Despite Dome Renovation, Lumberjacks to Play All Games at Rolle
Loud. High-energy. Electric. These words describe the atmosphere felt during NAU basketball games at Rolle Activity Center during the 2010-2011 season.
The same cannot be said of the atmosphere at the Walkup Skydome – where until last season NAU had played basketball since 1977, the year the Dome was built.
Last season, because of the Skydome renovations, the Jacks were forced to play all of their home games at Rolle. However, despite the significantly smaller venue, players and coaches agreed they enjoyed games at Rolle far more.
“I definitely prefer Rolle because everything is compacted and the fans are on top of you,” said Lumberjack junior guard Stallon Saldivar. “They give us that real home court advantage.”
One of the biggest reasons for the decision to play all the games at Rolle this year was because of the fans.
“We got a lot of feedback from the fans, players and coaches,” said NAU Athletic Director Jim Fallis. “Everybody really liked the environment and I think certainly there was a couple of games where the environment helped and created some home court advantage.”
According to Fallis, there was also strong feedback from season ticket holders that attending games at Rolle was an overall much more entertaining atmosphere than the Dome.
NAU head coach Mike Adras is certainly on-board with the decision.
“A lot of the fans who came to the games last year really liked the environment we had,” Adras said. “We had a great record and a great atmosphere in this building. And they’re getting new bleachers and seats in here for people.”
Indeed the Jacks did have a great record in Rolle last season, as they went 11-1 in the building during the regular season.
According to Fallis, Rolle currently holds 900 people, but that will expand to over 1,200 once the process has been completed, which should be around Dec. 10.
“If all goes according to schedule, the new seating will be there when the students get back for second semester,” Fallis said.
Currently, there are no plans to have games in the Skydome anytime soon. However, that could change if NAU is forced to turn thousands of fans away from games at Rolle.
“My plans would be to return to the Dome if we could get 4,000-5,000 people to come to the games,” Fallis said. “But if you’re going to have 1,000 or 1,200 people, it’s a pretty big place to do something with only 1,200 people in it. We’ll have to wait and see, but if we do come back to the Dome at some point, we will definitely lose some of that home court advantage.”
Fallis also said that the physical environment of the Dome is much different than Rolle because of how spacious it is.
The novice basketball fan may not realize how much tougher it can be to shoot when they have to play in a wide open arena such as the Skydome, compared to a very enclosed area like Rolle.
“It’s definitely easier to shoot in a smaller gym,” said Saldivar. “It’s very different going from one to the other; it’s something you have to adapt to.”
There is one other possible option for the Lumberjacks in the future, and that is playing games in the fieldhouse once the renovation is completed.
“The fieldhouse project is really a multi-purpose project,” said Fallis. “It’s important that people understand what the university’s concept for the fieldhouse is. It’s a multi-event center.”
Ideas are currently being tossed around, but the thought is that the fieldhouse would be a venue that could hold concerts, guest speakers as well as other activities. However, Fallis said the university is waiting to raise money to get the project started.
“We have to raise some outside funds,” Fallis said. “Five million dollars is kind of the dollar figure we are at. We are aggressively looking for one $5 million dollar gift or five $1 million dollar gifts or 5 million one dollar gifts. That is something we are working on and hoping that we can help bring that to fruition.”
The timetable for the fieldhouse project appears to hinge solely on the financing at this point.
“As soon as you write that check for $5 million, we’ll be all set to go,” Fallis laughed.