Let’s start this season’s updates on the hardwood in the college game. The most significant new arena comes in Lincoln, NE with the building of Pinnacle Bank Arena. The 15,000 seat facility shares a lot of similarities with the relatively new arena in the state’s other big city of Omaha. Both arenas are downtown, off-campus and set up in an NBA type design. Lincoln’s new arena created a trickle down affect as Cornhusker volleyball moved into a tweaked Bob Delaney Sports Center. The volleyball team’s old home, NU Coliseum sadly departs The List and what a terrific little venue it was. Towson also moved into a brand new facility as they opened SECU Arena, not to be confused with Albany’s, SEFCU Arena. The Tigers celebrated with a building-opening win over Temple a few weeks ago. Their former arena at Towson Center was actually converted into a practice facility.
Speaking of the Baltimore area, Charm City will now host the CAA tournament, played in Baltimore Arena. In my opinion, this is the biggest blow to a once proud league that had such a strong presence in the Mid-Atlantic. They expanded past their bounds and then have been hit hard by the losses of VCU, ODU and George Mason. Now, one of the better post-season conference tournaments has left its Richmond home after 24 years. Nothing against the great city of Baltimore, but I think you will see a lot of empty seats in the downtown arena as this is not a college basketball crazed area and the nearby school fanbases aren’t exactly huge. Another conference tourney change that has an impact on The List is the Sun Belt leaving Hot Springs for New Orleans. The tournament was the only sporting event in the Hot Springs Convention Center.
There are four teams making the jump from D-II to D-I and a pair of them have seating capacities over 3,500. Both Abilene Christian and the controversial, for-profit Grand Canyon University play in existing arenas that now make The List. The other two D-I newbies are UMass-Lowell and Incarnate Word. What is with all these obscure sounding colleges? A few other notes…SMU will play the non-conference portion of their schedule in Garland’s Curtis Calwell Center until Moody Coliseum finishes renovations. In the Lehigh Valley, Lafayette finished a renovation that reduced the capacity at Kirby Sports Center down to 2,644. That is now the 11th stadium I have visited that has either reduced capacity below criteria, closed or stopped hosting sports.
At the professional level, we just have an arena name change in the NBA and it is a terrible one in Portland. One of the best named places, the Rose Garden has changed to the Moda Center, thanks to a naming rights deal. I’m not the only one who really did not like the name change. While looking through the NBA arenas, it also was incredibly hard to find the seating capacities to these buildings, moreso than arenas that strictly host NHL. Anyway, a few changes in the NBDL, which by the way is making nice strides into becoming a true feeder league to the NBA and establishing a nice traditional base as the top minor basketball league. A new franchise in the Delaware 86ers will play at the Bob Carpenter Center, while in Sioux Falls, they open a brand new arena called the Sanford Pentagon. This is truly a unique place with the five-sided shape and the inclusion of nine practice courts. They also tailored the inside to look like the 1950s with the parquet floor and old-school time clock. Love this new arena, just too bad it didn’t make The List as the capacity of 3,200 falls just short. It still may be worth a trip out to South Dakota for a Stampede-Skyforce winter doubleheader.