Consensus: Arena ramifications

The recently announced renovation that will transform Alexander Memorial Coliseum into the McCamish Pavilion is a welcomed physical upgrade for the dilapidated facility, but the change raises some historical and logistical concerns in the present and future. Overall, the design should allow fans to have better experience when going to watch Tech basketball and, along with strong on-court performance, could increase attendance to basketball games. The facility is also more representative of the historically strong basketball programs Tech has come to enjoy. This facility should also serve as a more welcoming venue for visitors to campus. While athletics is not the primary concern for the Institute, many outsiders’ dealings with Tech come solely through attendance of games or through watching the Jackets play on television. A world-class facility should only enhance Tech’s reputation with people who have limited knowledge of the Institute. The new Pavilion should act as a front door of sorts for Tech to the outside and surrounding community.

Unfortunately, the name change comes as a sad necessity. While the McCamish should be honored for their overly generous donations, losing the name of the legendary coach and athletic director William Alexander will be strange and a tough transition. Tech must never forget its history and embrace those who helped to build it. Something more substantial than a courtyard next to a major facility that once bore the man’s name is needed, and hopefully, in time, a more appropriate replacement will be found. In many situations, it seems money, not tradition wins out on campus, and while people who cherish Tech enough to make multi-million dollar donations are a vital part to making the Institute great, forgetting the legacy of the past will only undermine the greater good.

The 2011 basketball season will also be greatly, and potentially negatively, impacted by this major renovation. Every effort must be made to keep the games within a decent travel distance to campus. Shipping the team over thirty miles north to Gwinnett Arena will damage the basketball product and put it out of reach to many students. If no other venue proves plausible, then the Athletic Association (AA) needs to make transportations for students a top priority. While busing may seem too expensive to pursue in order to accommodate students, such expenses should be calculated in the total cost of using Gwinnett Arena, not as an unneeded extravagance that can be done without. If the AA fails to find some sort accommodation to allow students to attend the games, especially for underclassmen, a greater disconnect between the team and the student body may form, which can already be seen through the depleting student attendance at games.

The AA should also not expect students to balance their budget with increases in the Athletic Fee as result of the cost occurred from this project. The AA has made it a habit of charging students more over the recent years through previous increase in the fee and charging for season tickets for football, but that trend must be ebbed. Only five percent of the student body can attend a basketball game, and it should not be expected for the whole student body to fork over more money for a product so few students can use at the same time. If the AA does try to pursue an increase in the athletic fee, they must lay out their justification to student leadership so that its position can be made well understood by the entire student body. The student leadership must also ensure that there is broad support for any increase to the fee, from undergraduates and graduates alike. Any attempts to increase the fee without an open dialogue with the student body will be seen as underhanded and will strain relations between students and the AA.