By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The Enid High School Plainsmen and Pacers basketball players got their first look at their new home court Tuesday at the Enid Event Center and one player already deemed it a successful debut.
“It feels really good and a lot of us are already making our shots, so it’s good,” said Pacers senior Grace Enmeier during the informal shootaround.
The teams will be calling the Enid Event Center home this fall after several years of a nomadic existence, having to share Northern Oklahoma College Enid’s Mabee Center for the past five years as guests.
“It has more of a feel of home,” Enmeier said. “A little bit more blue in here than there was at NOC.”
The Enid Event Center, which just opened, was getting its first test of the basketball floor that was installed Monday, with the Enid teams invited in for an informal session Tuesday evening.
The opening night reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
“I’m excited,” said Plainsmen head coach Ryan Wilkinson. “I think the kids were really excited to come and shoot around. It’s going to be fun to play here. It gives them a little bit of ownership to have a place that’s kind of theirs. This is a really nice facility, with good size and good proportions.”
However, one question that still surrounds Enid, even at its new home, is the matter of practice time on the new court. While Enid will be the home team, it still will have to do some practicing at EHS as the facility will have multiple uses, and that means time away from developing familiarity with its new home floor.
“I told them they can use it whenever the building is not in use and the floor is down,” said Enid Event Center director Keller Taylor.
“They’ve been great about it,” said Pacers head coach Robb Mills. “We hardly ever got to practice at NOC because they have a basketball team, too, so I’m sure it’s going to be more (practice time) than we had.
“I think it (the new facility) is going to create a little buzz about Enid basketball. Not many teams get to play in a facility like this. It will feel like it’s ours.”
Pacers sophomore, Savannah Blasi, one of nine Pacers at the shootaround Tuesday, echoed the feeling that the Enid Event Center already feels like home.
“I like the floor with the Pacers and Plainsmen painted on it,” she said. “Even though we are renting it out, I’m glad it’s designed for us.”
Enid Public Schools will be paying $32,000 this season to rent the downtown facility for its home games.
Like the Pacers, the Plainsmen had nine players at the voluntary shootaround and Plainsmen senior Mike Majors thinks the Event Center could mean more fan support.
“Hopefully we get in here and practice and do well and get a good crowd in here,” Majors said. “The floor feels good and it already feels like our place.”
Enid athletic director Bill Mayberry, who shot the first unofficial air ball with a miss from the free throw line, said the new arena will be a welcome home for the Enid cagers.
“We’ve been on the road for several years now,” Mayberry said. “I am so happy for the kids to get to play in a facility like this and I’m just as happy for the coaches and the fans too because it’s a comfortable arrangement, seating-wise.
“I can’t express enough gratitude though to NOC for taking us in and letting us play there,” saidMayberry, who also thanked “the citizens of this community, the board of education, the city commission and all the folks that made this happen.”
But maybe the most enthusiastic support came from Plainsmen senior Marcus Moore when comparing the Event Center to the Mabee Center.
“It (the Mabee Center) didn’t touch my heart as much as this already has touched my heart,” Moore said. “The colors and everything ... it’s nice, man. I’m just ready to play. I’m pretty sure once the season starts, it’s going to be a nice environment.”
Moore also thinks the new arena could be worth some more wins this season. “Oh yeah, definitely. We’re going to go undefeated this season,” he said.
The public also can get a sneak peek at the new floor, which also will serve as the volleyball court, when the Enid Event Center hosts an open house on Thursday from 6-8 p.m,