When a sports team plays its home games at two different venues, there will always be the question as to which is better. Our Huskies basketball teams split time between the 16,294-seat XL Center in downtown Hartford, and the smaller 10,167-seat Gampel Pavilion located in the heart of the university. According to this Husky faithful, all games should be played at Gampel Pavilion.
As it shakes down currently, only eight home games are played at Gampel while 11 are at the XL Center. After attending recent games at both venues (Villanova at Gampel on Monday, Tennessee at the XL Center Saturday) this student is of the opinion those numbers need to be reversed, if not weighted more heavily toward Gampel Pavilion. I see why the university would want to play games at the XL Center. More seats, more ticket sales, more dollar signs for the university, and who doesn’t love money? This newly broke college student loves it, but is life (basketball) all about money? No, life (basketball) is all about atmosphere and who you surround yourself with.
The XL Center has 6,000 more seats than Gampel, but that doesn’t make it better in the least bit. Those 6,000 seats go to senior citizens, a simple look around the building confirms such an observation. Now I’m not saying these fans don’t cheer, aren’t passionate, or aren’t knowledgeable about the sport because I know they are (I was a waiter in a retirement home in high school, the residents there loved UConn basketball). But lets be real, when was the last time you saw a 72 year old dude jump out of his seat for a 3 pointer? In my experience, never. Parking is a disaster, traffic is worse, and there is nothing worse then having to take a crowded bus to and from Hartford for us students. On the plus side there are a lot of great bars and restaurants around the XL Center that are great places to go after a game.
Gampel Pavilion is a much smaller venue, but has the heart that the XL Center lacks. No one camps out to get the best seats at the XL Center, but you better believe the UConn faithful will be lining up the night before a big game at Gampel (Villanova knows whats up). And when Gampel is rocking, it is ROCKING, something you can feel in the tightly backed Pavilion benches. The XL Center is simply lacking the same effect with their luxury seats and nose bleed sections.
Gampel Pavilion IS UConn, whereas the XL Center is Hartford, far from the heart beat of the University of Connecticut. And when little kids walk out of Gampel after a big win, say like the one against Villanova, and they see the passion and heart of this school, they say “I want to be a Connecticut Husky.” Such effect is lost at the XL Center. This atmosphere is what makes Gampel superior, even though its parking and traffic (everyone whose ever been on Storrs road knows what I’m talking about) is equally atrocious.
I’ll also admit that I’m a little bit bias because I live on campus, and walking to the game that’s literally down the road is the coolest thing ever. So if anyone has something to add please do. Better yet if someone disagrees please drop a comment and let us know what your thinking.
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