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BAR Meeting July 28

New basketball arena looks good

Warwick Jones, Editor
Residents got their first glimpse of what the new basketball arena at the College of Charleston might look like. And it looked pretty good. Sure, it is not a structure that looks particularly historic, but considering what it is - a large utilitarian building - it is not offensive and could blend in better than most expected.

The new arena is essentially on the same site as the old arena, in the area between George Street, Burns Lane and Meeting Street It will have a capacity of about 5000 persons, some 1500 or so more than at present. There was some controversy as to where the arena would be located and some misgivings on the part of local neighborhood associations, particularly in relation to parking. All of this was ironed out and the College got the "go-ahead" from the appropriate authorities.

The building probably will meet all existing zoning requirements and the architects expect to ask for only one minor variance. The cost was estimated at slightly less than $30 million.

The arena will have its entrance on Meeting Street and there will be little disturbance to the buildings presently on George Street. The bulk of the development will be between Burns Lane and Meeting Streets, and where the tennis courts are presently.

The architects said they had attempted to create as visually pleasing a building as possible. There would be large setbacks along Meeting Street and the old iron fence would be preserved and restored. The old building that now houses the Cougar's Club on the corner of Burns Land and Meeting Street would not be disturbed, they said.

Some members of the BAR and speakers from the public were uneasy about what could happen to Burns Lane. The architects stated that it was a problem to be able to maintain the lane as a pleasant pedestrian thoroughfare and they had tried hard to do so. But the College had no alternative to using the lane as an entrance/exit for services and employees, and housing mechanical items. Some speakers were concerned about the view to the new arena from Marian Square. The back part of the arena, along part of Burns Lane, would be visible and it may not be such a pretty sight. The architects also noted that it was the College's intent to ask that Burns Lane be made one-way, flowing only from Meeting Street to King Street.

The curved roof over the arena impressed most people. It tended to soften the roofline. But despite the curve, the arena did not seem to be out of proportion with that of surrounding buildings.

Three members of the BAR recused themselves in the hearing, leaving only 4 members to vote on the design. The requests to partially demolish the Johnson Center and for the conceptual approval of the new construction were granted unanimously.