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The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 7, 2013 Thursday
CITY-D Edition
SPORTS; P-com Spt. La Salle; Pg. D03
572 words
A new arena at La Salle? It's a possibility
By Mike Jensen; Inquirer Columnist

Yes, La Salle athletic director Tom Brennan was of sound mind and body when he said his school is having "very serious discussions" about building a new basketball facility.

Brennan didn't offer a timetable, a location (other than on campus) or a dollar figure, just an acknowledgment that La Salle needs a better place and that last season's Explorers success had helped spur high-level conversations about it.

No small thing, as La Salle people know.

"I would frame it this way: People in positions of responsibility and leadership at La Salle have established the importance, at some time, of having a new venue for basketball," Brennan said in a recent interview in his office.

Brennan, part of the school's senior management structure, offered what he understood to be an institutional pecking order. Building a new home for La Salle's school of business tops the list, he said. "That's a big number," the athletic director added.

Next comes a fitness center for all students, Brennan said.

"Once those things go through, I think the next major project very likely will be basketball," Brennan said.

What these words really represent is an awareness of what we all know, that the Tom Gola Arena is substandard within the Atlantic Ten, which isn't exactly at the top of the heap as a league when it comes to facilities.

"You don't want to have winning be a blip from time to time," Brennan said. "You really enhance the potential for sustained success by having good facilities. If you look at us compared to our competitors, that's where we're not strong. That's where we're weak."

Brennan added, "If you ever did a study of the Division I teams in the country, you would see there is a direct correlation between facilities and success."

Brennan knows this is a good time to make such statements, with the excitement level high along Olney Avenue and among alumni.

"Guys like me think about what you need to be successful when you're not successful," Brennan said. "You'd like to think everybody thinks that way. But the fact is, people get more excited about stuff when you do well."

It's nice to have a priority list, but obviously such a project won't happen without major fund-raising efforts. So be ready for that to come, La Salle folks. Consider this more than a trial balloon, but Brennan clearly had decided the time was right to make some public comments.

As an outsider, I'd rate Gola as by far the worst D-I facility in the city. I love little gyms, admit to having a soft spot for the Fieldhouse, pre- or post-renovations. Gola is kind of the worst of all worlds. As a place to watch basketball, it's small but not intimate. (Never mind that I can't ever remember what floor I'm on, whether I'm supposed to be going up or down to get from the court to the locker room.)

But if La Salle is part of your life, you know all that. Even the thought of creating something greater (which doesn't necessarily have to be much bigger) gets La Salle alums excited.

Excitement should already be in the building Saturday afternoon, when the Explorers open against Manhattan, after a banner is raised commemorating last season's NCAA run.

"In our case, for us to really benefit, from increased fund-raising for example, I think you have to have a little more sustained success than just a year," Brennan said.

He laughed and added, "I think this year would be a great year to do it again."


Photograph by: STEVEN M. FALK / Staff
November 7, 2013

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