UTA will host the volleyball Sun Belt Conference Championship at the College Park Center in 2016 and a home-court advantage isn’t the only benefit it has to offer.
Housing the tournament on campus is expected to bring more exposure and name recognition to the athletic program and to the university as a whole.
“We anticipate lots of fans attending the volleyball championship in 2016,” said Dominick Giambrone, Sun Belt Conference assistant commissioner and championships director. “Some fans might be making their first trip to the College Park Center for the championship, and we know their experience will be a great one. The College Park Center is one of the premier arenas in the nation and we know that everyone in attendance will have great things to say about UT Arlington and their experiences at the championship.”
The championship will mark UTA’s first hosting of any postseason volleyball tournaments since housing the Southland Conference Tournament in 1999 at Texas Hall.
The Mavericks benefitted from a home-court advantage as host of their first Southland Conference Tournament in 1992 and won the championship.
“I think hosting at your home field or court can give your team a better chance to win the championship,” Athletics director Jim Baker said. “There’s the familiarity of being home and not having to travel and you have a home-court advantage. We want to keep our facilities up to standards of being able to host.”
UTA ended its inaugural season in the Sun Belt 19-15 overall and 10-8 in conference play. The team advanced to the championship round of the postseason tournament but fell short to Texas State University.
The Mavericks’ 19 match wins in 2013 marked the team’s highest amount since a 19-11 finish in 2007.
UTA was chosen to host the 2016 tournament as a result of the conference’s championship rotation schedule, which will begin with the 2015-16 academic year, Giambrone said.
“Each institution was given the opportunity to opt-in and be included in the rotation of championships for any Sun Belt Conference-sponsored sport,” Giambrone said. “Once all institutions responded, we built a rotation with consideration given to a variety of factors, such as geography, and giving equal opportunities to each institution to host a Sun Belt Conference championship.”
Along with the cycle, the accommodations for fans and players and the accessibility of the university were taken into account as well, he said.
From media access to the availability of practice courts and training staff, Giambrone said that every aspect of the tournament is brought to attention in the planning process.
“Prior to opting in to the championship rotation schedule, each institution must commit to providing a minimum number of certain requirements, such as arena size and flexibility to the availability and proximity of hotels for teams and support staff,” Giambrone said.
Opened in February 2012, the College Park Center has the ability to house 7,000 fans for athletic events. The $78 million facility was built to modernize and rejuvenate Arlington’s central business district.
Baker said housing the games on campus is a financial trade-off of going to a tournament because there’s no traveling expenses involved, but it won’t make much of an impact for the athletics program.
“It’s not a big financial threshold for us,” Baker said. “Hopefully we can get some people here and break even, but again, you’re going to spend money to go to the tournament.”
Not only will a home-court advantage at the College Park Center support the Mavericks throughout the tournament, but as teams and their fans travel to Arlington, UTA will have the opportunity to become a more recognizable program.
“The exposure and convenience of hosting the tournament is the true benefit of hosting a Sun Belt Conference championship,” Giambrone said. “From the perspective of UT Arlington Athletics, they benefit greatly from hosting all teams at their own arena as opposed to making their student-athletes travel to a championship at another institution.”
Free live-streams of all matches throughout the tournament will be available on SunBeltSports.org while the championship match will be broadcast on ESPN3, allowing more exposure to all teams and UTA’s campus.
Giambrone also said viewers from 92 different countries tuned in to last year’s volleyball championship hosted by Troy University.
“It’ll be nice to have other schools come here and recognizing that UTA is a real university,” junior broadcast communications junior Morgan Pfursich said. “I feel like a lot of schools haven’t heard of UTA, so it’ll be cool to have them come here and see how good our team is and how nice our facilities are.”