A BRAND NEW DAY

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Norwood Teague's tenure at VCU was marked by the success in basketball and the growth of the Ram Athletic Fund.

It’s my first day in the office since February. Did I miss anything?

Okay, so I wasn’t roaming the Sahara for the last nine weeks. I’ve been keeping up on the goings on Broad and Harrison, but it’s a different place than the one I left, figuratively speaking.

Athletic Director Norwood Teague is headed to Minnesota. Shaka Smart is still here, but Women’s Basketball Coach Beth Cunningham, who made the Rams relevant for the first time under her watch, has left to become the Associate Head Coach at her alma mater, Notre Dame. And then there are those pesky conference rumors. You guys have been busy.

In an attempt to get this blog back on the rails, I’ll take a moment to touch on the personnel moves. I can’t and won’t discuss conference rumors. I don’t know anything anyway. As far as I’m concerned, those are just rumors until proven otherwise.

Norwood Teague to Minnesota: It’s tough to see Norwood leave. Much has been accomplished since his arrival in 2006, especially in men’s and women’s basketball. His hire of under-the-radar assistant Shaka Smart has been a home run, the Siegel Center suite and club seat addition was a big hit and a $10 million practice facility is in the works.

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MORE RENOVATIONS AHEAD AT 1200 W. BROAD?

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The Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center was built at a cost of $30 million and opened in 1999.

The paint is barely dry on the most recent Verizon Wireless Arena at the Siegel Center project, but VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague is already looking ahead to other improvements for the Rams’ on-campus home.

Teague, speaking inside the recently-completed Siegel Center Club Seat and Suite Project, alluded Wednesday that more renovations could be in store for the building, which opened in 1999.

“Right now, as far as this is concerned, it’s kind of a first step. We’ve got some other ideas going forward,” Teague said.

Among the potential improvement options is expansion. The Siegel Center’s current capacity is 7,600. The Rams have averaged more than 6,000 fans at their home games for the last four seasons. In 2010-11, VCU set a Siegel Center attendance record of 6,645. Since reaching the Final Four in April, interest in VCU Basketball has exploded. Season ticket sales are up about 30 percent.

“We’ve looked at some diagrams, some architectural renderings of what an expansion would entail,” Teague said. “It would be a big project, but it would be a possibility.”

According to Teague, VCU’s AD since 2006, any expansion of the arena would likely involve the end zone and or corner sections. The arena’s location inside a city block prevents VCU from expanding the arena too far outward or upward.

“When you go up, you’ve got to go out,” he said.

However, before any expansion, VCU will look to add a practice facility in the parking lot adjacent to the arena. Teague estimates the cost of the facility at about $10 million. Teague says fundraising for the project will begin “immediately”.

The club seat project added 120 balcony-view seats and several luxury suites to the arena, as well as renovated offices for men’s and women’s basketball. Constructed at a cost of $3.4 million, the club seat expansion was the first major renovation in the building’s history.

Other improvements have been largely cosmetic. Two years ago, Athletics assumed control of the east wing of the Siegel Center, which had previously been occupied by VCU Recreation Sports. Athletics converted some areas into offices, and added an equipment room and student-athlete academic center.

VCU TO UNVEIL CLUB SEAT AND SUITE EXPANSION THURSDAY

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VCU Athletics will unveil its Club Seat and Suite Project Thursday.

VCU is still more than a week away from hanging its Final Four banner from the Verizon Wireless Arena rafters. First, Director of Athletics Norwood Teague will unveil VCU’s anticipated Club Seat and Suite Project Thursday, prior to men’s basketball’s season-opening exhibition contest with California (Pa.).

The 15,000-square foot renovation and expansion has provided the Siegel Center’s second level with a complete facelift and includes luxury suites, a 120-club seat balcony, renovated offices and a sparkling new lounge, the Tommy J. West Club. Completed entirely through private donations of $3.4 million, the initiative has reshaped the way fans, donors, coaches and student-athletes will view VCU Athletics now and in the future.

“To be quite honest, this thing turned out even more dramatic than even I envisioned,” beamed Teague. “I knew it was going to look great, but in the last three weeks, it’s been jaw-dropping, and it really reflects a Final Four-type basketball program.”

The centerpiece of the project is the Tommy J. West Club, named for the late Tommy West, a longtime VCU fan and supporter. With its distinct brick and hardwood-covered walls and upscale lounge furnishings, the Tommy J. West Club draws heavily on the urban aesthetic flair of Richmond’s Fan District. Complete with flat screen televisions and bartop seating, the club provides fans with an unparalleled gameday atmosphere. The lounge serves as a gateway to the project’s 120 club seats, all with an outstanding panoramic view of the arena.

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AN INTERVIEW WITH NORWOOD TEAGUE

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Norwood Teague has been VCU's AD since 2006

We had a chance to catch up with VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague today, who was questioned on a variety of topics. Here are some highlights from that interview.

ON VERIZON WIRELESS ARENA CLUB SEAT PROJECT
“The construction in the Siegel Center is going fantastic. They’re really working day and night and on weekends to get it done for the first [game] of the year, but we’re on schedule. The first thing we have to have it ready for is a select-a-seat promotion where donors come in and see where they want to sit.

So, we’re doing well. It’s going to be an incredible addition to the arena and something we’re really proud of.

We get assured by the construction workers, hey, it doesn’t look like it will be ready, but it will be ready.

It’s amazing how much wiring they had to do in the ceiling for our video system for the basketball programs and just everything they had to do to get the computers wired and synched. Technology’s great, but it requires another step when it comes to construction.”

ON THE EXCITEMENT OF STARTING A NEW SEASON
“I’m thrilled that the response on the season ticket side has been as good as it has been. We have sold about 650 new season tickets, probably on the verge of 700, and that’s a dramatic pop for any program to have that many new season ticket holders.

The excitement is there. I hope expectations will be realistic when you lost four seniors who contributed heavily and we have a tough schedule. But our program is solid as a rock.”

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SPORTS INFO PHOTO OF THE DAY

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Months ago, this was the reception area of Athletic Director Norwood Teague’s office. Now, it looks like the storage area where they shoved Milton in Office Space. As construction chugs along on VCU’s Club Seat and Suite Project, a number of people have been displaced. Teague’s office became construction HQ initially and is now mostly storage space. The project is expected to be completed prior to VCU Basketball season.

VCU SUCCESS, ATTENDANCE GO HAND-IN-HAND

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There was VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague during the Rams’ opening night win over UNC Greensboro earlier this season, making the rounds, slicing through the crowd with Joey Rodriguez-like agility. The promise of a new season of VCU Basketball showed in his spirited gait as he traded pleasantries with donors along the Verizon Wireless Arena’s newly-created courtside seating area.  As he glanced up at an electric opening-night crowd of more than 7,000, he hid his satisfaction poorly.

“Isn’t this incredible?” Teague beamed.

That Nov. 12 audience was the second-largest to witness a VCU season-opener since the Rams began play at Stuart C. Siegel Center in 1999. The near-capacity crowd underscored the school’s explosive growth in attendance since 2002.

On Nov. 30, 2002, VCU opened the 2002 season with an 80-72 loss to Wagner before a paid crowd of just 2,111. Two games later, 2,090 warm bodies showed up for a game with Florida Atlantic, the smallest home crowd in the building’s history. Men’s Basketball attendance averaged just 4,108 that season, while student attendance plunged to an average of 484 per game.

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