By no means am I the first person to have this opinion, but I want to give my spiel on this matter. Penn State should play a basketball game at Rec Hall.
I was 3 years old when Rec Hall last hosted a collegiate basketball game, in 1995. But from the stories I’ve heard, when I imagine a basketball game at Rec Hall, I picture a packed, clammy and boisterous gym that creates a lively atmosphere. What I can’t picture about a modern game in the small arena from yesteryear is a downside.
If the Nittany Lions took their show across campus even just once at some point in the near future, it would certainly be a refreshing change of scenery from the thousands of empty seats they play in front of on a nightly basis at the Bryce Jordan Center.
There have been times when the 15,261-seat BJC has had great environments in recent memory, but those instances in the current home of Nittany Lion basketball are few and far between. For the most part, a typical crowd for a men’s basketball game at the BJC tends to get rowdier for the Subway sub toss than it does for almost any Penn State defensive possession.
Coach Patrick Chambers said he wants to be able fill up the BJC, and to do that, he needs to keep taking steps to build a basketball fan base. A game at Rec Hall — an idea Chambers recently said he was open to — would help to do just that, because it has mass appeal.
Alumni and townspeople could revisit the arena in which they grew up watching basketball. Students could be right on top of the game in the old gym and make more of an impact and noise than they ever do at the BJC. And players could have a true home-court advantage, even if it lasts only 40 minutes.
Yes, Penn State has a lackluster history on the hardwood, but maybe the program could invite some of its best players from the Rec Hall era — Jesse Arnelle, John Amaechi, Dan Earl, to name a few — to a game in the team’s old stomping grounds. Or the team could possibly don some throwback jerseys to pay homage to former Lions. There’s a lot of potential for an entertaining night for players, coaches and fans — both past and present.
Penn State would have to move its floor and two baskets to Rec Hall in order for this to happen. And though I don’t know the ins and outs of the logistics of this, the BJC floor can be disassembled, and baskets are portable.
Ticket sales would be another issue, but I find it hard to imagine the former basketball home would not fill up if hoops made a return. The Lions had an average attendance of more than 6,000 for three straight seasons at Rec Hall in the early 1990s, and there were once a listed 8,600 fans packing the gills of the venue for a basketball contest against Virginia in 1973.
The Lions averaged 7,523 fans per home game this season, so if the team played to a sold out Rec Hall one night in the future, it’s doubtful the team would lose much revenue from ticket sales. The wrestling team also has had more than 6,000 fans at each home dual this season, so Rec Hall already has the staff in place to host this kind of crowd.
College basketball is a beautiful thing when fans become part of a game and an arena comes to life. If a Penn State program that desperately needs a shot in the arm can get that to happen once in Rec Hall, maybe it can translate down Curtin Road to the BJC.
The possibility of a modern-day basketball game at Rec Hall is appealing. Let’s hope it becomes a reality.