Reports due soon on Littlejohn plans, as Radakovich eyes facilities fast-lane

Clemson will be presented options for comprehensive renovation or replacement of 45-year-old coliseum

Clemson fans line up outside Littlejohn Coliseum for Tigerama Friday night in Clemson

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson fans line up outside Littlejohn Coliseum for Tigerama Friday night in Clemson

Sometime in the next week or so, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich is expecting reports back from a pair of architectural firms charged with very different tasks.

One has the job of surveying Clemson's existing basketball facilities, including 45-year-old Littlejohn Coliseum, and coming up with a comprehensive renovation plan, to include revenue-producing, fan-friendly amenities and better-than-adequate practice space for both Clemson's men's and women's basketball teams.

The other firm has been given a blank slate. Start from scratch, design and provide cost estimates for a new basketball-specific arena to replace Littlejohn - perhaps trimming the size of the facility from 10,000 to something in the 8,000-seat range.

Once Radakovich receives those proposals, he'll evaluate them and present them to Clemson's board of trustees, perhaps with a recommendation.

Whatever is decided, Radakovich wants it decided quickly, in order to take advantage of what he sees as a unique, and perhaps short-windowed, opportunity.

"Right now in the world of finance and interest rates, we're at a low ebb," said Radakovich in a recent video interview posted by Clemson's official website. "To be able to go out and borrow money at this point in time to build facilities is a very positive circumstance. Not knowing how long this will last means we need to go faster and look at what we need to accomplish."

Radakovich says whatever decision is made will take into account Clemson's future and its commitment to basketball.

"When you take a step back and look at Clemson, you'll see that our student-athletes have great performance venues in just about every sport we have - from Riggs Field to Memorial Stadium to Doug Kingsmore Stadium," he said. "And then you go into Littlejohn and you say 'is this the best that Clemson can offer?' - not only from a fan aspect, but for the student-athletes asked to perform in that building. That's why we've taken a step back.

"One of the things that we have to do with all the facilities that we have, and especially with Littlejohn, which is more than 40 years old, is to look and see how it's going to serve Clemson for the next 40 years."

Radakovich says that 'fan experience' is high on his on his list of priorities as Clemson moves ahead with its various facilities projects.

"Fan experience is important," Radakovich said. "People come to Clemson not just on a Saturday for a football game, they come for everything that's around it - the experience of tailgating, the experience of meeting people that they only see seven or eight times a year at a Clemson athletic event. We want to make sure that experience that they have, from the time they leave their home until they get to their parking space to getting into the stadium is a positive as we can make it.

"We know there are bumps along the road. Traffic is difficult because we just don't have a lot of highways leading in and out of Clemson, so patience is needed there. But once we get people into the area and they see our very clean campus, and into the stadium with the multi-media experience, and certainly the product on the field, we hope that when they leave they say that my investment that I've made in my tickets and my IPTAY donation and coming to the game is worth it."

Facilities in all sports are a part of Radakovich's in-depth, self-introductory review of the entire Clemson athletic program.

"We've talked about Littlejohn and its future," Radakovich said. "The tennis programs, the soccer programs, the baseball program all have campaigns going right now trying to raise money to improve their facilities. And we always have to be vigilant about what's going on here within Memorial Stadium, and how we're going to finish this project.

"All of those things are on the table. We just need to make sure we go a little faster to make sure that we take advantage of the opportunities that are around us from a construction aspect and a debt/financing standpoint.

"One thing we have to do is make sure that whatever we do complements our other athletic facilities. In other words, it wouldn't make any sense to build a new basketball facility way out on Perimeter Road. We'd have to do it in our athletic district. There are some good opportunities there, if we go in that direction."

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