Big time basketball finally arrives at CCU’s HTC Center

Big time basketball has arrived along the Grand Strand. Or at least that’s the way it feels when the lights dim and the introductions are made inside the brand new HTC center on the campus of Coastal Carolina University.

As the fans filed into the facility for the first game of the season in the long anticipated arena, I took a few moments to look around, kick the tires a little bit. Wow, this place is impressive.

Please, understand that after 20 plus years of covering sports, I’ve seen my share of big time arenas. I’ve also covered games from bleacher seats inside some of the smallest and oldest venues on the East Coast. I’ve covered games at Madison Square Garden, and dare I say Kimbel Gymnasium.

From the moment you arrive, things just seem different. A walk around the arena’s hallways takes you down memory lane with billboard like remembrances of past players including Tony Dunkin, Brooke Weisbrod, Robert Dowdell and Howard White. Concession stands are located around every corner, with the “Rowdy Rooster” area containing a seating area to enjoy your moderately priced meal. This feature alone makes it feel big time.

Inside the arena, CCU has placed the majority of their 1200 students in attendance on one end zone, with the CCU band placed squarely in the middle of the students. It took them awhile to warm up, but once that student section got comfortable they began to insert themselves into the game as the 6th player on the floor.

As you circle the inside with your eyes, you’ll notice the digital scoreboards, digital signage, replay screens, and extended length media tables.

Corporate suites with overhanging seating areas dot the corners across from the team benches. And large enclosed suite areas extend on one side from baseline to baseline. There is a lot to see and the experience feels like a big time event.

CCU games have always featured an element of entertainment during timeouts and at halftime. That tradition continues and with the booming sound system, it just feels like an experience that’s well worth the ticket price of $15.

If the lights, signage, timeout entertainment and size of the arena weren’t enough, the teams provided the kind of entertainment that one would hope for when attending a basketball game, an overtime win for the home team. In fact, when Anthony Raffa went to the free throw line with 2.8 seconds remaining in overtime and a 3 point lead, the entire arena seemed to finally come alive.

It just all feels big time. Kimbel Gymnasium provided years of highs and lows for the Chanticleers and I think many along the Grand Strand will always have fond memories from the small, but cozy environment. But, it’s a new day, and new era. It’s big time basketball and the HTC Center fulfills the dream that’s been held by the CCU fan base for many years. As CCU fan Stan Parker said from his courtside seat, “It’s been 30 years in the making for Coastal to move up to the next level”.

CCU faithful, the day has arrived. Big time basketball has finally come to the Grand Strand. The Chants next home game is November 20th against Johnson & Wales. Get yourself a ticket and feel the experience that is Coastal Carolina basketball.

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