Grand Opening Set for Auburn Arena

Auburn, Ala.--Fans will be able to get their first look at the 2010-2011 men's and women's basketball teams on Friday evening as part of opening night ceremonies at the new Auburn Arena.

Tickets to the event that includes a guest appearance by the Harlem Globetrotters are gone. Fans who have them will be able to see short scrimmages by the Auburn teams and will get to check out the $85 million state-of-the-art facility.

Activities start with a FanFest at 5 p.m. at the north entrance of the arena with games and live music. The arena doors will open at 6:15 p.m. CDT.

Associate athletic director Scott Carr said he is looking forward to Friday evening. "I think everything is ready to go. We have been putting the final touches on things. We are excited about the facility.

"It is always interesting to do something in a brand new building," he said. "Everything will be new to everybody, even somebody who has been a season ticket holder for 25 years."

AU women's head coach Nell Fortner said she is excited about the new home for Auburn basketball that includes offices, locker rooms, weight training areas, a separate practice area and plenty of other amenities. "This place is absolutely beautiful," Fortner said. "I love it and our players love it."

Earnest Ross, a sophomore forward for Coach Tony Barbee's men's team, agrees with Fortner and said having a chance to play in the facility is one of the reasons he decided to sign with Auburn. "We love the new arena," he said. "It's going to be a great place for games."

Ross points out that the Tigers will be counting heavily on new faces this year with four starters graduated and two returning players, Frankie Sullivan and Ty Armstrong, out with ACL injuries.

The sophomore said the Tigers will need their four newcomers to contribute immediately. The group includes 6-6 freshman guard/forward Josh Langford, 6-6 freshman forward Allen Payne, 6-2 freshman guard Chris Denson and 6-8 forward Adrian Forbes, a junior who played the last two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.

Earnest Ross is shown in action last season as a freshman.

"The new guys are doing well," Ross said. "We have some guys who are competitive and looking forward to the season. Those are the kind of guys I enjoy having for teammates."

A view of the playing court is shown.

Barbee has promised fans an exciting, up-tempo style of play. Ross said visitors to the arena can count on seeing Auburn do just that. "We are going to play real fast," he said. "We aren't going to be out of control, but we are looking to get after it each time we step on the court."

Barbee said that he will be counting on Ross to be one of his team's leaders. Ross noted that was the role he played in high school and embraces the challenge.

"I am looking forward to doing whatever it takes for us to be successful whether it is rebounding, scoring, passing or guarding the best player on the other team," he said. "All I want to do is win."

Fans attending games at the Auburn Arena will find they are seated much closer to the playing floor than they were at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

More restrooms, more concessions areas, large lounges for the premium seating areas, a basketball Hall of Honor and the Lovelace Museum are some of the amenities in the new facility. At the request of fans the arena will offer upgraded concessions produced at in-arena kitchens, a major improvement from Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum where the culinary choices were less than impressive.

Fans attending the games will be able to park and take buses to the arena. "We are going to have shuttles that will run from the parking deck that is at the southeast corner of the football stadium and from the lot that is at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Donahue Drive," Carr said. "It will drop fans right by the sidewalk that leads to the main entrance (north side) of the arena."

Carr said ticket sales are going well to see Barbee's Tigers play. "We don't have a lot of season tickets left--maybe less than 1,500 so we would like to encourage fans to buy them now. I think how quickly the tickets were gone for the grand opening caught people off guard.

Students will have their own entrance to the arena, their own concessions area called Aubie Chow and their own restrooms. "The students don't have an actual season ticket," Carr said. "We will scan their Auburn Ignited Card and then they can fill in their seats, which are next to the court on three of the four sides."

The Aubie Chow area will feature fresh, hot food for students.

Like Fortner, Barbee said he is excited about getting started at the new arena after spending the spring and summer making contacts with students, alumni and fans to promote the program. He is in his first season at Auburn after taking over for Jeff Lebo, who was fired following the 2009-2010 season.

Tony Barbee

"I had to reconnect this program with the community," Barbee said. "I had to rekindle the love affair with the Auburn community and in the state of Alabama. The first step was my staff and I being a presence and letting everyone know I appreciate the support, and I am going to need it.

"It is like I have always said, ‘you can't do this job behind a desk, and it is a two-way street.' It is not about what everybody can do for me, it is how I can help everybody else, and that is how you build that connection. That was that six-month period, and it was fun. I had a good time doing it, and it is going to continue. Now, the focus turns to my team and building a team."

Barbee's Tigers will play home exhibitions on Nov. 3rd vs. West Alabama and on Nov. 8th vs. Columbus, Ga., State. Both teams will open the regular season with a doubleheader on Nov. 12th. The women will take on Mercer at 5 p.m. and the men will play UNC-Asheville at 8 p.m.

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