Nestled among various government buildings and agencies, the GW campus is a political hotbed. And unlike a big state school or a traditional powerhouse, students usually seem more concerned with the latest election news cycle than with the University’s sports teams.
However, the athletic department has made renovations in the past few months that could vastly improve the fan experience where it matters most: at basketball games.
Completed on Oct. 25, a four-paneled color scoreboard now hangs down over the Smith Center’s main arena. This feature, along with improved concessions, new television monitors around the building and digital display boards under each basket, could help students become more interested in athletics.
“It’s another thing that shows we’re serious about basketball,” said GW Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz. He said he did not know an exact figure for the scoreboard’s cost, but estimated it at upwards of $600,000.
A state-of-the art scoreboard and television control room has been assembled in a Smith Center office adjacent to the basketball arena. There, a group of five student GW-TV employees will work the controls at men’s and women’s games.
“This brings us to a different level in the sense of what we do and how we present the whole game experience,” said Tony Vecchione, assistant athletic director for facilities.
GW-TV will oversee all operations and film the games – highlights and replays will be shown on the scoreboard. The crew will include five cameras throughout the arena; two “slam cams” above each basket, two hand-helds and one in the Crow’s nest, a small stand at the top of the arena.
The scoreboard feed will be seen on various televisions in the Athletic Director’s Club and throughout the arena.
The campus station is not yet ready to broadcast the games outside the Smith Center, but officials said once the season begins, games will air on tape delay on GW-TV.
In addition to enhancing the GW fan’s basketball experience, aspiring television producers and cameramen will gain work experience shooting live events on a weekly basis.
“It’s good to get our feet wet,” said Jonathan Helman, GW-TV’s co-executive manager. “It’s great real world experience because shooting sports is very different than shooting news.”
AD hopes strong squads will lead to financial success
The GW men’s basketball team is widely considered one of the strongest teams in the Atlantic 10 this season. As the Colonials have improved in recent years, fan interest on campus has also increased.
However, it is still unclear what financial effect the team’s predicted success will have on GW.
Right now, GW Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said season ticket sales have increased, but not by much. The growth came in VIP tickets, but not seats in the arena’s upper deck and two end zones. As of Nov. 1, he said there have been between 300 and 400 season tickets sold. He said he would like to see the sales be up in the 800 to 900 range.
Even if ticket sales do not significantly improve, the Smith Center’s new scoreboard is a feature that could increase athletic department revenue. The video format allows companies to run commercials during games.
Advertisements are being sold at a brisk pace. Gone are the days, Kvancz said, when a person could request an ad on the night of the game.
In a financial sense, the Colonials’ television appearances will also help the program. In pure dollar figures, the television appearances amount to “peanuts,” Kvancz said, but will give the Colonials more national exposure than in past years.
The men are playing at least six nationally televised games (seven if GW makes the A-10 Tournament final), including the season opener at Wake Forest University. The women will play one nationally televised game and will face several high-profile opponents, including University of Tennessee, University of Oregon and Brigham Young University.
However, all the exposure the teams are getting means nothing, Kvancz said, if the product on the court is not good.
“We have the chance to be pretty good,” he said. “We have good players here. Our (students) deserve it.”
This article appeared in the November 8, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.