When it comes to college basketball in the state of Maryland, the cold hard fact is that there's the University of Maryland-College Park...and then there's everyone else. Being the biggest school in the state, as well as a major conference member, UMCP is the only school in the Old Line State that really garners any regular national attention. The smaller schools are always working on improving, however, and with the opening of Tiger Arena in 2013, Towson University and the Towson Tigers basketball team will certainly have a lot of heads turning on both the local and national levels.
On December 27, Towson announced that Tiger Arena, the new home for Tigers basketball which broke ground in May 2011 and is currently under construction, would open with a men's and women's doubleheader against the Navy Midshipmen on November 8, 2013. Tiger Arena will also be the home for the Tiger gymnastics and volleyball teams. Being billed as the best basketball facility in the Mid-Atlantic with an NBA-style practice facility and state of the art technology throughout, Towson University hasn't been afraid to hype up their new sports venue before it officially opens for athletics on August 1, 2013.
The name 'Tiger Arena' is subject to change based on naming rights, but a visit to the facility's website will allow you to see pictures, watch a time-lapse of the construction project and even view the Tigers Hard Hat Cam. There are also Tiger Arena Facebook and Twitter accounts already set up for the yet-to-be completed facility. When it's all completed, Tiger Arena will certainly be impressive. Located on Auburn Drive within the Towson campus, the new facility will seat 5,200 and have about 340 loge club seats, as well as 60 private suite seats. Amenities include an 800 square foot Hall of Fame Room and a 1500 square foot Hospitality Room and the total cost of the arena is reported to be $62 million.
Tiger Arena is being built right behind the venue that it is replacing, the Towson Center. Towson Center opened in 1976 and will become, among other things, a basketball practice facility and academic/life skills center once the basketball teams, volleyball team and gymnastics team move to the new arena.
The seating capacity between Towson Center and Tiger Arena are actually about the same, with Towson Center seating 5,250. The move is clearly not ntended to pack in more people; but more to make each fan's experience even better when they do come out to watch the Tigers. As it stands, a good Division I college basketball venue experience outside of the Comcast Center, home of the Maryland Terrapins, is very hard to find in this state. For instance, while the Comcast Center has a 4.1/5 on our website, Towson Center has a 2/5 and Reitz Arena, home of the Loyola Greyhounds, has a 1/5.
I have been to the Towson Center once in January 2008. I don't recall much from the visit, but I joked on a caption for a photo from the game that if my phone went off during the game, it would be a distraction to the players. This was an exaggeration, but it makes the point that there really was no atmosphere to speak of at the Towson Center. I was even asked to participate in the halftime fan game, probably because at 19 years old I was one of the youngest fans watching the game that night.
Once Tiger Arena is opened, fans and students will likely flock to see the new facility. In a state that is lacking a second top-quality college basketball venue, everyone will be curious to find out whether Tiger Arena can be that second state of the art facility in the Chesapeake Bay State. The official opening will be a special event and the atmosphere will be electric. The ultimate test will be whether the atmosphere at Tiger Arena stays electric through the season and for the following years to come. We here at Stadium Journey for the best. Marylanders love their sports and Towson is a wonderful academic school. When Towson raises the bar in the Mid-Atlantic with the opening of the Tiger Arena, as they predict they will, other schools in the area may take a closer look at the quality of their facilities and venues.
The fact that Tiger Arena will not be any bigger than Towson Center really reiterates the fact that the improvement is focused on quality, not quantity. The 5,200 seating capacity would make Tiger Arena the seventh largest basketball arena in the eleven-member Colonial Athletic Association, but if there is a good atmosphere and great quality in the new arena when it opens in 2013, it could really be a top venue in the CAA, as well as the Mid-Atlantic. Only time will tell.