“Home Sw33t Home.” The motto on this year’s We Are Georgetown shirt is intended to honor new basketball head coach and program legend Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), who wore the number 33 during his four years on the Hilltop.

However, this motto also underscores a sad irony: The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team does not have a true home. The Hoya men have not played at McDonough Gymnasium since the 1980-81 season. Including Georgetown, only 25 out of 351 Division I men’s basketball teams do not play in on-campus arenas.

As part of the program’s fresh start under Ewing, the university should give the Hoyas a true home-court advantage by modernizing and expanding McDonough and reprioritizing student and alumni engagement with the basketball team.

As Ewing looks to turn the program around with higher profile recruits, the school must showcase a culture of excitement around the team. A Hall of Fame coach alone will not be enough to lure top talent. Although Ewing’s hiring provided a shock to an increasingly apathetic fan base, frustration has returned following bad losses to Syracuse, Butler and Villanova, the last of which was the program’s worst loss since 1974.

Currently, McDonough can hold 2,500 spectators. It hosts the Georgetown women’s basketball and volleyball teams, and university functions like new student convocation. However, this tiny stadium is not suited for the needs of a modern university, as evidenced by the many students who were not admitted to Hoya Madness in October.

A revamped McDonough would need to house about 12,000 spectators to accommodate the demands of the Hoya fan base and Big East rules governing the size of home courts.

Georgetown does not have a billionaire benefactor like the University of Oregon’s Phil Knight, who funded a massive training facility for the school. However, the promise of a new arena could convince a victory-hungry and D.C.-centered alumni base to donate to the athletic department for the purpose of expanding McDonough.

One of the primary reasons the Hoyas moved from McDonough — first to the Capital Centre, and then to Capital One Arena — was to accommodate a growing fan base. However, last season, an average of only 8,479 fans attended Georgetown home games. This puts Georgetown at 54th in the country, behind schools like Duke University, the University of Connecticut and conference rival Xavier University, all of whom play in stadiums less than half the size of 20,000-seat Capital One Arena. The argument that Georgetown needs a big arena to hold throngs of students and alumni just does not hold up.

Over winter break, I attended Duke’s 104-40 home thrashing of Evansville University at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Despite the lowly opponent and the timing of the game, 9,314 Cameron Crazies were out in full force, rocking a sold-out house. Conversely, Georgetown’s game against Villanova generated a meager attendance of 11,905, an inexcusable and embarrassing turnout for a conference game against the current No. 1 team in the country.  Despite the fact that Georgetown generated more overall ticket sales at this game, the fact that Capital One Arena was not even 60 percent full led to a quiet, lethargic atmosphere. Although it is unrealistic to expect a Georgetown game to rival the atmosphere of an arena like Cameron any time soon, playing in a 12,000 seat arena would create a much more compressed, raucous experience. Cameron Indoor is sold out for every game.

Georgetown games are often held on weeknights or weekend mornings, since they must be scheduled around those of the Washington Wizards and Capitals, with whom they share the stadium. This drives low fan attendance. On any given night, the Hoyas play to only 40 percent of capacity. The only true solution to the Hoyas’ attendance and atmosphere problem is to renovate McDonough. On-campus games are more accessible to students, most of whom do not have time in their schedules for an hour-long round trip across Washington, D.C.

A renovation of McDonough would help re-energize a frustrated student body and long-suffering fan base. The excitement surrounding Ewing’s hire will fade away quickly, especially if the team continues losing. A new stadium would bring a true home-court advantage, which Georgetown needs if it hopes to become competitive again. As fellow Big East members Xavier and Villanova renovate their stadiums, it is time Georgetown does the same to return basketball to the Hilltop.

Michael Ginsberg is a sophomore in the College.

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2 Comments

  1. Though I wish as you do for an on campus venue remember that it will turn into a town and gown battle.

  2. Gregory Paull says:

    Georgetown faced the same decision in 1979, and that was when the campus had a lot more open space. It’s very doubtful that McDonough could be modified to increase capacity. It would have to be a knock-down and rebuild. The goal should be something like Cameron (where Dookies play). That lets you have most games on campus, but the monster games downtown. Keep in mind that of the 8,500 or so average attendees last season, more than half are not students, and many of those might not go to games on campus.

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