Game #9-258: Austin Peay Governors vs. Utah Valley WolverinesDecember 28, 2012 4:30 pm
I was in a hurry to make it to Chattanooga's McKenzie Arena. Not because I was running late, as I got to my motel more than two hours before the 4:30 tip-off of the first game of the Dr. Pepper Classic. And it was not because I expected tickets to be difficult to get, with McKenzie Arena being the largest arena in the SoCon and the first game not featuring the home-standing Mocs. No, I was in a hurry because I just wanted to get to the arena early. Like Western Kentucky the day before,
I had never been to Chattanooga. I had never seen the UTC campus, so I did not know how easy parking would be (UTC by the way charges $5 for parking, the only other SoCon team that plays on campus to charge for parking is College of Charleston). I also just wanted to get there early, see the arena, and get to know this new place of Hoops Nation before I saw basketball.
McKenzie Arena is 30 years old, and seats about 11,000. It is the largest arena in the Southern Conference unless you count UNC Greensboro who plays most games off campus in the Greensboro Coliseum (which still seats less than McKenzie Arena when the black curtains are down as they are for most game). It also looks much bigger than its capacity due to the structure of the building. The arena is steeply graded and built in a tight circle, which gives the feeling that all 11,000 seats are right on top of you at any given moment. The Colonial Life Arena, South Carolina's home facility, does not feel any bigger and if anything feels smaller if you are sitting down low, even though there are 50 percent more seats at South Carolina than at UTC. Regardless, McKenzie Arena is a very big facility for mid-major basketball and hosted the Southern Conference Tournament in both 2009 and 2011 (the former won by the host Mocs). If anything, McKenzie Arena is too big
for mid-major basketball. There aren't many facilities that I can think of that meet that description, as I like it when arenas are bigger than they need to be as that allows better seating options. But at McKenzie Arena, most seats down low are too far from the court with most seats up high to high from the floor. And there is no way the Mocs can fill the arena, given that it seats 11,000 and the team averages only 3,000 fans a game (which is still third in the SoCon after Davidson and College of Charleston). McKenzie Arena would certainly be nowhere near full for the first game here of the Dr. Pepper Classic between Utah Valley and Austin Peay. Austin Peay would bring some fans coming from three hours away on Interstate 24, but that would be limited as well on a Friday afternoon. The official attendance for the first day was about 2500, but well under 500 of those were at the first game. And this would be in an arena that seats 11,000.