By Austin Lee
Basketball games against Loyola will be played at neutral sites this year in an attempt to solve overflow crowd issues, the athletic departments of the two schools have agreed.
The games between the two rivals have historically drawn huge crowds, with many fans and parents often not able see games due to size constraints of the gyms.
“We had a bit of an issue last year where we had people who wanted to see the game but couldn’t get in,” Athletic Director Terry Barnum said. “We wanted to make sure that we had a gym that was big enough for everyone to see the game.”
Construction has also made parking on and off campus more difficult, which would further aggravate the problem of excessive crowding during these games.
“It gets to the point where it’s a safety hazard. Very simply, that was the reason for the change, especially in light of the parking situation on Coldwater this year,” Associate Head of School Audrius Barzdukas said.
The Harvard-Westlake Athletic Directors are currently scouting out possible locations for the Feb. 3 H-W home game, specifically one that would be able to seat a significantly larger crowd than Taper Gym’s maximum occupancy of 1000. Los Angeles Valley College, a main prospect, would seat 1800 people. However, too big a gym would also be a problem, Barzdukas said.
“Two thousand people in the Staples Center just feels empty,” Barzdukas said. “You want to have some energy. That’s part of what makes it a special game.”
The coaches and administration do not expect any decline in fan attendance even with the move off-campus and, instead, expect an increase, as people will be assured of seating.
“I’m glad all of the fans will be able to be there,” Head Fanatic Jacob Schapiro ’12 said. “We still always fill up the gym at Loyola in red, so a neutral location will be the same.”
At these off-campus sites, security will be provided by the venue or the school, and fan behavior will be regulated just as much as at a home game.
“Our fan behavior is the same no matter where, whether it’s home or away,” Barnum said. “The facility doesn’t matter, so our guidelines and standards will stay in place no matter where we are.”
Head Coach Greg Hilliard said that will end up benefiting the team by getting the players used to playing on neutral ground.
“It’s always tough to lose a home game, but it’s best for everyone and it works the same for them,” Hilliard said. “We will use it to prepare for the neutral site games we must play in the playoffs. The players will enjoy the atmosphere.”