By Josh Veltrie
As another year of classes ends, rumors continue to swirl about a new sports arena coming to Rider. Although nothing is set in stone, it is looking like Rider is heading in the right direction. By September or October, students and fans will know if a new basketball arena will be built or not, according to athletic director Don Harnum.
There has been speculation that Rider has been planning to build an arena for a long time, so this news is nothing new to many people. Over the past couple years, there have been letters to the editor written that have said how Alumni Gym is like a high-school gym, and in many ways, this comparison is true. The men’s basketball team needs to upgrade its facilities if the team wants to be a top mid-major program.
“It is a better sell [for recruits]. It isn’t a real secret that at this level, Alumni Gym as it sits is a tough sell,” said Tommy Dempsey, the head coach for the men’s basketball team. “On game night it is a great atmosphere but when a recruit comes to visit there isn’t that wow effect, because most recruits visit in the off-season.”
Not only would this new arena help out both basketball teams, but it would also make it easier for all of the sports teams at Rider. For the other winter teams such as volleyball and wrestling, which use Alumni Gym for their matches, it would make scheduling games and practices a lot easier if an arena was built and Alumni Gym was to stay. It would help other sports in the fall and spring because they would be able to have places to practice indoors when it rains instead of the SRC, according to Harnum.
There are some downfalls to a new arena, the biggest one being money. In times like these where does the money come from to build the arena? In President Rozanski’s Town Hall address on Tuesday, he said the amount needed to build the athletic arena would be around $12 million. Also, Alumni Gym was packed for every home game this past year and for the last couple years; if the arena’s occupancy is too large and can’t be filled, it will take away from the home court advantage the basketball teams have. Alumni Gym is one of the few places where fans walk on the court to get to their seats during a game, according to Harnum.
Fans are right on top of the court and although the gym itself is small, it can get loud and disrupt the visiting teams. Space is another issue: Where should the arena be built? If it is on campus how big of a distraction would it be? Would it take away from the limited parking spaces we have already? These are questions the administration needs to think about before building a new arena.
Although the men’s basketball season had a mediocre season in a year where expectations were high, the basketball program has been successful over the past couple years. The university needs to help it grow in any way it can since this is a basketball school. An arena would bring in better recruits, better opposing teams to come play at Rider (which also might mean more broadcast deals to get the Broncs on television a couple more times a year) and ultimately would help get the university’s name out to places where people have never heard of it.
Look at any of the mid-majors who win a game in the NCAA Tournament, such as Northern Iowa or St. Mary’s. When a team is successful, its name gets put out into the open and more people apply to the college or university because of their basketball programs. Granted, both of those teams defeated powerhouses in Kansas and Villanova, respectively, but even Siena is now a known name in college basketball because of what it has accomplished over the past three years.
If Rider gets an arena, it probably won’t make the basketball team reach the NCAA Tournament right away or have a sudden impact, but the university would be setting up the basketball programs, along with the other sports programs here at Rider, to be more successful.