Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fairfield, Arena Work Out NIT Conflict

Good news came earlier today (Thursday) for the Fairfield men's basketball team.

The Stags were able to secure the Arena at Harbor Yard, their home-court facility, for an NIT second-round game Sunday at 12:30 p.m. when they'll host Kent State.

Because of a scheduling conflict (an AHL hockey game later that day), it was originally announced that Fairfield would not have access to the arena and would play in its on-campus Alumni Hall.

And, maybe that's not such good news. The Stags' best crowds since playing in the Bridgeport, Conn., facility have barely reached 5,000. Its first-round MAAC tournament game in the facility only drew slightly over 5,200 and its semifinal-round game in that event drew slightly more than 3,900. That's in a facility that can hold close to 10,000 spectators.

Alumni Hall might be an antiquated, small on-campus "barn," but it only holds about 3,000 (just an educated guess, since the Fairfield sports information department did not return calls on Thursday).

But, an on-campus NIT game for which students merely would have to walk a few hundred yards, at most, to attend a Sunday afternoon game ... the guess is the place would have been packed with enthusiastic support making it a better "home" facility than the Bridgeport, Arena.

Still, the demand for tickets is likely to surpass Alumni Hall's capacity, and the amenities in that facility far surpass Alumni Hall.

Fairfield isn't the first MAAC school to run into a home-arena's scheduling conflict for an NIT game.

Your blogging hoopscribe recalls a similar conflict at what was then the Pepsi Arena in Albany for a scheduled Siena home NIT second-round game against Penn State.

Because the arena was scheduled to host a Ricky Martin concert the night of the game in question, the site was instead shifted to Penn State.

Siena dropped a 105-103 decision, and the perception at the time was that had the Saints been able to play on their home court as originally scheduled it would have beaten the Nittany Lions and would have also hosted a third-round NIT contest.

Tickets for the Fairfield NIT contest are priced from $7 to $15 and through the school's website, or by calling the arena.

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