Big-time program boasts big-time atmosphere

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

On Jan. 14, I had the opportunity and privilege to attend the SDSU versus University of Minnesota basketball game at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minn. Not only did I get to witness a great basketball game, but as a sports reporter, I was able to experience the game in a way I couldn’t have at Frost Arena.

Williams Arena is one of the most unique basketball facilities in the entire country. Here in Brookings, we refer to the intramural building as “The Barn,” but Williams Arena is the one, true “Barn.”

This “Barn” features one of the most interesting playing surfaces anywhere. The basketball floor is raised three feet off the ground, so the teams are literally playing on a stage. Rumors abound that the floor also has a little extra spring in it, giving players an extra boost when it comes to jumping.

Williams Arena also houses many partially obstructed viewing seats. Beams and rafters prevent full viewing from many of the lower-level corner seats.

Sitting in the press-row at Williams Arena is like nothing I have ever done before. Because of the raised floor, I actually watched the game from the ground level. Unlike every other basketball game, or any sporting event, I have attended, I looked up to watch the action, instead of looking down.

Before the game started, I was eight feet away from a live television broadcast. The game was broadcast on Fox Sports Net North, so the announcers did the pre-show live from the floor of the game before it started and stayed there throughout the whole thing. Had I wanted to, I could have moved about 10 feet to my right and been on television. I had never been so close to television announcers in my life.

After the controversial last bucket, I was able to walk over to the FSN North television monitor to get a glimpse of the replay myself, something I would not have ever been able to do at our stadium.

When the exhilarating game concluded, we went to a media room for the press conference. The room had a large M painted on the wall to display for the cameras during the press conference. The sides of the room contained desks for reporters to plug in their laptops and work on their stories.

Covering a Minnesota Gophers game was significantly different than covering a South Dakota State Jackrabbits game. Everything about the event seemed to be more professional. It is what I would have expected a professional basketball game to be like-television cameras everywhere, thousands of fans cheering, seats the entire way around the basketball court and multiple levels of seating-not exactly what we have in the HPER.

Here in Frost Arena, we consider a good crowd to consist of more than 3,000 fans. Our games are rarely shown on television. We have our press conferences in the trophy room, complete with a drop-down banner to hide the trophy cases. Many of our fans sit on retractable bleachers.

Now, I’m not saying which one is better, just that the experiences at Frost and Williams differ greatly. They each offer unique aspects for the spectators and the players. We feel the use of rooms for multiple purposes is efficient. We don’t feel the need for separate media rooms-the trophy room pulls double-duty just fine. We don’t feel the need to have seating around the court 24/7. Why waste valuable floor space with seating? Just pull the seating down when needed. The opportunity to only watch the team in person also seems to connect the fans to the players better; watching the games in person is a totally different experience than on television. All of these things give our atmosphere more of a small-town, almost high school-like, atmosphere.

The Gopher facilities and program have their advantages too. The opportunity to see a game on television is nice. It is not always fun or convenient to buy tickets, pay for parking and drive to Minneapolis to watch the Gophers. Also, being at an event with thousands of other people is quite the experience. Generally, the more people that attend, the more fun the game is. Having permanent seating and a permanent media room is desirable, if not efficient. They offer a more professional, big-city type of atmosphere.

Overall, the experience covering the Minnesota versus South Dakota State women’s basketball game was fun and insightful. I enjoyed my time feeling like a big-timer, sitting in the press row at a major university, right next to the television crew. But I’ll take my small-time, Frost Arena home any day.

#1.883398:2207854054.jpg:ball_talk.jpg:Brian Kimmes, Ball Talk: