INSIDER: New Look for the Tad Pad
By Ben Garrett
With added excitement surrounding both the Ole Miss men’s and women’s basketball programs, the athletics department has provided several new amenities within Tad Smith Coliseum some to be introduced this weekend and some still in the works.
The Tad Pad opened in 1966 and is named for the legendary Ole Miss athlete, coach and athletics director C.M. “Tad” Smith. The ageless arena has experienced multiple upgrades throughout the years, most recently renovated lockerrooms in 2005 and a new court and lights last year.
Among the latest improvements are video ribbon boards, which were installed over the last two months. Unveiled at Saturday’s men’s season opener will be 360 total feet of video displays above the top row of seating. The two 180-foot strips runs baseline-to-baseline parallel to each sideline.
Other renovations include new championship banners, a repainted ceiling and added bleachers to the student section. Floor accommodations have been increased by 1,200 seats, moving the coliseum’s capacity to over 9,000.
Second-year Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy expressed excitement with what the new services will offer.
“I think it’s big for our program to take the next step,” he said. “The improvements will be huge from the ceiling being painted, the additions to the student section and to the ribbon boards. I’m very excited.”
Blake Barnes, Ole Miss senior associate athletics director for facility operations, said Kennedy has played a valuable role in the restoration process.
“Andy Kennedy has had a large impact on suggestions and recommendations from a basketball standpoint, as well as crowd standpoint,” said Barnes. “He is really creating an environment that encourages success in Ole Miss Basketball.”
Currently under construction is a remodeling of the lower level of the coliseum, which will be completed after the New Year and affect four key areas: game logistics, player convenience, media relations and referee accessibility.
Adjacent to both the coaches and players quarters, the current referee lockerrooms will be moved upon the request of the NCAA. Also a new media workroom and press conference area will be built in the south portion of the coliseum’s lower-level.
“These additions help in so many ways,” said Barnes. “It not only helps the program, but the whole university. To have a nice, useable facility that fits our campus really benefits Ole Miss. And with the coliseum being a smaller venue, it creates a tremendous atmosphere.”
Renee Ladner is in her first year of directing the women’s hoops program, and as a former player with the Lady Rebels, she has seen the progress made at Tad Smith Coliseum.
“It’s certainly come a long way since I played here in the early 80s,” said Ladner. “I think these improvements can only help with recruiting and our home-court advantage, as we continue to build on the success and make our program one of the best in the nation.”
Barnes said the administration is also exploring further options to give the coliseum a facelift and make it more user-friendly for the fans.
“We are currently in the thinking stages in terms of renovating the coliseum,” he said. “We are looking at what can be done and what others have done with similar venues. We are really trying to modernize and upgrade our coliseum.”
With the teams winning, the latest arena improvements and the plans for a practice facility in design development, Ole Miss Basketball continues to grow, and Barnes said the University will continue to find ways to help the programs thrive.
“Success drives everything, and facility improvements help build that success for our athletics programs,” he said. “You have to move forward, may it be with upgrading the program or updating the facility. It all has an effect. That recipe is what drives the success of the Ole Miss basketball programs.”
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