Athletes take pride in arena
Student section naming final piece of puzzle
Jay Benedict | Editor-in-Chief
John Lance Arena received a major facelift over the summer, courtesy of the Whetzel family. Now, the final, and some would argue most important, piece will soon be in place.
The arena’s new student section will make its way from the north end zone of Carnie Smith Stadium to the north side of the court as football season comes to a close. Courtney Ingram, senior guard for the PSU men’s basketball team, says that will be the icing on the cake.
“The new arena already seems like there’s more life in it,” Ingram said. “It will be even better when the student section gets placed near the opponent’s bench and can give them a hard time.”
Athletic Director Jim Johnson says the new portable seating holds about 300 students. Athletics is partnering with the Student Government Association to come up with a creative name for the new student section as well.
“We also want an ongoing partnership with SGA after we name it to keep the section filled,” Johnson said. “The students always bring a lot of energy, so we want to do everything we can to get them out for games.”
Johnson approached SGA about naming the student section and senators will be talking with students for the next two weeks before voting on a winner.
The unnamed student section may be the final piece, but it would not be possible without the renovation, which directly benefits Gorilla athletes the most. Senior volleyball player Leah Flynn says her team is excited to be the first to play on the new court.
“Overall, we feel blessed,” Flynn said. “Blessed because of the Whetzels’ generosity and to have the chance to be the first team out there playing on it.”
The $1.2 million facelift includes three courts, 14 basketball goals, new bleachers and more space for all the indoor sports. Flynn, Ingram and assistant women’s basketball coach Amanda Davied all said the space is the biggest improvement.
“The amount of space makes everyone feel equally important,” Davied said. “It helps with scheduling too. A lot of our players have late classes and now it’s a lot easier to schedule practices around everyone’s academics.”
Flynn says that aside from the convenience, the new arena also makes practices more efficient. The volleyball team used to practice on an artificial rubberized sports court.
“We had to assemble the court before we could practice, and it was old and dirty,” Flynn said. “We play on a wood court, though, so now practice is more game-like and we can prepare better.”
The extra space came at a cost, though. The track that ran around the outside of the arena and hosted the indoor track team’s practices has been removed.
“Coach (Russ) Jewett helped fundraise and get this project going, knowing that track would have to make sacrifices,” Davied said. “But he sees the big picture and knows that this is just the start.”
They all said they think the renovations will have a positive effect on recruitment. Davied said the women’s basketball team played host last weekend to a recruit who is also being sought after by Division I schools. She thinks that the new arena gives Pitt State the ability to compete with larger, more nationally known programs. Flynn agrees.
“If I would have walked in here as a freshman and heard the story of how this was built, I would see that PSU and the community care about the program,” Flynn said. “Everyone always talks about football, but this improvement makes us really feel like an important part of athletics and the university.”
Flynn says she thinks the renovations drew more people in, and that added to the atmosphere.
“At first, the renovations brought people in and the energy at “Pack the Weede” was awesome,” Flynn said. “People came out to see the new arena and then they said, ‘This team is really fun to watch,’ and I think they’ll keep coming.”
None of them said they missed anything about the old arena, but Davied, who played on the old court and now coaches on the new one, said the older version was special to her.
“I have a sentimental spot for the blood, sweat and tears spilled on the old floor,” Davied said. “But we’re making positive progress in the same place. We can have pride in that we’re moving forward and we’ve kept in touch with who we are.”