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McGair: Would PC men ever consider playing games at Alumni Hall?

November 1, 2011

New PC head coach Ed Cooley makes a gesture during last week's exhibition game at Alumni Hall. Photo by Butch Adams.

Dreamers can always dream big. It’s a birthright that can’t be stripped away, regardless if this figment of one’s creative tanks comes off as either practical or far-fetched.
How do dreams take flight? Obviously we don’t fit the description of a neuroscientist, yet we’ll let you in on the origin behind this particular thought process.
Go back to last week and the exhibition contest between Providence College and Assumption that was played at Alumni Hall. As the game progressed, the more serious we started lending support to this: What if the Friars played a handful of games on campus?
Pure fantasy? Probably, but a person can certainly dream, hence the premise of the piece. Still, after a phone chat with athletic director Bob Driscoll in which this brainstorm was brought to his attention, we came away feeling good that we weren’t told to get out of the clouds and into the real world.
“It’s certainly an interesting question,” remarked Driscoll upon being broached by this reporter on said topic. “It’s a good thought and one that might make it a tough ticket if [Alumni Hall] was a great place. If it makes financial and logistical sense, then certainly we’ll consider it.”
Why can’t Providence play actual regular-season home games at Alumni Hall? Have you seen the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in recent seasons when the opponent isn’t named Connecticut, Syracuse or Rhode Island? It’s not exactly a robust/vibrant atmosphere, which the endless rows of empty black seats will testify to.
To surmise, we pitched to Driscoll the idea of identifying the games best described as nondescript cannon fodder simply for the name of bolstering a team’s win-loss record and relocating them to a venue that’s both cozy and intimate. Surely enough interest exists to pack Alumni Hall for New Hampshire, Florida A&M and Southern — three opponents included in PC’s 2011-12 home schedule.
Let’s stay on this tangent and take this “dream” up a level, i.e. hold a select number of Big East home games at Alumni Hall. You know, the ones that don’t include a perennial power. How about saving UConn and Syracuse for The Dunk and shift the likes of DePaul and South Florida from downtown to Smith Hill?
Such scheduling is an art St. John’s has mastered. This season, the Red Storm will host the following Big East schools at famed Madison Square Garden — Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Villanova, West Virginia and Notre Dame. At Carnesecca Arena, located on school grounds, is where you’ll find St. John’s rolling out the welcome mat for Providence and DePaul.
It should be pretty clear what’s afoot here. The Johnnies view MSG as the proper place to hold “big time games.” Everyone else, off to Queens you go.
Another issue to consider is money, as in PC saving some by utilizing Alumni Hall from time to time.
Providence has to pay a fee to play basketball games at The Dunk, a practice that in likelihood dates back to when the team first started playing there in 1972. While Driscoll did not want to get into the specifics as to how much cash the college must dole out, he noted there’s a “ballpark” difference of $10,000 that exists between the Friars hosting a Big East game as opposed to a non-conference one.
Certainly games at The Dunk represent a chance for Providence College to make money; the question is just how much is left on the table once the bill is paid. The take on non-marquee nights can’t be that significant – home attendance for Friar contests has dropped in each of the past four seasons – that PC officials should at least look into moving a select number of games to Alumni Hall.
That Providence would be able to save some serious coin by pocketing fee to play at The Dunk is an enticing proposition – one that could net the school a savings of over $100,000 providing the right combination of Big East/non-Big East games. Second, a game at Alumni Hall would grant PC the ability to have first and last say in ticket prices, seat licenses and surcharges. Their building, their terms.
“We certainly save on the rent, but for a legitimate game, you wouldn’t be able to accommodate all the people that are willing to go to the game [at Alumni Hall],” Driscoll said. “What we could do if we wanted to is take [games at Alumni] off line and not require the season ticket holders to buy it and the sell that game maybe for a different kind of a price, but we haven’t really talked about that because I don’t want to leave money on the table if we have a certain ticket base and can’t accommodate them.
“I guess you could do first come, first serve,” Driscoll went on, “but I wouldn’t want to do something like that with the amenities we have right now [the 2011-12 season marks the fourth campaign of the newly refurbished Dunk], but it would be interesting to see what everything looks like at this time next year.”
With that line in mind, perhaps we should keep in mind 2014, which is when the current five-year deal PC has in place with The Dunk expires.
While Driscoll was more than willing to listen, he also noted a series of checkpoints that would need to be crossed off before the idea of contesting games at Alumni Hall could ever be seriously considered. Obviously seating capacity serves as the biggest hurdle to overcome. Alumni Hall seats 2,620; the paid figure for PC-Assumption was 1,892.
For purely a jumping-off point, Carnesecca Arena seats 5,602 while The Pavilion, Villanova’s on-campus home, holds 6,500.
“If I had a 6,000-seat arena, it would be a no-brainer,” said Driscoll, “but as small as our arena is, I’m not sure we could accommodate all of that [meaning ticket demand].”
Driscoll mentioned that Alumni Hall is scheduled for a major overhaul beginning next spring. In terms of parking, an additional 750-car garage is going to be constructed as part of the track/lacrosse/soccer facility that will be housed next to Schneider Arena.
Such additions to Providence’s campus can only help in strengthening this “dream.”
We’ll end this by saying that we don’t know if the Friars playing games at Alumni Hall will ever see the light of day. The odds are stacked against this from happening, but consider the following – the Friars moved from Alumni Hall to the then-Providence Civic Center because supply couldn’t keep up with demand.
Call it reverse marketing. If the Friars opted to play games on campus, perhaps that would serve as the catalyst to attract new fans. Those same fans become willing to check out a game at The Dunk. Suddenly, you have two venues to show off.
That’s not a dream. That’s the definition of coming full-circle.

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