Matadome ready for cooler future

Daily Sundial

The fundraising process began recently for the Matadome, home to CSUN’s men’s and women’s volleyball and basketball teams, which will undergo renovations that could for the first time install an air conditioning unit and push seating capacity beyond 1,600.

“I don’t look at it as a second-class facility,” said Dick Dull, executive director of development for athletic facilities, as well as CSUN’s former athletic director.

While the Matadome is a functional venue for basketball and volleyball, some athletes who play there would like to see changes made.

“I feel like the gym needs a little more character,” said Kelly Zabielski sophomore psychology major and member of the women’s volleyball team.

“It’s so plain, and it kind of has the feel of a high school gym,” she said. “I know my gym in high school was bigger and had way more seating. If we could make it a little more comfortable, maybe more people would be inclined to come support (us).”

The 42-year-old facility contains 1,600 seats and has already undergone major rebuilding over the years, with a new floor installed in 1996, an improved scoreboard in 1997, chair-backed bleachers in 1998 and a newly designed court in 2001.

The highest attendance at the Matadome, 3,106, was recorded on Nov. 2, 1990, when the United States defeated Japan in an international exhibition men’s volleyball match. The Matadome was filled to a point of standing room-only.

In trying to make the Matadome a more comfortable place as well as an enjoyable experience for its athletes and fans, improvements toward many of the different facilities inside are being considered. Dull said he wants to improve the Matadome by adding 1,400 more seats, a new floor, a scoreboard, snack facility, an expanded lobby, and an air conditioning system inside the gym.

Dull also said, however, that the most essential improvements to the Matadome are seating and air conditioning.

Dull pointed out that while campus fundraisers are focused on the new $100 million Valley Performing Arts Center, the Matadome is second on the list of priorities. Even though Dull is not in a position of shifting the priorities to the Matadome, he is responsible for the organization and collection of funding to make it a reality.

“None of (the renovations) are going to be done unless someone donates the money to accomplish them,” Dull said.

To get that money, Dull must fundraise from donations provided by various companies and private donors willing to invest in the university.

Dull said he believes that adding seats can transform the Matadome into an arena.

According to Mark Adamiak, facilities manager of the Athletics Department, there is no air conditioning in the Matadome.

“All the air we get in the Matadome is from the outside, from the east and west lobbies, and that’s pretty much the only air circulating in there,” Adamiak said. “I believe that they do have exhaust fans that do work up there, but that’s not generating a lot of air circulation.”

Dull said the installation of an air conditioning unit would not affect men’s and women’s basketball games because they are played in the evening, but men’s and women’s volleyball could see the benefit of a new unit.

“It can be quite unbearable,” Dull said, describing the conditions sometimes inside the Matadome without air conditioning.

Some players on the volleyball teams can attest to the dry conditions inside of Matadome.

“The Matadome is hot, (and) that’s pretty much all there is to it,” said Gini Mendenhall, sophomore liberal studies major and a member of the women’s volleyball team. “It’s ridiculous. It’s the only collegiate gym I know of that doesn’t have air conditioning. It gets so hot, especially in August and September – the prime of our season. We get so fatigued from playing because of the heat. It drains a lot more out of us. And we sweat twice as much as we normally would.”

Mendenhall said that not just players are affected by the lack of air conditioning.

“Not only does it affect us, but also our fans,” Mendenhall said. “We don’t get as many fans because of the heat in the Matadome. Who would want to come and watch a two and a half hour game in that kind of heat? Not very many people.”

Some players have become accustomed to the conditions inside the Matadome and worked through them.

“The lack of air conditioning in the gym is really hard to get used to at first,” Zabielski said. “But seeing as how we spend so much time in there during preseason, it’s one of those things that you just get used to. Plus, once you’re hot, it doesn’t really get much hotter.”

Zabielski said the volleyball teams have some advantage when playing in the Matadome because of the excess heat.

“The plus side is that when teams come to our gym to play, they are completely unprepared for the climate,” Zabielski said. “The only thing that halts putting an (air conditioning) unit inside the Matadome is the funding.”

Once the funding come in, air conditioning would be one of the first things installed, according to Janet Lucas, interim CSUN athletic director. She said that improvement would have the most immediate impact for players and fans.

“We’d like to do it as soon as possible, but we do need to develop the funding to do it,” Lucas said. “Now with the fundraising project that is being worked on, it can be done in parts, it doesn’t have to be done as a whole, so that gives us an opportunity to do it sooner then the completion of the project.”

According to Lucas, the Matadome was given its name to tie-in with the school mascot.

“It’s developing a sense of school spirit and pride,” Lucas said. “By giving it a characterization it gives it a more enthusiasm, personality, pride, those kind of things.”

Also found in the Matadome are men’s and women’s locker rooms, a training room, and a space used for equipment storage. The facility is also used for classrooms and offices for the Kinesiology Department and physical education. An estimated $7 million will be needed to complete the objectives Dull helped to lay out.

Lucas said she believes the new facilities improvements would not affect games being played inside the Matadome.

“It is a project that could be done easily in the off-season,” Lucas said.

As home games for women’s volleyball are in full swing, and men’s and women’s basketball regular season around the corner, the much-needed improvements are looming, but still not taking away the importance instilled within the players and athletic administrators.

Zabielski said the Matadome is a reasonable place to play volleyball because it is not overwhelming and because there is enough room on all sides of the court to make a lot of balls playable. Lucas shared a similar sentiment.

“It’s a facility that is a positive part of our program, but that also has a lot of opportunity for growth,” Lucas said. “Seek the positive part and build on that foundation.”

John Barundia can be reached