The University of Richmond men's basketball team saw its highest attendance numbers this year since the 1997-1998 season.
The increase was due in large part to the $17 million in renovations to the Robins Center. Improvements included new seats, a new court and design, as well as entertainment platforms, four new video boards and LED lighting.
"Games were much more exciting to be at this year as compared to years past," junior Patrick McBride said. "The lighting and crowd noise were probably the most notable things."
One aspect of the renovations included moving the seats closer to the court and reducing the number of seats to create a noisier environment.
"The new arena has helped increase fan support and has given us a great home-court advantage," junior guard Kendall Anthony said. "The arena also seems much louder now that there are fewer seats."
Conference opponent Saint Joseph's University head coach Phil Martelli, who has won Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year four times in his career, commented on a significant change in crowd noise when his team took a loss at the new Robins Center this season.
"I don't know who's in charge of the facility, but I would ask you a question," Martelli said. "Was that, was it amplified? Like it seemed to me they amplified and that's illegal. I wonder if they're enhancing. They're juicing. I think they're juicing. They're juicing their noise."
The team sold out six games and crowds were as electric as ever. Jana Woodson, assistant athletic director for marketing and fan development, believes there's room for improvement.
"We will continue to use the new Robins Center as a focal point in our marketing," Woodson said. "However, we are working very hard to continue to look for new ways to fill the new Robins Center."
The Spiders averaged 6,102 fans per home game, which ranked fifth among A-10 schools and was in the top 100 Division I schools nationally, Woodson said. The University of Richmond is the second smallest school in the 13-school A-10 conference and one of three schools with enrollment less than 9,000 students.
"The new configuration of the student section definitely raises the level of energy of games, and the students impact the entire arena," men's basketball head coach Chris Mooney said.
The women's basketball attendance was 721, an increase from last season. They ended the season with a 14-16 record, including a 6-6 clip at the Robins Center.
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The men finished the season at 19-14 with a 12-4 record at home, highlighted by a sellout win against 12th ranked University of Massachusetts Jan. 22.
"The atmosphere in the new Robins Center is exciting and electric," Mooney said. "There is a great feeling at every single game."
As the Spiders return a majority of their contributors for next season, expectations will be high and the athletic department will continue to look for different ways promote Richmond basketball and its new home.
"The new Robins Center was the focus of our marketing efforts this past season," Woodson said. "The fan reaction to the new Robins Center has been tremendous and it did create a great deal of buzz in the area."
Contact reporter Oliver Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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