By BEN JOHNSON
The days of Northeastern State opening up its new basketball arena keep closer and closer. The new facility will fit 3,100 for basketball contests and nearly a thousand more for graduations or concerts. Nearly all of the frame work on the outside is complete, and it won’t be long before NSU begins settling into its new basketball home.
Recently, Tony Duckworth answered questions about NSU’s new home, which is slated to open in October.
At this point, is the arena only scheduled to host basketball games and graduations?
I think the university as a whole will be looking at a variety of events that can take place in here. As I mentioned to (NSU president) Steve Turner, it would be a shame if 95 percent of the events that took place in here were basketball. From commencement to potential concerts and other types of events that seem to work in a facility like this, we certainly want to give it as much exposure and promote Northeastern State in the most positive light possible. I think that goes just beyond basketball games.
With the addition of the new facility, are there any discussions of adding any additional sports at NSU, more specifically volleyball or wrestling?
At this point, we’re comfortable with the NCAA Division II minimum sport requirement, which is 10. We have five men and five women, and there is the option to go six women and four men, but we’re not discussing anything like that. We just want to focus on addressing the needs for the 10 sports that we currently operate. Once you start talking about adding new sports, you have to figure out where that funding is coming from, and that creates the age-old question: are we going to start carving out money from existing sports? The president and I are of the mindset that we don’t want to go down that path.
High school basketball is something that you’ve said that you would like to get a hold of. Are you working on getting postseason games or perhaps hosting a regular-season tournament?
I think both are possibilities. I’ve spoken briefly to our two assistant basketball coaches Jon Havens (men) and Matt Cole (women) and trying to get a sense about their understanding of the recruiting trail and the possibilities of having some sort of holiday-type basketball tournament. And then turning that into a fundraiser for the basketball program.
Will the arena also be used for trade shows and conventions?
I think what the city of Tahlequah did with the sales tax initiative to add the community center, I know — I haven’t been in any specific meetings — but I’ve heard around campus, if there is something in the date fits into the proper place or there were constituent groups that wanted to utilize the actual event center itself for that type of activity, certainly it could take place in there, as well.
Will the basketball court be permanent? Or will it be portable?
The actual court that was purchased is a portable floor, but as the project evolved we expanded the recess of the floor. So we’ll have — or we hope to have — additional square footage around the existing court. The court that we have in storage now will not fully — obviously, it’s a regulation court — but there are sections around the court that will still be concrete. We’re studying the feasibility of adding to the floor, where the entire bowl would be wood. But at this point, the court is portable.
As far as you’re concerned, the best feature of the arena is...?
From an athletic standpoint and a fan-experience standpoint, I think they worked up plans to make sure the fan experience is top notch. There are no real wide open corners. The bleachers and the mezzanine level are going to be in close proximity to the court, and when you have a positive fan experience that obviously bleeds over and creates a positive student-athlete experience.