Site for more eyes: Arena is ready to rock
By Rick Vacek
GCU Today Magazine
Cathey Moses’ day planner for newly expanded Grand Canyon University Arena already lists events in 2018. In other words, while incoming freshmen are still trying to figure out which building is which, she already is mapping out the Arena schedule for their senior year.
Of course, that’s what GCU’s vice president of event planning and marketing does for a living. For her, it’s all Arena, all the time. For most students, it likely will be all Arena at least some of the time. And just in time for the 2014-15 school year, the biggest meeting place on campus is bigger and better than ever.
In a project that began in early March, a five-row upper deck was installed to increase the Arena’s capacity from nearly 5,000 to about 7,000.
What would Moses tell newcomers about the Arena?
“The fact that they have access to a building like this – all the basketball, all the other sporting events, all the Chapel services, all the concerts,” she said. “Not every university has a building like this and one’s that so accessible like this.”
The centerpiece is Antelopes basketball, GCU’s No. 1 sport. The men’s team will have 21 home games this season in the second year of its transition from NCAA Division II to D-I. The women’s team faces a Dec. 18 game against national power University of Louisville among the 15 on its home schedule.
What would Dan Majerle, the former Phoenix Suns star who coaches the GCU men’s team, tell newbies to expect?
“To expect what you never expected,” he said. “I’ve been all over the country and have played in a lot of different arenas, obviously, and I was blown away by the noise in the Arena and the enthusiasm of the students. And it’s not just the basketball – it’s the entertainment, the pep band, the whole atmosphere.
“You won’t find anything quite like it. If you want to experience college basketball at its finest, you don’t have to go anywhere else but right here.”
Moses said there were 288 events in the Arena in 2013, so don’t be surprised when it’s a busy place again during this school year … and for years to come.
DID YOU KNOW?
GCU has a chance to be heard nationwide: By filling all 7,000 seats and making the Arena a tough place to play for opposing teams, GCU has an opportunity to claim a prominent spot on the college basketball map in only its second year in Division I. Gonzaga University was the only Far West university to make SBNation’s list of top mid-major basketball venues, and its arena seats only 6,000. Only half of the Pacific 12 Conference universities averaged more than 7,000 per game last season.
The new floor has all-star connections: The new, portable basketball floor (the old one wasn’t removed for other events; this one will be) is one of several floors the NBA used at its All- Star Weekend last February in New Orleans, GCU Operations Manager Dino Trejo said. The University purchased it from Horner Flooring in Dollar Bay, Mich., which refinished the floor to Majerle’s specifications, with pads underneath that help players avoid shin splints.
The top-down view will be top-notch: The new section that goes around the top of the Arena offers unobstructed views — no coaches or officials in your way — and feels right on top of the action. Bob Machen, who as senior vice president of campus development oversaw both the original construction and the expansion of the Arena, predicts that the center-court seats in the upper deck will be considered the best seats in the house. The biggest challenge for game operations staff will be to figure out how cheerleaders can throw free Lopes T-shirts all the way up there.
Freshmen can help the Monsoon reign: Emily Stephens, the University’s director of spirit programs and game operations, made sure freshmen were heavily recruited at orientation to join other students in the Monsoon, which encompasses all of the special student cheering sections at men’s basketball games, and the Havocs, the elite unit in the group. They’re determined to be louder than ever. “They just can’t wait to be in there — they’re excited about the challenge,” Stephens said. “And the freshmen are completely ready.”
The band sound will be even bigger: Not only will the pep band have 95 members, 10 more than last year, the new bleachers on the south end of the Arena will be more vertical, which means the band will be even closer to the court. “We should be a lot louder,” band director Paul Koch said. Not that anyone had trouble hearing them before.
The video board will be on the move: The new upper-tier seats on the south end of the Arena were installed where the video board used to be, so part of the renovation was the creation of a 57-foot, 3,000-pound trolley beam that will allow the board to move to the corner for basketball games. It still can be in the middle of the south end for concerts and similar events. The screen could be moved up and down last year, but now it will go side-to-side and swivel.
The list of events goes on and on: Casting Crowns was the first Christian rock band to play at the Arena when it opened in 2011 and will be back for the first big concert in GCU Arena 2.0. Among the other Christian music performances scheduled to play at the Arena are MercyMe, Lincoln Brewster, Switchfoot, Rend Collective and Kari Jobe. And here’s a taste of the variety of the many other events on the Arena docket — everything from a high school robotics competition to a Google Summit, Promise Keepers, a Catholic Youth Conference, and Bubba’s Bash, hosted by Bubba Watson, the two-time champion of the Masters golf tournament, and featuring Lecrae and Britt Nicole.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or [email protected]