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Wake Forest’s New Arena: 5 Things We Want to See in the Renovated Joel Coliseum

Wake basketball’s new home has the potential be beautiful.

Yesterday morning we posted an article about potential mockups to the new Joel Coliseum being discovered online. These graphics weren’t available to view on the original site for long, however, as they were taken down shortly after the web officially discovered their existence. In case you were off social media on a busy Monday, I’ve included the visuals below to get you caught up to speed on the developments.

Seeing these images got me wondering about some of the changes that could be implemented to improve the gameday experience. We know the athletic department has been trying to enhance the LJVM Coliseum’s atmosphere in recent years with free t-shirt promotions, ticket packages, etc becoming more commonplace. Of course, major renovations to the arena could do wonders to improve attendance along with a team that is seemingly on the rise. Here are the Top 5 things we want to see in the Joel 2.0 when it finally is open for tipoff.

  1. Smaller Stadium Capacity

This is undoubtedly one of my top requests for the Joel now that it is officially owned by Wake Forest University. There is simply no reason for the arena to be as big as it is given the school size and the team’s recent history. Despite having the smallest enrollment in the ACC, the Deacs currently play in the conference’s 5th biggest arena. In fact, Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum is almost 5,000 seats smaller despite the school being 4x as big. That just doesn’t make much sense.

Of course, it’s not just students that attend basketball games, but those who live in the surrounding area as well. If you take the respective metropolitan areas and divide it by their college’s arena size, Wake comes with the 9th best ratio in that category. However, even that placement is somewhat deceiving as we know that a significant portion of the Winston-Salem area are in fact, NC State, UNC, or Duke fans. Simply put, Wake has a huge arena despite having a small enrollment and surrounding area that supports rivals heavily. That’s a bad recipe for a strong gameday environment.

If Wake were to shrink the size of the Joel to 10,000, the environment would immediately improve and those discouraging views of an empty upper deck would cease to exist. I’d expect overall attendance to increase as well, simply due to the fact that scarcity breeds demand and more people want to be a part of a 90% full arena than a 60% one. With an adjusted capacity of 10,000 for this season, Wake Forest would be averaging right now about 86% capacity on the year with still some of the biggest games of the season left on the schedule. Give me more sellouts and less teal colored seats.

2. Improved Team Store

This is one that has been long overdue and is a byproduct of the school not owning the building until 2013. The current makeshift team store located near the entrance of the arena is somewhat embarrassing for a school as proud of its basketball program as Wake Forest is. The same area could be turned into a fully outfitted Deacon store approximately 1/3 of the size of the one located on Hearn Plaza. Stack the place with some of the store’s bestsellers and historic WF basketball gear and you have a huge moneymaking opportunity.

ACC Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

3. Winston-Salem’s Finest

This might be a little tougher to change due to pre-determined contracts, but the Joel could really use more Forsyth County flavors in its vending options. The Coliseum added Kernersville’s own Prissy Polly’s BBQ prior to this season and it has been a huge success since arriving to the arena. I’d expect Bojangles and Papa Johns to be mainstays as food options for the foreseeable future, but replacing at least one of the generic vendors with something more local would be a fantastic move in my opinion. It would certainly make the arena feel more unique and allow visiting fans to get a taste of this great city, even if it is only just for a night.

4. Updated LED Scoreboards

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; Wake Forest has one of the least impressive video boards in big-time college basketball right now. It weighs 25,000 pounds, has small screens around the perimeter, and looks like it hasn’t been updated once since its installation in 2005. Sports teams across the country are now using video boards in customizable ways to improve the overall fan experience and keep people engaged throughout the game. Unfortunately the athletic department’s ability to do that are limited due to the outdated system, and a change must come with new renovations.

I personally much prefer the stylish four screens in the corners as seen in the picture above compared to the current setup. This type of installation would go hand-in-hand with decreasing the overall seating capacity as I mentioned before, and would provide a layout that’s different from other venues.

The above renovation of the Robins Center at Richmond is probably most comparable to this proposed plan. In 2013, UR spent $17 million on improvements, switched from a center scoreboard to 4 corner boards, and decreased their capacity by 21% in the process. I’d welcome a change like this with open arms at Wake Forest.

5. Something Uniquely Wake Forest

For a school that has such a strong basketball history, it’s almost devastating there is nothing about the arena that screams Wake Forest University. Of course, there are banners hanging in the rafters, and you can see murals of some of the school’s legends on the walls, but something is still missing when I walk around the concourse of the arena each time. The Joel desperately needs an iconic piece to it that distinguishes it from all other venues in the ACC and college basketball; something that every Wake fan would make an effort to go see on gameday and make it a part of their experience for those three hours.

Army v Wake Forest Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

Whether it is a collection of bronze statues of those who’ve had their jerseys retired, or a beautifully crafted arch scripted with Skip’s everlasting “We’re going to be good again,” the new Joel needs a key structure that lets every fan know they are truly home when they arrive to watch their beloved Deacs. What that inspiring Deacon structure would be isn’t for me to decide, but I do hope I’m not the only that feels like our LJVM Coliseum deserves a Wake Forest monument we can all connect to whenever we step through those doors.

Those are the top five things I want to see when the Joel finally starts its new era in a few years. What are some things that are near the top of your wish list for the updated Wake Forest arena? Comment below and let’s keep this discussion going.