MOSCOW — Long timber rafters in a unique free-form structure curved over a pristine basketball venue that appeared game-ready Wednesday as University of Idaho administrators provided a media tour of the new Idaho Central Credit Union Arena, which is nearing completion.

“I still get goosebumps,” Dennis Becker, dean of the UI’s College of Natural Resources, said of the experience of entering the arena. “I just want to touch the wood; I want to hug it; I want to smell it.”

Text reading “WELCOME TO ICCU ARENA” scrolled across a set of four video screens — two flat, two with a concave arc — above center court. The bright wooden framework of the spacious building furnished the Vandals’ signature gold hue, while gray cement flooring and black seats rounded out the school colors. Separated by a wall of retractable seats was a more austere practice court, while various glass-walled balcony spaces overlooked the heart of the facility.

School administrators touted the project’s economic benefits to the region — with timber and other building materials sourced locally — and the ways the student body had been involved in and privy to the construction process, as students in architecture, civil engineering, soils and more gained hands-on experience and educational opportunities.

“It’s really an Idaho project,” Becker said.

Architect Guy Esser estimated the arena can host up to 4,000 fans for games, and perhaps 4,500 for events like concerts and lectures that do not require the entire space of the main basketball court to be uncovered.

A center court logo transplanted from the old Cowan Spectrum floor is visible at the Idaho Administration Club Basketball Center entrance to the building, and other pieces of the Spectrum can be found in places such as the ceiling of the men’s locker room. Administrators intend for these features to preserve elements of the warmth and vision of the previous venue as the program moves to its state-of-the-art new home.

Athletes, some of whom gathered during the tour for a light shooting practice, photo ops and interviews, expressed enthusiasm for the venue on a par with that of the school officials.

“We saw the pictures, but even just coming here in person it’s 10 times better,” sophomore women’s basketball guard Sydney Gandy said. “... I think just having this beautiful arena is going to elevate the crowd and the energy for the games.”

Redshirt junior Trevante Anderson, a transfer from San Francisco, cited the “photos and demo promos” of the arena as one of his selling points for making the move, but still was awestruck when the time came recently to begin practice there.

“No comparison to when you actually stepped out here, got on the court,” he said. “I would definitely say it exceeded expectations, just the feeling here; I can’t wait to play in front of fans.”

Freshman guard Ethan Kilgore called the venue “the most unique arena in the country,” and senior guard Nolan Bertain simliarly said it was “the nicest one I’ve seen in the country.”

The Vandal men are set to play their first home contest at ICCU Arena on Oct. 29 facing Evergreen State College in an exhibition, and the women will host to San Diego on Nov. 14.

Wendt may be contacted at cwendt@lmtribune.com, or (208) 848-2268.