The changes to Millett Hall include a new court, lighting, student section and courtside seating.
Photo by Tom Downey, Sports Editor
The line from "Field of Dreams" says "If you build it, he will come." While the movie refers to a father and a baseball diamond in a cornfield in Iowa, Miami University hopes it extends to fans and a basketball arena in Oxford, Ohio.
The men's basketball team still plays at Millett Hall, but the arena underwent major changes. The renovations to Millett include new red seats, improved lighting, a new court and new student seating. The changes cost about $1 million, all donor-funded.
Miami athletic officials hope the improvements will increase the energy at Millett and turn that energy into wins for the RedHawks.
"There is no doubt, when the students are engaged and are closer to the court and having a good time at the game, it just brings energy to whole facility," athletic director David Sayler said. "Which is really gonna help translate into more wins. And I also think when we bring recruits, it'll show the energy in the building is a big difference."
Miami has struggled in recent years. The RedHawks haven't produced a winning season since the 2008-09 campaign. Not surprisingly, attendance has suffered.
The changes to Millett come with a focus on the students and getting them to attend games again. One of the biggest adjustments is a new student section located on one side of the court, as opposed to behind one of the baskets.
"It's just gonna be a more college basketball-like atmosphere," Sayler said. "We want the students to bring that energy, to bring it all home for us."
The improved lighting allows for increased exposure on the court and off.
"We can actually now have TV in here," Sayler said. "Which is good for us for exposure with the MAC; having some games on TV, which they wouldn't do before … but, when we have that, we need the students bringing the energy because that changes the dynamic of the whole building and I think makes it more likely they come back."
Junior guard Geovonie McKnight likes the new court and said the rim now "looks orange, instead of dark brown," thanks to the new lighting.
"Last year's court was a lot more dull, darker colored," McKnight said. "Everything was real plain. It wasn't a bad court to play on, but it was just real dark. Now we have a new court with a new design, new graphic on it. The lights are better, it's brighter. It's just a better arena to play in."
The seats are now red, replacing the pale-green that populated the arena.
"When you take a look overall, when you walk in here, it looks like Miami," head coach John Cooper said. "It looks like Red and White."
The new court looks sharper and features a Love and Honor logo. It's not the state of Tennessee, but rather a tear representing Miami's new slogan of "Graduating Champions."
"People might not know what it is, but eventually with all of our branding and marks, they'll figure it out," Sayler said. "If we can help with that process I'm here to help someone understand that. It's what we're about. It's what we do here. It's kind of our mission."
Cooper said he no longer feels like a haze engulfs Millett.
"If you had a bad day and you walked in the arena, your day was still bad because it was dark and it was hazy," Cooper said. "Now you can walk in the arena and it's bright and it sorta wakes you up."
Sayler is happy with the changes thus far, but isn't satisfied.
"I'd like to do something locker room wise," Sayler said. "The locker spaces are still pretty antiquated and old. I'd like to do some time type of addition that improves that situation, but we need some donors to step up and make that happen."
Cooper, Sayler and the RedHawk squad want students to start attending the games. They think having a true home court advantage would help the results on the court.
"That's the step," Cooper said. "David [Sayler] is committed to the students and moved them here courtside. Now the next part is getting the students to come out and take advantage of the seating and be loud, be boisterous. Have one heck of a time, enjoy the game and give the opponents a hard time while also encouraging our team."
The RedHawks first regular season game is 2 p.m. Sunday in Millett Hall.