The UMKC Athletics Department has brought the men’s home basketball games back to where they ought to be: home.
Fourteen of the 15 home games this season will be played at Swinney with the one remaining game at Municipal Auditorium.
“[We are] having more home games than ever before and more on campus than ever before,” Head Coach Matt Brown said. “These are two big steps for us, playing on campus and having more home games [is] a big plus.”
Brown sees the change as helping both the students and the players.
“With all the new apartments and the dorms on campus and the student population really growing on campus it’s going to create a more student oriented game type setting, making it more of a home court advantage,” Brown said.
Assistant Dean of Students Eric Grospitch, Ph.D. confirmed that UMKC’s campus is the fullest it has ever been at 100 percent capacity with 1,400 students.
Athletics Director Tim Hall is grateful for the asset the increase brings to attendance at the basketball games.
“It’s a testament to the work they’ve done at the student affairs to enhance the vibrancy of the campus,” Hall said.
The new bleachers support just over 1,500 people with more comfort and durability.
“They all have chair backs, there are wider spaces between the rows,” Hall said. “The steps leading up to the seats are more appropriate, there were no center isle hand rails, but there are now. I think it completely changes the complexion of Swinney Recreation Center.”
Coach Brown is looking forward to the vibe that the new facelift will bring.
“The environment is much better because the students are right on top of you now.” Brown said. “More students come because it’s easier to get to, the environment is better because it’s louder.”
Though it’s a smaller venue than municipal, Brown isn’t concerned. “It doesn’t, obviously, hold as many, but I think it will be a better atmosphere for our guys.”
Instead, he believes having games here at Swinney will help to improve the team’s performance on the court.
“We practice here everyday, so there is a comfort level there as far as familiarity,” Brown said.
Brown is planning on making a new push to bring students to games.
“I’m going to do a lot more to try to get out to go the dorms and apartments, to speak at the sororities and fraternities,” Brown said, “to try to encourage the students to come, because now they don’t have to drive over. They can walk.”
Not only is Brown making a push, but according to Hall, so are the players:
“We are having our athletes help with moving day, all of our student athletes and teams are taking shifts to move individuals into the dorms, they’ll be wearing shirts representing the sport that they play, giving us an opportunity to interact with our fellow students. And I think the best form of advertising is the student athletes themselves as we have the highest percentage of our student athletes living on campus than we’ve ever had.”
The ultimate hope for the basketball team is that one day UMKC will be able to build
a basketball arena of its own, “As you look to other campuses, what adds tremendous value is
athletic programs who have as many
of their athletic programs on campus,” Hall said.
It was an idea first put forward by former Chancellor Guy Bailey to have a venue on campus and this idea is still alive today.
“It hasn’t been lost at all on the current executive leadership of the institution and the challenge is the current economy that we’re in and where to locate it,” Hall said.
While that idea sits on the recessional back burner, the UMKC athletics department is going
ahead and cutting costs by using Swinney instead of renting out Municipal Auditorium.
“It only seats, I think, 1,500 people,” Coach Brown said, “but 1,500 people in a small confined area will be far better I think.”
In other words, it might get loud.