The Digital Journalism Blog


Bring it back to Campus

By Evan Wixom

Five years ago, the Robertson Memorial Field House was demolished after serving Bradley for almost six decades.

Constructed in 1949 from two World War II airplane hangars for $400,000 ($3.9 million today), Robertson was the home of Bradley men’s basketball from 1949 to 1982.

Renaissance Coliseum, a staple of Bradley’s Renaissance Campaign, was built in place of the old Robertson. The 4,200 seat facility was finished in 2010, and was fully operational for the 2010-11 school year with a final price tag of $50 million (!).

Currently, the 4,200 capacity facility houses the women’s basketball and volleyball teams, the Athletic Department, and the men’s basketball practice facilities.

Does anyone else think that something is missing from what I just said? How about… THE MENS BASKETBALL TEAM.

When Bradley played on campus at Robertson, they were consistently on the national map. While calling Robertson their home, Bradley was one of the best mid-major schools in the nation. Bradley reached the National Championship game twice, another trip to the Elite 8, and won four National Invitational Tournament (NIT) titles. On top of that, it was also constantly ranked in the AP poll, getting as high as No. 1 at one point.

The Field House was known across the country for its unmatched game day atmosphere. The roof of the dome-like building was made from metal, which reverberated the screams of the raucous Bradley fan base, 7,800 strong, back onto the court which was elevated three feet of the ground. Needless to say, the place got LOUD.

Following the 1981-82 season, which culminated in their most recent NIT title,  the Braves packed up and left for the recently-completed Carver Arena, not to return to campus again until 30 years later when they played a game at Renaissance; albeit against cupcake Southeast Missouri St.

It shouldn’t have taken 30 years. Bradley basketball belongs on campus, not at Carver.

Bradley posted a 413-102 record at Robertson, including a win over a then No. 1 ranked Cincinnati team that featured future NBA Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson. Over the 33 years on campus, the Braves suffered through just FOUR losing seasons, including just ONE at home.

In contrast, since moving to Carver, the Braves have suffered through 12 losing seasons, including four at home. Plus, the team has won just THREE NCAA tournament games (that’s not a typo, and two of those came in 2006) and haven’t advanced past the NIT quarterfinals since they’ve moved to Carver. Obviously you can’t blame this all on moving off campus, but it definitely does play a role.

Plus, the location of the arena downtown is a hindrance to students going to the games. Bradley can offer free shuttle service and $1 tickets till the cows come home, but students just aren’t going to be that interested. If it takes any amount of effort, most students on the fence of going just wouldn’t go, and it shows. Bradley is constantly in the top half of the conference in attendance, but most of those people are alumni and Peorians; I’d guess that on average less than 500 students attend games.

If it was on campus, the amount of students going to the games would drastically increase, and would actually infuse the games with a college feel you would find at bigger schools.

Bradley had a chance to do this when they built Renaissance. When the original Robertson had a seating capacity of over 7,000, why did they make it so small, with just 4,200 seats? Carver Arena, with its 11,000 seating capacity, is too big. Bradley only averages about 9,000 fans a game, and that number is generous. If they had made Renaissance with a capacity of, say, 7,000 and moved the men’s team there, they would sell out every game. Plus, 7,000 Bradley strong in that place would make it one of the premier mid-major place to play in the nation, just like Robertson was.

I’ve heard plenty of people say how nice of a facility Renaissance is, and I agree. Last year, Princeton Review put Bradley right up there with the UCLAs, Floridas, and Alabamas on their list of the 20 best athletic facilities in the nation. But I definitely think Bradley dropped the ball on not making it bigger.

I know this issue isn’t this simple, I’m sure there are contracts with the Civic Center and money is always an issue. Plus, I’m sure Bradley enjoys some sort of profits from selling beer at Carver (they wouldn’t be able to sell it at Renaissance since it’s on campus). But from the outside looking in, this just seems like a no-brainer decision.

Bring it back to campus.

Note: This post was written as if it could appear on bradleyhoops.com

 

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