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Revamped Palumbo Center taking shape

As the interior refurbishing project at Duquesne University's Palumbo Center continued this week, athletics director Greg Amodio intently surveyed the progress from a new walkway midway into the stands.

For Amodio, it's all about new business.

"If everybody wants us to be big time, we're going to have to start thinking big," he said.

In just a short time following Duquesne's announcement in the spring to invest nearly $1.8 million into the aging facility's interior, all 560 of the newly added premium chairback seats had been sold at $100 apiece, generating in excess of $50,000 for the school's athletics department.

Duquesne recently reported that fewer than 150 seats remained on the lower level, which includes both sides of the arena.

A large portion of the upper-level chairback seats, including those being installed on the north side of the arena behind the team's benches, were still available, said Dave Saba, Duquesne's associate athletics director for media relations.

The new chairback seating, which includes premium seats between the two foul lines on both sides of the playing floor, will reduce the building's capacity by nearly 1,000 seats to 4,406.

The work is the final phase of an approximate $5.5 million project over several years to spruce up the arena. Also included were upgrades to coaches' offices and players' locker rooms.

In addition, Duquesne will have its own locker room at the new Consol Energy Center, adjacent to the school's Uptown campus, and Amodio says the focus is to expand the men's basketball schedule to the new facility.

"All of this puts us in a nice position to recruit in men's and women's basketball and volleyball," Amodio said.

On Palumbo Center's ground floor, the sound created by construction workers echoed throughout the arena, where Amodio envisions "a nice, intimidating environment (for visiting teams)." There is room for additional amenities, such as concession facilities, though it had yet to be determined what other changes would take place.

In addition to the installation of the new chairback seats, a custom-designed, center-hung Daktronics video board and four lower-level corner scoreboards are being installed.

"As we take a look at where we are, we realize there are a lot of private schools like Duquesne in the Atlantic 10 who are upgrading," said Amodio, who oversaw the dissolvement of four low-revenue varsity sports earlier this year in an effort to regenerate capital funding for the school's core sports, including basketball, football and volleyball.

As examples, he pointed to Xavier's state-of-the-art Cintas Center, Saint Louis' new Chaifetz Arena, added suites and club lounges at Dayton's UD Arena, and maybe the most profound of them all -- the dramatic $35 million facelift of Saint Joseph's Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, now known as Hagan Arena.

"There are those who wonder whether Duquesne can take the steps necessary to advance," Amodio said. "I think we're proving that it can be done. For us, it's all about the new business."

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