Back in the 50s and 60s, our neighborhood Jesuit college had a first-rate basketball team that made it to the NCAA tournament 11 times. They even made it to the championship game in 1958, losing by 12 points to Kentucky. But in 1980 the high costs of sustaining a competitive team became too much for the small school, and they dropped down to Division II.
But now things are different in the world of college basketball, with schools like Gonzaga proving that even small programs can build very capable teams and bring in a lot of national attention and revenue. So Seattle U is on a track to reenter Division I competition in several sports, including basketball. This year they’ll play a mixed schedule of Division I & II teams, and if they prove themselves, they could be granted full Division I status as soon as next year.
For now they’ll be playing basketball at Key Arena. They’ve got a history there, where it served as their home court back when it was the old civic colosseum. But as the Seattle Times reports today, the school’s long term plans could include a new major sports facility on the Seattle U campus:
“I have said at times that before I finish as president I would like to beat Gonzaga on our own home court at Seattle University,” [Seattle University President Father Stephen Sundborg] said. “But that’s kind of like John Kennedy wanting to go to the moon. All of that will depend upon how we develop the program. What kind of winning program we get and what kind of attendance we get.”
Still there’s been no serious discussion about building an arena on campus.
Rumors have swirled in the neighborhood that basketball is the real reason the school has bought the old Coca Cola bottling plant at 14th & Columbia. Folks suspect they’d tear it down and build a new 7,000-10,000 seat arena for the team. Although the building’s exterior has been designated as a landmark, there’s a number of ways the school could get around that, such as by incorporating the exterior into the design of a future project.
But whether that’s the actual plan or not, there’s not a whole lot of available space on their campus for a major new building, so one would have to assume that an arena would be built somewhere on the periphery of the campus, thus having a substantial impact on our neighborhood. And you can be sure that we’ll have a lot of local excitement and discussions if anything like that is put forward in the coming years.
You can get tickets now for Seattle U’s first Division I basketball game against Loyola on January 1 at Key Arena. Visit goseattleu.com for more details.