Part Five: Completing the Job
Frericks Dug the Design
Digging into the turf over the spot where the arena would eventually stand was not only a symbolic start of the construction, it was very necessary act because of the design selected by Frericks. After settling upon the location, in the fall of 1968 Frericks had hired an out of town architectural firm to design the building. Donoher remembers that Frericks had only one real specification for the structure: “it had to seat one more that Ohio State’s St. John’s Arena.” Built in 1956, St. John’s Arena accommodated 13,276 fans. The designs Frericks received were impressive. The oval-domed structure was strikingly reminiscent of the now famed L.A. Forum which had opened only months before in December 1967. Everyone loved it, but the design had one fatal flaw: it was simply too expensive, with rough estimates near $6 million (approximately $45 million in inflation adjusted dollars). With UD’s budget already firmly set at $4 million ($30.6 million) and Frericks unsure as to where he was going to get that, the building had to cost less.
Frericks liked what he saw. Pretzinger’s UD Arena possessed many of the distinctive features of “The Pit.” It lacked many of the supporting columns in the seating area that normally obstructed the view of some fans. But the design also made the arena idiosyncratic. By necessity the seats were arranged upward in much more tapered banks than the typical fashion of vertically oriented stadiums. Perhaps less beneficial, the steep grade, proximity of the seats to the floor, and low ceiling amplified the noise from the crowd. Located so close to the Great Miami River, the arena would also be prone to flooding. This was the principle reason to outfit the arena with an artificial rubber tartan floor rather than the traditional and more expensive hardwood court. However, the design had one undeniable advantage that Frericks loved: its $4 million dollar ($30.6 million) price tag. 
The Arena and the City of Dayton
Many people had high economic hopes for the arena. Although Frericks had spurned their plans, city officials sought to help make the arena a success in a number of important ways. For example, they enacted a comprehensive rezoning plan, and widened Miami Boulevard (today known as Edwin C. Moses Boulevard) to increase traffic flow. Such moves came with risks. Public resentment accompanied the widening of the thoroughfare. Officials were admonished for agreeing to the plan. UD was accused of taking financial advantage of the community by getting a “bureaucratic fast break.”  But city officials were well-intentioned. If traffic moved easily in and out of the arena, the Dayton Public Schools would make more money from parking. And the venue’s success would mean more taxes for the city and jobs for its citizens.
The first economic benefit of the arena would come with its construction. Donoher remembered visiting the site during the summer in order to see how things were developing. Descending into the pit that had been dug, he walked across the concrete foundation, when from high above he heard a voice call “Coach!” Squinting into the sun he saw the team’s center, 6-foot-8 inch George Janky, as a tiny figure waving at him from the beams that composed the roof. George had taken a summer construction job and ended up working on the arena in which he was about to play. While the sight terrified Coach Donoher, it was indicative of way the project would help the city. 
Not long after settling upon the design of the building, Frericks hired the local B. G. Danis Company to build it. Founded in 1916, Danis had built a number of the city’s landmarks: The Victoria Theater, the Convent of the Sisters of the Precious Blood (today called Maria Joseph Nursing & Rehabilitation Center), WHIO (the cities first radio station), Sinclair College, and the Winters Bank Tower (now known at Kettering Tower).  Danis also built many of the factories on which the city had once relied. Now it was building the arena.
UD’s own regular season games also drew people from outside the city. In addition to the visiting teams’ supporters, fans supporting UD travel from across the region to watch games.  In each instance the City of Dayton benefited because the crowds attending the event sought lodging and food at nearby establishments. Along with the Flyers’ regular season schedule, it became the home of NBA exhibition games, high-profile Ohio high school matches, and, most importantly, host to the most NCAA games of any venue in the United States. Jacquelyn Powell, CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau, estimates that the 2018 NCAA event alone may produce $4.5 million in direct spending in the city. Based on that figure, hosting the annual event at the arena will have resulted in $216 million additional spending in the city through 2018. From the beginning city planners capitalized on this revenue… [insert archive material on books introducing city to incoming teams] 
Frericks and his assistants placed a diagram of the arena on his office wall and each time a customer bought a season ticket they put a push-pin into the spot. Different colors were used to designate seat type. Red were premium seats. Green were less expensive seats. Yellow were seats held for opposing team fans and complimentary tickets. Blank areas were seats for UD students. “Image from Tom Frericks office c. 1969” Source: Frericks Family Private Collection.
Still, the arena has faced some challenges. In the last thirty years the arena’s value as a sought-after venue for other activities has declined. Regionally, the construction of U.S. Bank Arena in 1975 may have hurt UD’s concert business, as U.S. Bank was larger than the UD Arena and located in a major city that is only an hour away. Wright State University’s Nutter Center, completed in 1990, cut into the arena’s status as the top local venue for concerts and other events.  As early as 1986 the planned construction of the Nutter Center was listed as potential threats by university administrators to future arena profits.  Strong regular season attendance has managed to more than compensate for the evolution of these rival venues.
An additional $13 million in 2017 upgraded interior parts of the building. Now, to coincide with the building’s 50th anniversary, a major expansion totaling over $72 million is underway. In a city boasting a gross metropolitan product of $40.6 billion in 2018, a figure that placed in ranked 68th in the U.S., the economic activity generated by the arena continues to play a significant role in the overall financial health of the city.