The Carolina Coliseum will get a second life as the University of South Carolina grows westward toward the Congaree River, school president Harris Pastides promised Tuesday.
At his annual State of the University address, Pastides committed to a “comprehensive renovation and repurposing of the ‘House that (legendary basketball coach Frank) McGuire built,’ the hallowed Carolina Coliseum.”
The announcement was short on specifics of the Coliseum’s future use, design or the cost of its renovation. But Pastides hinted the 49-year-old building could become a second student union for the growing western half of campus.
In 2013, USC proposed – then withdrew – a $125 million plan to turn the Assembly Street building into a additional student union, with classrooms and student services offices.
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“The renovation must serve the central mission of the university – teaching and learning, so it will provide necessary spaces that have become scarcer and tighter over the years, spaces like the Russell House,” Pastides told a packed ballroom at the Russell House.
The 12,000-seat arena has been used as a practice facility for men’s and women’s Gamecock basketball teams since 2014.
It was Columbia’s main concert venue and the home of Gamecock basketball games from 1968 until 2002, when the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena opened two blocks away.
For years, questions about the Coliseum’s future have gone unanswered. Some USC boosters — including Lake City financier Darla Moore, whose name is affixed to the $106.5 million business school building next door — have said it should be torn down.
“Some people are attached to it,” she said in 2014. “Some think it’s a pretty dreadful structure. I’m a fan of taking it down. It was a structure of its time. Just because something is old does not mean it’s worth preserving.”
But Pastides has long wanted to repurpose the Coliseum, a sentimental symbol for Gamecock basketball fans.
The building now is home to USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, which has plans to move into the Close-Hipp building by 2019. USC’s two basketball teams also practice there.
“This will take a long time to plan, design and execute,” Pastides said Tuesday. “But I assure you, when we’re finished, we will have, once again, improved the landscape of the university, our city and even our state at one of the most important urban gateways in South Carolina.”