Column: A new doghouse
When you think of landmarks on UConn's campus, a variety of buildings come to mind, but perhaps the most well-known and recognizable is Gampel Pavilion.
The 10,167-seat arena opened in 1990 and has seen some of college basketball's biggest stars grace its hardwood. The men's basketball team has enjoyed a 151-22 record at Gampel since its doors opened. There's no question that the arena holds many memoires for fans across UConn country.
That being said it's time for the university to renovate or demolish Gampel Pavilion.
Over winter break I made it up to Storrs for the game against Harvard and took a moment to take a good look around the building. The roof is falling apart, the concourse level has always been too small to handle the large crowds the Huskies draw and the arena lacks some of the modern amenities common in newer venues.
Not to mention it takes a day and a half for the lights to warm up and turn on.
If UConn really is the "college basketball capitol of the world" then we need to upgrade our facilities. The basketball developmental center next door is coming along nicely and it will be a huge tool for Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma to recruit the nation's top players to Storrs, but having an outdated arena will hold back recruiting efforts in the long run.
The counter argument is that other major college basketball programs have been playing in buildings much older than Gampel for years. Phog Allen Fieldhouse has been home to the Kansas Jayhawks since 1955. Butler has been playing college hoops at Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1928. However these two buildings have been renovated to ensure they are providing fans and players alike the best atmosphere for the game.
As far as facilities are concerned, athletics at UConn have hit a turning point. The baseball field needs lights, the soccer field needs some renovation, but the large elephant in the room is what to do with the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
The Huskies will soon transition into one of the top college hockey conferences in the country, Hockey East. The Forum on the Storrs campus only holds 2,000. Merrimack College has the lowest crowd capacity in Hockey East at 2,489.
Something needs to be done in order to ensure the success of the men's hockey program. The current agreement to play conference games at the XL Center is laughable. UConn students don't want to travel to Hartford for basketball games and it's not likely they would make the trek for a hockey game.
The most logical idea is to renovate Gampel to accommodate hockey and basketball. It would create for one of the best winter sports arenas in the North East. Granted the major issue with this is, of course, money and lots of it. But at the end of the day it would make more sense to spend the money now and create adequate facilities that will not only draw in the nation's top athletic prospects but out-of-state tuition dollars as well.
In the meantime Gampel is here to stay and that's ok. I like Gampel, it's a place that holds so many of my UConn memories and it will be the place where I will graduate in May. That being said it's time to think about the future and what's best for future generations of Huskies and their fans.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerRMorrissey
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