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Move back to Swinney comes after millions spent on Municipal Auditorium

Despite multi-million dollar renovations to Municipal Auditorium just five years ago, UMKC announced the men’s basketball team will return home games to Swinney Recreation Center at the beginning of 2019.

This is the second time in the past 10 years the men’s team has moved back to Swinney from Municipal.

According to Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal, the move was made in an effort to create a culture of belonging at the university, as well as provide a greater home-court advantage for the Roos.

The team first returned to Swinney in 2010, with former Chancellor Leo Morton citing a similar need for the team to play a bigger role on campus. The move was estimated to save the athletics department $150,000 annually, and Morton acknowledged Municipal as one of UMKC’s greatest expenses at the time.

Amid the university’s budget struggles, the annual costs for the men’s team to play at the downtown auditorium had exceeded $250,000.

It didn’t take long for UMKC to change its tune, however. In 2013, following UMKC Athletics’ switch from the Summit League to the Division I Western Athletic Conference (WAC), Morton announced the men’s team would move their home games back to Municipal.

“UMKC is Kansas City’s university, and we want the ‘Roos to be Kansas City’s team,” Morton said. “That’s why we’re making the big move downtown, and making a big move to capture the community’s imagination and passion with a new coach and a new conference.”

In a partnership between UMKC and the city of Kansas City, $5 million in renovations were done to Municipal Auditorium for the 2013-14 season.

The renovations included two new LED video boards, LED scorer’s table, lighting, sound system, lower-level seating and electrical upgrades.

These upgrades, as well as the move to Division I, did little to boost the UMKC athletics’ popularity or financial success.

According to NCAA records, the UMKC athletic department’s total operating expenses for 2017 were $15 million, exceeding total revenues of $14.8 million.

UMKC additionally cut the budget of the department by $1.3 million last year due to the overall budget cuts across UM schools.

During his State of the University Address last week, Agrawal noted the athletic department’s need to save money.

“The athletics department should be run in a fiscally responsible manner,” Agrawal said. “We are moving men’s basketball back to campus to save costs and also to build excitement.”

Last month, UMKC announced a partnership with Kansas City’s global architecture firm HOK to enhance the branding and design of Swinney Recreation Center.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with HOK as we continue with the forward progress of our athletic department,” said Interim Athletics Director Ursula Gurney. “Creating visible changes to enhance our facility for men’s and women’s basketball is key.”

Improvements to Swinney will include videoboard additions, valet parking and an in-venue hospitality club.

The athletics department couldn’t be reached for comment on the costs of these renovations.

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