St. Bonaventure will install a row of high-priced seats in front of the student section for basketball games at the Reilly Center this season, and the plan is not going over well with many Bona fans.
The new row of court-side seats will sell for $710 for the season. It will take the students off the hardwood.
Bona athletics director Tim Kenney said security concerns expressed by Atlantic 10 Conference members were a big reason for the decision in an online chat with fans Thursday.
“The status quo was not an option,” Kenney said. “We had to come up with a way to more secure the playing surface as this was a point of emphasis at the A10 meetings in late May.”
“The addition of the row of seats in front of the student section was part of a plan to address a point of emphasis from the Atlantic 10 Conference that was put to each institution,” Kenney said. “The emphasis is to evaluate crowd control of the court on game day to minimize access to the playing surface. We looked at a number of options and thought this was the most positive solution to a difficult situation.”
Bona also will add upscale seats in rows three and four the lower level on the south side of the arena, known as the blues. It’s the side where the two teams are located. The seats in row three will be the first row behind the media section. Those will sell for $610 apiece for a season ticket.
“The courtside seats, combined with the ability to offer the new blue seats, will give us the ability to bring in upwards of $50,000 annually,” Kenney said. “Thus, we believe this is a positive solution that addressed concerns of court security and at the same time brings much-needed revenue to the department.”
Many Bona fans view the change as diminishing the rabid atmosphere that is created by the university’s usually packed student section.
“Placing rows in front of the students is STILL a problem,” said one respondent on the chat.
Said another: “My concern is that we are diminishing the one true advantage Bonas has over its A10 rivals. Other schools will have more money to spend, bigger student bodies, larger cities from which to draw fans, deeper-pocketed corporate sponsors, more elaborate facilities. But none of those other schools has the rabid student support we have.”
Kenney countered that Duke’s famous student section at Cameron Indoor Stadium is not directly on the court.
“Once again, we will reference Duke with the Cameron Crazies, who are separated from the playing surface by a full-length scorer’s table but still continue to have a major impact on the atmosphere at their games,” Kenney said.
Bona fans stormed the court after the team’s last-second upset victory over Virginia Commonwealth last season. There may have been some concern about that in the Atlantic 10. But the seating change wasn't made to try to guarantee fans could not get on the court in a celebration.
“Unfortunately there have been issues that the department has not made public,” he said. “While we haven’t had any major incidents, we have to consider a potential worst-case scenario and the liability St. Bonaventure would face if that situation occurs.”
Some Bona fans have started a GoFundMe.com campaign to buy the new courtside seats and give them to students.
“We are fully aware of the Gofunde campaign and will be discussing with the Student Government some ways to possibly allocate some of the courtside seats to students,” said Kenney. “We have also been approached by alumni/donors who are interested in the same thing.”
Meanwhile Kenney said the school aims to have a new video board installed at the Reilly Center but that all of the funding is not yet in place for the project.
“While time is short for the coming season, rest assured it is a top priority for us,” he said.