A few years back, some fans of the school across the state began lovingly referring to Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum as “Coleman Mausoleum.” And, while you want to shake your fists in their general direction, they are on to something. Our general annoyance likely comes from the fact that they’re right, more than the fact that it’s just Barner agitprop.
The SEC has its share of big gyms: Rupp seats over 23,000; Thompson-Boling in Knoxville nears 22,000; South Carolina’s new multipurpose facility is close to 18,000; and 19,000 hoops-crazed Hogs fans can pack into Bud Walton; while the perennial “wait till basketball season” Missouri Tigers take the hardwood in a gym that seats close to 15,000.
Meanwhile, some of the conference’s tougher gymnasiums are smaller: The Tad Pad (and now the Pavillion) both seat under 10,000. Auburn’s Beard-Eaves and Auburn Arenas are about the same size. 12,000 jorts from across Florida can squeeze into the O-Dome on a good day and provided no one has hit the buffet. LSU’s venerable Maravich Assembly Center, the multipurpose civic center in the capital of Louisiana, only nears 13,000 — and with each renovation, fewer sears have been available, not more.
And then there’s Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum. This cavernous, dark 15,368-seat warehouse from 1968 occupies some of the best real estate on campus. And, next to the other capital improvements, including its freshly-built neighbor at the New Joe, it is a study in contrasts: contrasts made all the starker by Coleman’s gloomy interior, institutionalized exterior, vending and concessions from the Civil Rights era, pre-ADA compliant entrances that are a chore for anyone over 200 pounds much less the disabled, acoustics more suited for wind tunnel testing than a basketball game, sight lines that would appeal to Hellen Kellen, gatekeeping ushers who were were curmudgeons in the Eisenhower administration, rafters with great views of structural steel, one of the worst PA men in the country, scoreboards cobbled together from retired Gameboys, a seating scheme designed to punish students, and a Tide Pride ticketing scheme that encourages empty seats in what should be some of the most raucous parts of the building.
But, hey, at least attendance sucks.
In the best year for Alabama basketball in over a decade, the Tide punched about 11,000 paid tickets per game. Of those, the actual scanned, honest-to-god butts-in-seats attendance has been estimated less than 7,000 per game — and that includes the 1100-1200 students per game. All of those scattered empty seats and the squeaking of sneakers echoing in a third-full gym is a terrible look for the school, a terrible environment in which to play or watch a game, and at the end of the day is terrible for taking this program where we want it to be (and where many of you believe it should already be).
Baby, it’s not me...It really is you.
Like Michigan’s Big House, rarely has so much building had so little an impact on proceedings. It is a testament to the generations of Alabama players and coaches that the Tide has still managed to win over 80% of its games at home. It is a further testament to those same coaching staffs that convinced Hometown Hero and Mr. Basketball to make this their home for four years. And, while a lot of blame can be directed at milquetoast season ticket holders, fickle students, spotty coaching and bad seasons, more than a little blame can be placed at footsteps of the facility itself. It’s not a fan-friendly venue, and basketball has simply been neglected far too long by university and athletic administrators whose eyes rarely veer away from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
So, it was with great excitement last week that we heard rumors of serious planning underway to either completely gut this mausoleum or replace it in toto. As is our want, we did not report on this. We’re commentators, not journalists. But, yesterday, BamaOnline did report on the architectural firm that is weighing which option is better to replace the dinosaur on Bryant Denny Drive.
There can be few people as happy as Coach Avery Johnson: since Day One, he has made it a priority to give this program a gym it deserves and one which will grow the program.
It couldn’t happen at a better time; it is unlikely Alabama will ever be this flush with cash again. And it couldn’t happen a day sooner.
Buckle Up (and grab a sledgehammer.) Feel free to sound off on Coleman below too.
This poll is closed
Replace it. Not a brick left standing.
Heavy renovation which address its shortcomings as an arena in 2018.
WTF? I’m just here for the football, man!