The Sideline View: Curb your expectations for the PAC

At the Board of Trustees meeting last week, USI Director of Facility Operations and Planning Jim Wolfe proudly showed a video of what the PAC is supposed to look like once two phases of construction are finished sometime during 2020.

Predictably, the video picked up a lot of traction on social media. Alumni and “fans” seemed to be ecstatic. Levels on the excitement meter for anything related to USI athletics hit an all time high.

It’s safe to say this is an easy win for USI. Release a low-budget depiction of what the $65.5 millions (Phase I costs around $27 million and Phase II costs about $38.5 million) worth of renovations will look like in a year once they’re finished with Phase I, get pats on the back from the community because they like how it’s going to look.

After all, it’s nice to see USI modernizing the university. The buildings on campus aren’t old enough or brick enough to give an old brick building ambiance like IU or BSU. Glass is the new brick.

If buildings can be considered attractive, then the PAC will be an attractive building once finished.

But will all those virtual back pats and emojis with hearts for eyes translate into seats being filled when the doors to the new arena finally open?

The first season should see ticket sales increase by who knows how many. People will flock in like the new PAC is a bastion of sophistication with its sleek and stylish appearance. 

They won’t be there for the games, but to see the attraction in action.

USI is going to win so much in the next year, they’re going to be tired of winning and forget what it feels like to lose.

That is until years two and three with the new, aesthetically pleasing, once was an eyesore, now we love it PAC, when the crowds stop coming.

When the parking lots have an abundance of spots during home games and the games become so quiet students can study and watch the games live without being distracted by the roar of the home section. There won’t even be enough shirtless frat guys with letters painted on their chest to spell out “Eagles” in the student section.

If the university has trouble selling out basketball games now with 2,600 max capacity in the PAC, how will the games look once there are over 4,800 seats in the PAC?

For the most popular sport on campus, men’s basketball, the PAC sold out completely only once, Jan. 16 for the Bellarmine game, last year. Actually, that’s the only time the PAC hit 2,600 attendees in the past five seasons.

Last season the average attendance for the 13 home games the men’s basketball team played was 1,465.5 (56.3 percent of max PAC capacity). The median attendance was 1,309 (50.3 percent of the current max PAC capacity).

Over the last five seasons, USI has had an average attendance at home games of 1450.7 (55.7 percent full) and a median attendance of 1309 (50.3 percent full). The USI men averaged 14.4 home games in that span and a median of 15 home games. (With a little digging, all of this information can be found on the USI athletics website.)

If those numbers stay about the same, first year of the new PAC excluded, it’s going to be an outlier, the average attendance then becomes 30.2 percent and the median attendance over the course of the men’s home games becomes 27.2 percent of max capacity.

How many new custodial workers is the university going to hire whose sole purpose will be dusting off the new, seldom used seats in the PAC?

The USI students and the residents of Evansville don’t care about Division II basketball games. Yes, the PAC will look nice once construction is finished, but that alone won’t make people care enough about USI athletics to actually attend home games.