Jeff Tingey believes the timing is right to make a major move.
Idaho State University’s director of athletics has spent the past eight years improving the athletic program’s facilities. From a renovated weight room, to an outdoor practice facility and Miller Ranch Stadium, Tingey and ISU have done their best to reshape Bengal athletics.
Now they’re embarking on an entirely new challenge.
Tingey is immersed in the initial stages of plans to build a 4,000-seat, $20 million basketball stadium on ISU’s campus.
Tingey says the project is his top priority and ISU intends to fund the construction entirely through individual and corporate donations.
“I think the community of Pocatello is interested in this,” Tingey said. “The university is interested in this. Basketball and volleyball fans are interested in it. It’s something that would be beneficial to the university, to the student-athletes, to the community in general.”
As it is today, Idaho State’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are split apart and compete in different buildings — the men in Holt Arena and the women in Reed Gym. Neither situation is ideal.
Reed Gym is over 60 years old, antiquated and struggles to squeeze in the infrastructure required for television broadcasts, media, statistician crews and team needs.
Holt Arena is iconic but not designed for basketball.
“I love that arena for football. It’s open, spacious and hollow for basketball,” Tingey said. “The heating isn’t great, the air conditioning isn’t great. Our fans have told us that as well, that they don’t like it for basketball games. So we want to give our teams a great opportunity to succeed through a crowd standpoint. We want to be better.”
The fan experience at Holt is poor, and it’s ammunition for Bengal opponents on the recruiting trail.
“Basketball has a tough recruiting road, they really do,” Tingey said. “Anyone that wants to recruit against us has a lot of ammo. They can use it pretty easily. And we know they use it. That’s fine. But we need to have something like this. We need to be more successful in our basketball and volleyball teams and this is something that will get us there.”
Tingey wants to build the stadium at one of two locations. The first option is directly adjacent to Holt Arena and the Idaho Orthopedic & Sports Clinic. The second is on the corner of Bonneville Street and Memorial Drive in the grassy area right at the edge of Holt Arena’s parking lot.
A new arena would be the first thing anyone would see driving south into campus.
As far as the size of the stadium, the first architectural drawings of the building called for seating of 5,500, and the seats would retract to reveal three basketball courts.
Tingey, however, is aiming for a building with 1,400 fewer seats because he looked over the attendance for men’s basketball for the past 15 years. The highest average attendance in that time hovered around 3,700. Reed Gym’s size is a hindrance in some areas, but Tingey appreciates how the close quarters are fan-friendly.
“I love the comfort level, the intimacy of Reed Gym where everybody is right on top of the court,” Tingey said. “It gets loud. It’s not this huge, giant arena. So that’s kind of the idea of building something that gives the greatest home-court advantage.”
But before construction bids can be evaluated or a date can be found to stick a shovel in the ground, Tingey and Idaho State have to start securing $20 million.
It’s no simple task.
Idaho State went to Pocatello and Chubbuck voters for a $20 million bond in February 2008 to renovate Holt Arena, and the measure was soundly defeated.
This undertaking is different, of course. Tingey doesn’t want to ask taxpayers or ISU students for a dime. But he does have to raise more money than ISU athletics has ever pulled in for a single project.
“We know that this needs to happen,” Tingey said. “We’ve heard people say before it can’t be done. ‘This is Idaho. It can’t be done.’ Why not?”