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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Construction begins on $650,000 curtain”

    Construction begins on $650,000 curtain

    There were changes high above Lute and Bobbi Olson Court Monday afternoon in McKale Center.

    Long ropes hung from the rafters lining the perimeter of the arena.

    Soon enough, a giant navy blue curtain adorned with Arizona logos will hang from those ropes, cutting off much of the stadium’s capacity and bringing the available seating down from its original 14,545 seats to a modest 4,181.

    The idea: to give a more intimate atmosphere for Arizona volleyball, gymnastics, and potentially women’s basketball games.

    Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio first began pitching the idea over a year ago after talks about making Arizona’s new practice facility the team’s competition arena.

    “”That was my first idea,”” Rubio said of moving volleyball games to the practice facility. “”Unfortunately that idea broke down. But the reality was my players didn’t really want to leave McKale. They love playing in McKale.

    “”The issue for me was that even when we had a good crowd, (McKale) still looked very cavernous.””

    Rubio’s next idea was the curtain. But another question arose as to where the curtain would hang.

    The first suggestion came from UCLA’s curtain at Pauley Pavilion, where the Bruins divided the arena in half leaving one end of the stadium open for seating.

    But this was not Rubio’s vision.

    “”(The half-court curtain) works for (UCLA), but that’s not really what I wanted,”” Rubio said. “”I thought, why couldn’t we just ring the arena with curtain? Let’s see if that’s a possibility.””

    Rubio then gave his suggestion to Arizona administrators, who took interest and approved the idea shortly thereafter.

    One advantage from an administrative standpoint was cost. Despite the curtain cost expected to reach a total of $650,000 – with the funding coming primarily from private donations – Rubio said his original idea with the practice facility would have come with an even loftier price tag.

    Regardless of the high cost of the project, the new curtain is expected to be up and ready for use come the Wildcats opening game against Weber State on Aug. 29. Rubio’s excitement for the imminent change has already spread to his team.

    “”I think (the curtain) is going to be great just because it’ll make (McKale) more of a closed environment,”” outside hitter Brooke Buringrud said. “”The fans will be closer and hopefully it’ll be louder.

    “”I think it’ll make a big impact just having our fans right there watching us play.””

    Both Buringrud and Rubio agreed on the impact fans have on the game.

    Rubio recalled a game four years ago when his team found itself down two games to zero against No. 1 Stanford. The game took place prior to the basketball team’s annual McKale Madness, which resulted in more than 10,000 fans filling the seats for the finale of the game in which Arizona completed the comeback to upset the Cardinal 3-2.

    “”That was probably one of the greatest moments for me,”” Rubio said. “”The crowd was on its feet and really electric.

    “”Now whether it’s a 15,000-seat arena or a 1,500-seat arena, if both of them are filled, they both give the same type of environment,”” he added, “”and that’s what the idea is (with the curtain).””

    Volleyball will likely not be the only team using the curtain this upcoming year. In addition to gymnastics, the option has also been given to women’s basketball head coach Niya Butts.

    For Butts, the curtain is an option she would rather not have to turn to.

    “”I understand the concept and I realize that it makes the atmosphere more intimate,”” Butts said. “”But my goal is to not have to use that curtain.””

    While Butts may use the curtain more as motivation to attract larger crowds, Rubio and the volleyball team will embrace McKale’s new look in the fall and hope the curtain enhances the atmosphere for the team’s competition.

    “”I think (the team) is pretty fired up about it,”” Rubio said. “”It creates a much more intimate setting for us and hopefully a greater home court advantage.””

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