Onward Debates: Should Penn State Hoops Permanently ‘Return to Rec’?

Although the result wasn’t quite what the fans wanted, Return to Rec was a resounding success. The arena was packed, the atmosphere was electric, and it was a ton of fun to watch the hoops team make its way down Curtin Road to its old digs. With Bryce Jordan Center attendance lacking in recent years, it begs the question of considering a permanent “Return to Rec.” Two of our writers, Zach Berger and Ben Berkman, took a stab at debating the topic.

A return to Rec would be a wreck — Ben Berkman

It’s not easy to advocate for an arena that Penn Live’s David Jones named the worst college basketball venue in the area. It’s especially difficult because, for a post earlier this week, I spent a few hours researching Penn State basketball’s history at Rec Hall only to find that games held there were simply more fun than match-ups at the Jordan Center. Students were right on top of the action, the bleachers were at a much steeper angle than the BJC’s layout, and most importantly, many games sold out.

However, consistently holding games at Rec Hall wouldn’t work for a few reasons.

The first and most salient issue is capacity. Penn State basketball is becoming more popular: decent wins over La Salle and St. John’s, an exciting backcourt, and an offense that earns us free Big Macs every home game will undeniably lead to a spike in attendance once the conference slate starts, and that’s not including the fact that there is a spike in attendance every year when the Nittany Lions start conference play.

While the team lost a game it should have won on Saturday, the Return to Rec game exposed more Penn Staters to the program, its potential, and how exciting Penn State basketball can be if people actually care about the games.

If the program wants more people to attend its games (it does), then it needs a venue that can both hold and comfortably accommodate a large crowd. About 6,200 attended the Return to Rec game. In 2011, the last year the basketball team had a relevant season, it eclipsed 13,000 in attendance multiple times. If Penn State averages only 8,000 during conference home games, Rec Hall would still be too small.

And secondly the novelty of playing at Rec Hall would simply wear off after a few games. Sure, we can pack the place for a first-time-in-16-years matchup against a 7-1 Princeton team. However, I can’t see people getting especially excited for a game against Longwood, no matter where it’s played. After a while, the undeniable flaws would come through: there aren’t enough bathrooms, the wooden benches are miserably uncomfortable, and the concession layout doesn’t cater to Dollar Dog Nights. The basketball team moved to the Jordan Center because it outgrew Rec Hall; returning would be both counterproductive and impractical.

The facilities for the team are also much better at the BJC, even if the fan experience suffers. There’s a practice court, the basketball offices are pristine, and it doesn’t need to share with other teams like volleyball and gymnastics (only Bon Jovi). Quite simply, it’s much easier to recruit players to play at the BJC than it is Rec Hall at this point. Moving from the BJC just isn’t feasible at this point.

Yes, basketball at Rec Hall was more exciting than the empty, noiseless cavern that is the Jordan Center. However, the BJC is comfortable, there are enough bathrooms, and it can support a crowd. And on the few – and hopefully more frequent – occasions that it does fill up, it’s still a challenging venue for opposing teams.

Time to jump ship on the BJC — Zach Berger

Penn State basketball has had a hard time reeling me in as a fan over the course of my four years at the university. It was partly bad basketball that kept me away, but the Bryce Jordan Center’s dull, unexciting environment had a lot to do with it as well. No number of giveaways and cheap hotdogs could convince me otherwise. It is quite simply no fun going to an arena that holds 15,261 people for basketball games and can’t get half of that number to fill the seats regularly.

Ask anyone who attended the Return to Rec game witnessed in person, the atmosphere was much better than it has been during our time as students. The student section was hyped up from start to finish and on its feet all game long. Despite spending the game up on press row, it was still the most exciting that a Penn State hoops game has been during my time in Happy Valley from start to finish (obviously, the Michigan celebration last year is not easily topped).

Sure, the Bryce Jordan Center can hold the slew of fair-weather fans that decide to show up for a few conference games a season. And yes, Rec Hall might not be able to fully accommodate the for those types of games. But what Rec Hall does bring to the table is a home court advantage that simply doesn’t exist at the Bryce Jordan Center. The BJC is about as intimidating as a stuffed teddy bear.

At Rec Hall, the bleachers in the student section are deep, there are literally fans just a couple feet behind the sidelines, and the sound echoes through the arena all game long. The band sounds a whole lot louder in Rec Hall and so do the cheers from the crowd. Simply put, Rec Hall brings the team an advantage that doesn’t exist at the BJC and is just a hell of a lot more fun.

What do you think? Should the Penn State men’s basketball team move its games to Rec Hall?

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