It’s time for the Villanova Wildcats to build a new arena.
On Tuesday night, the No. 3 Wildcats (26-4, 15-2) disposed of DePaul (9-20, 3-14) 83-62 to net the Big East Conference’s top seed heading into the conference tournament. It was the team’s 13th sellout at The Pavilion this season, the same amount of games played at the arena this season.
But while 6,500 (stadium capacity) of the Wildcats faithful have packed the arena on a weekly basis this season, plenty more fans have had to sit and watch on TV instead.
On Saturday, the team’s seniors Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Kevin Rafferty, Patrick Farrell and Henry Lowe will end their Villanova careers with a “home” game against Georgetown (7-10, 14-16) at the Wells Fargo Center, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Sure, the Wells Fargo Center is a nice place to hold a marquee game every now and then to maximize ticket sales. Just ask the Temple Owls, who have used the arena for match ups with Kansas, Duke and Texas in recent years.
The Wildcats have won 39 straight games at the Pavilion, and have not lost there in three seasons. There is a clear advantage and it shows.
"What they've done is incredible, and it's the way they've done it," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. "Daniel [Ochefu] does all the dirty work, makes the right decisions and yet never wants to bring attention to himself. [Ryan Arcidiacono] is the only player I remember who we recruited that grew up as a Villanova fan. He liked us more than the Sixers. He watched the Kyle Lowrys and Scottie Reynolds. They were his favorite players. It's like a kid from Indiana going to Indiana. From day one, he knew everything we did. He set the tone. You don't get many like that."
But a senior’s final home game is supposed to be a special moment, played on the grounds of the school you have given your heart and soul to for four years. With all due respect, there’s no special attachment to the Sports Complex in South Philadelphia.
The last time the Wildcats played at the Wells Fargo Center against St. John’s on February 13, it was a near sellout crowd of 18,052.
Imagine that kind of atmosphere just a few steps away from campus.
Of the team’s with on-campus arenas in the Big East Conference, Villanova ranks dead last in stadium capacity. Marquette’s BMO Harris Bradley Center can hold the most with over 18,600 fans.
Even compared to the other Big 5 schools, The Pavilion doesn’t stand at the top. The arena holds nearly 4,000 less fans than Temple’s Liacouras Center, built in 1997. The Wildcats helped Temple set the arena’s all-time record this year with 10,472 fans packed in for then-No.1 Villanova’s 83-67 victory over the Owls.
Meanwhile, the arena erected in 1986, originally named after convicted murderer John du Pont, continues its regular scheduled programming on the Main Line. With the program’s first No. 1 ranking coming last month, just days after the 30th anniversary of The Pavilion, maybe that will serve as enough of a signal for change to come.