When questions arose recently regarding Stony Brook’s ability to meet America East Conference requirements for a 3,000-seat arena to host the men’s basketball tournament final, athletic director Jim Fiore emphasized the school’s commitment to holding the game on campus if the Seawolves qualified. Evidence of that commitment now is apparent from the renovations under way in 4,000-seat Stony Brook Arena.
America East denied Stony Brook’s petition for a waiver of league bylaws to hold the game in 1,800-seat Pritchard Gymnasium, where the Seawolves have played since Stony Brook Arena was closed for a $20-million renovation project. But when questioned about ongoing work in the dormant arena, Fiore admitted the obvious to Newsday.
“My job as an athletic director is to prepare all of our options,” Fiore said. “We’re preparing to be in the Stony Brook Arena if we’re fortunate enough to win on Sunday.”
The No. 1-seeded Seawolves (21-8, 13-3 America East) meet No. 8 Albany (7-24, 2-14) in a first-round game at noon Saturday at Hartford University’s Chase Arena. If they win, the Wolves would advance to the conference semis against the Boston University-Hartford winner Sunday at 5 p.m.
As the highest-seeded team in the conference, a semifinal victory would give Stony Brook the right to host the championship, which will be televised nationally on ESPN at noon on Saturday, March 13.
Work on the $20-million renovation has been delayed since Gov. David Paterson froze capital spending two years ago as a result of the financial crisis. The final cost for the temporary fix has not been determined, but Fiore estimated it will be just over $50,000. America East also is guaranteed $75,000 in revenue under conference bylaws.
Funds for the repairs are coming out of the athletic department’s operating budget. “Basketball is very important to the university, and this is a university decision involving the president,” Fiore said. “It’s a nationally televised game. The exposure the university would get is certainly worth the investment.
“We’ll sell this out. We think we’ll be able to cover the lion’s share of our cost and certainly provide America East with their guaranteed revenue.”
A peek inside Stony Brook Arena yesterday revealed banks of television lights and amplifiers for a sound system have been installed overhead, and empty boxes for new backboards and competition rims were piled on the floor. Workmen were sanding the court and putting blue painter’s tape around the lettering on the border of the court.
Fiore said there will be a minimum of 1,500 tickets for Stony Brook students, 600 tickets mandated for the visiting team by the conference and the remaining 1,900 will be sold to the public as well as students. Nearly 800 students were turned away from the sold-out home finale against Vermont on Feb. 24.
“It’s good for everybody, good for our team, good for our university, good for our student body that we can get as many people in there as we can,” Fiore said.
If the Seawolves fall short of the conference final and a chance for an NCAA Tournament berth, they are guaranteed a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. Fiore has applied to the NIT to host a home game if they play in that tournament, so the cost to refurbish Stony Brook Arena won’t go to waste. “Absolutely,” Fiore said. “Let’s get ready.”