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In the Spring of 2004 one late afternoon, UTSA’s Historic Convocation Center was filled to the rafters. Students, faculty, and what is now known as the 210 Nation of San Antonio was on hand as the UTSA Men’s hoops squad played for the Southland Conference title, and more importantly, a shot at punching a ticket to the greatest post season tournament known to man.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament. That’s right, the Big Dance. March Madness. A win, and the Roadrunners were in.
With that said, I would be willing to bet that a good portion of you lovely folks reading this are in disbelief, wondering if something like this legitimately happened. Well, it did.
Trust me, this is not a fairy tale nor an exaggeration.
I would know, because I was there.
As a 19-year-old freshman with hair down to my shoulders I rushed the court at the CONVO when the clock stuck zero. A sea of Roadrunner orange cascaded onto the floor, throwing the venue into chaos as ESPN broadcasted the celebration live for the nation to see.
The UTSA Runnin’ Roadrunners, led by my main man Kurt Attaway, were going dancing. I remember it like it was yesterday, and man let me tell you what a time it was to be alive.
The Historic CONVO was absolutely rocking on that warm, sunny day in South Texas so many moons ago. To put this in perspective, in terms of atmosphere and energy, I would compare this experience to that of UTSA football’s recent conference title game in the Alamodome.
Yes, it was that electric.
It is dubbed the Historic CONVO for a reason folks, and rightfully earned. This building, situated right in the middle of the UTSA campus, was constructed back in 1975 and is as unique of a playing environment you will find in college basketball.
Or at least she could be.
For some additional perspective, lets look at college hoops blue bloods like Duke, or Gonzaga. Believe it or not, these two powerhouses’ home arenas are comparable to that of UTSA’s CONVO.
You may think that is a bit of a stretch, laughable even.
But is it really?
In terms of capacity Gonzaga holds six thousand to the Convo’s four and a half. The fabled grounds over at Duke sits at around nine thousand seats. All three gyms provide an intimate setting, a trip back in time so to speak as places like these are simply no longer around. There is a certain unique aspect in play here that does not get the attention it deserves.
Obviously, there is, has been, and will continue to be a strong voice from the greater good for a new arena, especially with UTSA’s impending move into the American Athletic Conference which is one of the better hoops conferences in the nation.
Several key factors come into play for something like this, and it goes without saying the number one focus point is money. The discussions start and end with the almighty dollar, and rightfully so. This type of project can present all kinds of problems from a financial standpoint.
Which is exactly why a new arena should not be built.
It is important to understand that new is not always better. Sure, building a ten thousand seat arena would be shiny, nice and new. But it would also likely be generic. Especially if the school building the gymnasium was also pumping big time dollars into its still growing football program.
The Convocation Center is anything but generic. Did you know that the Convo is the only arena in college basketball to feature balconies behind each basket overlooking the court? Imagine the SOSA Drumline up there straight rocking out to a capacity crowd when UTSA plays the Memphis Tigers, coached by legendary Penny Hardaway, for a conference game in late January, televised nationally on ESPN.
Oh, that got your attention, didn’t it?
“Coming to you LIVE from the Historic Convocation Center on the campus of UTSA where we have a capacity crowd on hand”…. Says the commentator as drone footage of an overhead shot of the CONVO comes into view on your TV screen. You are mesmerized by its newly renovated exterior illumination border which lights up the old girl in blue and orange.
Once the camera cuts to the interior you are stunned to see fans on one side wearing all blue and fans on the other all orange. “UT” chants one side, followed by “SA” on the other. The home crowd greets Memphis with a chorus of boos as they enter the floor, and the UTSA student section can hardly be contained.
Talk about a home court advantage, my goodness.
Or UTSA just builds a new place and becomes boring just like everybody else. Listen, just because big brother bought the new Nikes doesn’t mean you have to. Just look at our 12-year-old football team if you need convincing.
Jeff Traylor’s squad and its home at the dome is anything but generic and is unlike any other program in the country which just so happens to play home games in a venue that compliments them so well it hurts. Basketball has the same thing. UTSA just hasn’t realized it yet.
As a matter of fact, it is because of the recent football successes over at UTSA that provides such optimism. The city of San Antonio is backing the UTSA football team, which is more evident now than ever before. Now, keep in mind that these folks are the same basketball-crazed citizens who make up one of the best fan bases in the NBA, your beloved San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonians love them some hoops action, and I would be willing to bet they would embrace UTSA on the hardwood just as they do on the gridiron if UTSA can play their cards right, and that includes keeping the CONVO. A new arena might draw fans initially, sure, but this city likes to be part of a good story, and like it or not, the Historic Convo is where this story lives.
She is nostalgic, just like the Alamodome, and can be billed as such in so many ways. Even if you think nostalgic is a stretch right now, there is no way anyone could disagree with the fact that angle could be used successfully in the future.
Renovations to locker rooms were completed last year, and with the recent addition of the RACE center all student athletes now have access to state of the art facilities that were not there before. Toss in the recent shift in culture surrounding athletics with the 210 Triangle of Toughness mentality bleeding over into the other sport programs on campus too. NIL deals are coming into form from city leaders also. There is an upward trajectory happening, and it is not just in football. Add in some minor building renovations, a facelift if you will, to the CONVO and you are, to quote the great Coach Jeff Traylor, “Cooking with Fish Grease.”
The Convocation Center on the campus of UTSA is the biggest diamond in the rough situation there ever was in the history of that age-old analogy. I genuinely hope UTSA leadership sees that keeping the arena is a key part to the success of basketball at UTSA.
It would be a damn shame if they did not.
Of course, the caveat is what it always is. The team needs to win and win often.
And what needs to be done to make that happen?
That, my friends, is a conversation for another day.
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