JSU administrators met for three hours Tuesday with officials from the Populous architectural firm in what Gamecocks athletics director Warren Koegel described as an unsolicited "give and take" of ideas for enhancing the aging structure best known as the home of JSU basketball and volleyball.
"It was just preliminary talk about what we could do in there," Koegel said. "It really didn't amount to more than nice drawings and things we would have a possibility to do, no concreteness to it.
"All we said was, 'Hey, this is what we think we can do in there (and) what it could look like."
Koegel has called the renovation of 5,500-seat Pete Mathews Coliseum "our No. 1 priority" for athletics in an upcoming capital campaign. He said no decisions or commitments have been made. He said he likely would mention the talks to the athletics committee at the upcoming board of trustees meeting, but no formal presentations are expected.
Koegel said school officials have spoken to "some other people" about plans for the building. According to a person familiar with those talks, some of the ideas under consideration include a 1,000-seat reduction in capacity (which would make the arena one of the smallest in the OVC) and a configuration to reduce foot traffic at court level. Koegel admitted such a project would cost "a lot of money," but declined to offer a figure since the project was "speculation" at this point.
"The idea would be to make it a modernized Division I basketball/volleyball facility," Koegel said. "The building is 40 years old. You're talking about a lot of changes over those years in terms of facilities (nationwide); that's why we're looking at it.
"We know there are some needs and we're trying to ... get an idea of what's the best thing we can do over there."
Pete Mathews Coliseum is the third-oldest basketball venue in the Ohio Valley Conference, behind Eastern Kentucky's Alumni Coliseum (1963) and Eastern Illinois' Lantz Arena (1967). It opened in 1974 and underwent a complete renovation in 1987. It addition to the court, the building also houses the offices for several of the school's Olympic sports.
Populous is a global architectural firm specializing in the design of sports facilities. Its website said the firm has undertaken more than 1,000 projects over the last three decades, including Troy's new arena, South Florida's Sun Dome, Heinz Field, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Wimbledon's Centre Court and the London Olympic Stadium.
It has 10 offices worldwide, including U.S. offices in Denver, Kansas City and Knoxville, Tenn.
A representative in Populous' Kansas City office said Thursday the firm does not comment on projects for which it is not contracted.
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.