Matadome is below Division-I standards; can anything be done?

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The Matadome is what four CSUN teams call their home court. As of late, however, some of these athletes have gotten creative and they’ve moved on to calling the near 50-year old room inside Redwood Hall a “high school gym” or – even more inspired – a “joke.”

“I don’t know how the Matadome got its name, but it sounds like a joke,” said Willie Galick, a forward on the men’s basketball team. “And (then) someone thought it was serious and even made a little plaque to go with it outside.”

The amusement Galick might be getting from this “Matadome” is the fact that the 1,600-seat room, by definition, isn’t even a dome because of its roof. Domes don’t have flat roofs like the one where the CSUN men’s and women’s basketball and the men’s and women’s volleyball teams play.

Or perhaps what tickles the Canadian is the site’s lack of air conditioning. Maybe it’s the state of its wooden floor (more scratched than a cat owner).

“I just wish we didn’t have a dirty gym and crappy rims …” he said.

For years now, among people who give a damn, the condition of the best arena the university has to offer has been a topic of discussion. It’s not a debate-type of discussion. When comparing it to other Division-I school venues, most people believe the Matadome to be crap.

Subpar and all, the Matadome creates enough of a homecourt advantage for CSUN to thrive. The Matadors had a combined 32-19 record at home in 2008-09. Take out the horrendous 2-8 home record from the women’s volleyball team and the Matadome’s record gets bumped up to 30-11. For that, one should praise the men’s basketball and volleyball teams. Their success has put Northridge on the map. However, coaches must be working wonders trying to lure talent in. Just picture men’s basketball coach Bobby Braswell going into Redwood Hall 140 with a highly-touted recruit and saying, “This is where you’ll play.”

“It’s an issue,” Braswell said. “It’s affected our high school-recruiting and other things.”

Potential incomers are “braced” for the “Matagym” experience, Braswell said. Either that or they just aren’t given the complete facilities’ tour.

“We’re a division-I program with a junior high or a YMCA gym,” said Neeta Sreekanth, a center on the women’s basketball team which went 6-7 at the Matadome this season.

The last time CSUN’s arena was upgraded was a decade ago. Structural repairs were made. They were needed after the 1994 Northridge earthquake cut the room’s capacity in half. Also, a scoreboard (which cost around $1 million) was installed. The side and high walls on each side were reconstructed as well as the floors. The bleachers were also completely redone.

Ten years later, some athletes and a relatively small fanbase – which hopes the success of the nationally-ranked men’s volleyball team and the NCAA Tournament-attending men’s basketball team merits more attention – are screaming for a new arena.

“Sometimes, when we go to LBSU or USC or Stanford, they have really nice gyms,” said Jacek Ratajczak, a middle blocker on the men’s volleyball team. “I’m amazed. I’m so jealous.”

A brand new arena is not in CSUN’s “master plan,” a design driven by university president Jolene Koester which was finalized in 2005 and voted on by 25 committee members. An upgrade is more realistic. The impediment is funding.

“The issue is getting priorities straight,” Facilities Development and Operations Associate Vice President Colin Donahue said. “The (Matadome) is designed for expanding bleachers. You could double the seating , but you have to find the funding for that.”

State funding, which – according to Donahue – pays for half of the cost of the Valley Performing Arts Center, isn’t made available to athletics. It’s for academics only. The VPAC is a facility which will include laboratories, the KCSN radio station and a 225-seat lecture hall. That’s pretty academic.

There’s another way to collect the money needed to at least provide the arena with a much-needed AC system (which would run from $750,000 to $1 million): Donations. But it’s best to scratch that. Barring a sudden urge from Galick’s idol, Phoenix point guard Steve Nash, to shell out considerable dough to fellow countrymen, chances are the Matadors couldn’t get the amount.

A final way is a student-driven movement. If the majority of students care enough to have a venue that at least outdoes Cal Poly’s poorly-lighted Mott Gym (at least they call it a gym), they can pressure the Student Fee Committee and the university vice presidents to aim a chunk of the Campus Quality Fee – which will give $1,400,000 to athletics starting 2010-11 – to improve the Matadome. That’s how the new Student Recreation Center got its money to exist.

Either that or a new fee can be created. It would be called something like the “Let’s-stop-being-Division-I- clowns” fee. It’s no joke. It’s up to the administration. It can be done.

“In a hypothetical sense, yes,” Student Affairs Vice President Terry Piper said. “Would (Koester) support it? A lot of factors would have to be considered.”

Athletes don’t need a state-of-the-art arena. But they want Division-I treatment. They have to borrow a room in the kinesiology building and share it among themselves and other students. The first step to decency is taking care of the court. Step two is improving it. Let’s hold on the new arena for now.

“There is significant potential to expand the seating, but you have to be able to fill that,” Donahue said. “It doesn’t make any sense to build an arena you can’t fill.

“Bottom line: all these things come with community support.”


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