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Robert Morris

Robert Morris basketball could have new home

Paul Schofield
| Saturday, March 21, 2015, 10:10 p.m.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Robert Morris president Gregory Dell'Omo is leaving the university at the end of the academic year, but he is hopeful plans for a new convocation center on the Moon campus will be approved before he departs.

Dell'Omo said discussions are on the fast track to begin work on the proposed facility, which, among other things, would serve as home of the Robert Morris basketball and volleyball programs.

“We still need approval by the board of trustees,” said Dell'Omo, who attended No. 16 seed Robert Morris' 85-56 loss to top-seeded Duke on Friday in an NCAA Tournament South Region second-round game at Time Warner Cable Arena. “But before I leave in June, I hope we can officially make an announcement on a new building.”

The facility would supplant Sewall Center, which opened in 1985, and become the school's upgraded student recreation center.

Robert Morris officials have visited Bowling Green in Ohio, Monmouth in New Jersey and Campbell in North Carolina in an effort to determine the type of facility that best suits the school. Dell'Omo said tentative plans call for a bowl-style arena with a seating capacity of about 5,000.

He also said the facility would be used for other functions, including concerts, graduations and conventions.

“Making the NCAA Tournament really helps,” said Matt Millet, Robert Morris' director of university sponsorship and athletic fundraising. “I was negotiating with a organization before we won the Northeast Conference Tournament, and after we won on ESPN2, he came to me ... and agreed to our terms.

“They wanted to get it done. It's a trickle-down effect.”

Since Dell'Omo arrived at Robert Morris, he has promoted athletics, which he said is “very important to the university.”

“You can't explain how big making the NCAA Tournament is,” he said. “There's so much promotion, and to see all of our students and alumni come down here and be part of this school spirit is off the charts.”

He hopes university officials can make the most of it.

“It's not a done deal,” he said, “but there is a lot of interest among a handful of alumni, and we've got to a point now where we're looking into designs and ideas of what the facility would look like, where it would be on campus and how much it would cost.”

Men's basketball coach Andy Toole said a new arena would provide “a platform for us to continue to compete at a high level.”

“It would be a great addition to the university in general and gives us some of the resources to be in these (NCAA Tournament) types of games on a regular basis,” Toole said. “Having success and being on these types of stages is a big step for that.”

Assuming the board gives approval for the project within the next month or so, Dell'Omo said he's confident plans can be finalized for the start of construction by the time he leaves to take over as president at Rider.

If the project goes through, Dell'Omo said the John Jay Center, the university's student recreation facility, would become available for use by the school of nursing.

“If this does become a reality, all I ask is that they invite me for the first game,” he said. “It's bittersweet, but this is exciting, and I know the university will build off it.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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