The playing court’s baselines are bordered by curtains instead of rabid fans. There were no designated student sections. The ceiling was known to drip in bad weather. And there are signs warning of the building containing asbestos.
Still, there are some who are a little sad to see Texas Hall’s days as a sports facility on the UT-Arlington campus come to an end, like 1971 graduate Patrick Downs.
“I don’t think there’s another basketball venue in the country,” he said during the men’s basketball team’s final game there, “where you can sit right behind the coaches and players and we can actually hear the coaches instructions, and it’s really cool to give the refs a hard time.”
The university bid an official farewell to Texas Hall following the Mavericks’ game against Stephan F Austin on Jan.21, although the official last game will take place this Saturday when the women’s team takes on Texas State. Both teams will open up the College Park Center on Feb 1.
In a way, it’s the end of an era similar to that when the Texas Rangers closed down Arlington Stadium. Many fans were sad to see the place go, but knew that moving to a new place was needed and a sign of the organization “growing up.”
Texas Hall always got ridicule from local media and fans for basically being a converted theater with the court on the stage. Many laughed when the place was picked as the “Best Place to Watch College Basketball” in a 1997 issue of Sports Illustrated, with the editors admitting they were looking to tell people about unknown venues.
Unique may be the best way to describe Texas Hall. Built in an era when multipurpose facilities were the rage, it was made with the purpose of hosting stage productions and sports in addition to other special events.
But despite its flaws, it did have its supporters.
Branden Helms, a 2003 UTA graduate who received a Masters in 2010. always thought the building was much better than advertised.
“It was always kind of a wasted commodity because when the place was full you could clearly see fear in the other players when they played, and at the other end there was faith in the home team.”
Indeed ,the proximity of the seats to the action could provide a great advantage. The first 600 people who enter each game get the bleacher seats right on top of the court, getting likely the best deal in all the Metroplex.
But few could get a really great seat after that. Anyone sitting in the lower “theater” seats on the other side is looking up at the court. Those in the upper level might have curtains blocking their view.
Students were known to line the stage edge for years, giving opposing players the unusual task of dealing with chants and taunts from below them, But after they started crowding that area in the Mavs’ first championship season of 2004, the building staff took extra steps to keep them away from the stage edge, eliminating one of the building’s unique traits as an arena.
Even if a few fans could get up close to the action, the building wasn’t the best recruiting tool. Scott Cross has been one of many coaches who won’t exactly deny rumors that they pretended the place was locked when showing the campus to recruits.
“If the place was burning down, I’d call the fire department, but I wouldn’t help put it out, he said, slightly joking, to ESPN Dallas’ Richard Durrett.
Still, Cross gladly acknowledged those who were willing to show up to the place each game.
“You guys really make a big difference in the game,” he told the crowd at the closing ceremony. “You don’t understand how important each and every one of you are. Our guys can tell you when you chant ‘defense,’ it makes a difference.”
Those student fans won’t have to worry about not standing in the new place. They’ll have their own sections along the baselines. VIP season ticket holders will get priority seating near center court.
“I think it will give the program more visibility,” Downs admitted, “and hopefully we will have better attendance and it will be more comfortable.”
According to Downs, the school has attempted to build a more traditional facility since 1985, ever since football was dropped, but all plans kept being shelved until now.
“I figured it would happen, but maybe not in my lifetime.”