying to catch up a little bit," said Hall.

Officials say the new arena will serve as a new home for current student-athletes while also helping to attract future prospects as recruits, but that's not the only use officials hope the building will provide.

"Not only will we be able to handle things here at the University, but I believe it will be available for things outside the University," said Gary Burgdorf the construction project manager at USI. "You know, special guests, speakers, other events. I can see this becoming a central part of this University."

One of those other events that the new building will hold is commencement. The thought of holding a graduation ceremony in that new building is exciting to Nicole Leach. Leach serves as a senior admissions counselor and is just two years removed from her own graduation at USI.

"For their families to be able to come to their graduation it's going to be really exciting to see that first class be able to graduate in this building too," Leach said.

Officials say the next step is to finish putting the roof on. They hope the new arena will be ready to use by the first of the year.

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