On Campus Arena Would Need Major Donor

It's no secrete that Cal State Fullerton's "visionaries" did not include an on-campus arena in the 2003 master plan but some may not realize that the concept of an arena nearly made it in. So what happened? TitanCentral.com attempts to give you the answers.

Lots of parking structures, a child care center, a Faculty/Staff Center, Nutwood Avenue closure, housing for faculty and students, and a student-funded recreation center were all included in Cal State Fullerton's 2003 Final Master Development Plan. After scouring the 73 pages of this plan, supporters of Cal State Fullerton athletics immediately wondered, "Where's the arena?"

One thing is clear, it was not inadvertent. In fact, in preparing for the master plan, the committee had the foresight to include several arena locations during some early stage brainstorming sessions (pdf). The arena also made it in the Preliminary Planning Scenarios (pdf) and, at least in some drawings, the Draft Final Master Plan (pdf) presented to the campus April of 2002.

Jay Bond, associate vice president for facilities management, tries to provide an answer as to why an arena was not included in the final version of the master plan:

"Part of the reason for not having it in the plan is that athletics was feeling like, for the time being, there probably wasn't a constituency for an arena. There's no real money sitting out there, or a prospect of that, so throwing resources into making the existing gym a better place is money more well-spent in the near term.

"Plus we felt that there had to be a crying need for one. The minute we would add it to the master plan, there are environmental issues. To add an arena would cause light, traffic, noise concerns for neighbors. Parking would also be another one of those. Unless we were really serious about it, we didn't want this to be the lightning-rod time for those issues."

Here is another thing that is crystal clear: If Cal State Fullerton wants to remain a Division I school, men's basketball needs to eventually become competitive. 12 consecutive losing seasons is a reflection of how athletics has become ignored on this campus. With the hiring of coach Bob Burton, who has a reputation in the basketball community as a great teacher and excellent recruiter, optimism is beginning within the program. But is that enough?

There is a lot of money to be made in college basketball and, like anything else, you need to commit, you need a plan and you need a vision to succeed. You also need to invest money in order reap the rewards of making the NCAA's "Money" Madness Tournament. An on-campus arena would certainly help in setting the foundation for a consistent, successful basketball program.

"If something's not in the master plan, that doesn't mean it can't be done, " says Bond, "Now tomorrow, if somebody steps up and says we've got to have an arena and here's how we can get it done and here's some money to get the ball started, we can accommodate an arena on campus.

"But it's the old chicken and egg thing. Why do we need an arena when a 1,000 people come to the basketball games? Well, more than a thousand people would come to a basketball game if you had an arena."

Bond admits that "our gym is not a recruiting magnet" and that eventually, to be competitive in the Big West and remain a Division I school in athletics, we will need a new arena.

Bond did not have any numbers at his fingertips but Gonzaga is currently putting the finishing touches on its new arena at a cost of $23 million. So how much would it cost just to get the ball rolling?

"I don't think there is a magic number on the table" says Bond, "Some of that would probably be the prestige of the gift. If a million dollars came from Kobe Bryant and he's supporting Cal State Fullerton men's basketball, that might be plenty to get it going.

"But if we got a million dollars from an anonymous donor ... there's money and then there's money and momentum and all those kinds of things. But I can't give you a magic number. It would probably be the kind of thing where it would come from multiple sources."

The bottom line is, it appears the school is not even trying. Recently, a successful business man donated $3 million towards Cal State Fullerton's business school simply because he was asked. Who knows what could happen if a arena were at least included in the master plan.

And have we even bothered to ask?

On behalf of Cal State Fullerton, TitanCentral.com is asking our wealthy Titan alumni and friends, "Can you please spare a million or ten?"