Georgia basketball: Revamped Stegeman Coliseum a success so far

Stegeman Coliseum underwent a series of renovations ahead of the 2023-24 basketball season.
Stegeman Coliseum underwent a series of renovations ahead of the 2023-24 basketball season. / Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

When it was announced in March 2023 that 60-year-old Stegeman Coliseum would close indefinitely, many thought the venue had drawn its final breath. Fortunately, both the Men's and Women's basketball teams had completed their home slates and were therefore unaffected. The same couldn't be said for UGA Gymnastics, which was forced to relocate its final two 'home' meets of the season to Duluth's Gas South Arena. Plans for various graduation ceremonies had to be altered, too.

The closure was in response to a small piece of tile falling from the rafters. Though the University insited Stegeman was structurally sound, many assumed UGA would surely leverage the situation to demolish and build a new arena altogether. After all, chatter surrounding "The Steg's" future sustainability had been sporadically circulating for years.

Some claimed Georgia basketball would need a temporary home as the school would be tearing Stegeman down in order to break ground on a brand-new facility. Somewhere in the mix, rumors of a new arena downtown either near or attached to The Classic Center were floating around. Neither claim materialized.

Simply take a look around. College basketball is nowhere near the level that collegiate football is in terms of the constant infrastructure upgrades and alterations done in the name of the recruiting arms race, but it's getting close. Nearby schools of similar stature as UGA have opened their pocketbooks in hopes of building the latest and greatest the hoops arena world has to offer. A "build it and they will come" approach.

That's why folks like myself were disappointed when, instead of a new arena announcement, all we got were plans for revamping Stegeman Coliseum.

But then I read the plans - and they began to sound like a promise to deliver exactly what some of us hoped a new venue would: a strong emphasis on students and ensuring the home crowd would play a significant role in games. In other words, creating a true home court advantage.

Now, two months into the first season with this new design, I'll be the first to admit - my initial reaction was wrong.

No, Stegeman Coliseum hasn't magically transformed into one of college basketball's most intimidating and rambunctious environments overnight, but it's a start. Students used to be nestled into one corner of the crowd, spilling into the upper levels. Now they're close up to the court, mimicking student sections in some of the sport's most coveted atmospheres.

The bottom line is this. Fans fill the seats when their team wins ball games. That's the case everywhere across this country and Georgia is no exception. No amount of cutting-edge arena technology can change that - at least not long term. Still, it's nice to know we have a fitting environment to watch that part of the process unfold.