By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
The skeptics out there, and there are many, that continue to doubt the need or benefit of building the new Enid Event Center, probably should have been invited to Tuesday night’s shootaround.
Eighteen players from the Enid Plainsmen and Pacers basketball teams got their first opportunity to try out their new, future home and the reaction of the players and coaches told the story of whether this is a wise investment.
If smiles can be quantified into a cost-analysis equation, the bottom line would show a substantial profit.
Everyone in attendance, from the coaches to the players, spent the hour-long shootaround praising the new digs. And why shouldn’t they?
Over the past five years the Enid cagers have been house guests of Northern Oklahoma College Enid at the Jets’ Mabee Center. It’s not that they haven’t been appreciative, but well, it wasn’t their house. The signs were the wrong colors (red and black) and the court gave no indication that it was Enid’s home court, because, well, it wasn’t.
That’s not to say the Enid Event Center is the perfect situation, but it is a far cry better than what the nomadic Plainsmen and Pacers have had.
The new court looked resplendent in EHS blue with Plainsmen painted on one end of the court and Pacers on the other. The video scoreboards alternately flashed “Home of the Plainsmen” and “Home of the Pacers” and the scorers table also was emblazoned with the appropriate nicknames.
Yes, there still are some disadvantages. The teams will not have exclusive use of the courts which means they will not have unlimited practice availability. But the folks at the Event Center have told the teams they can use the facility whenever it is not in use and the floor is down. It’s not perfect, but it’s a far cry from their previous situation.
And sure, there are some folks who still are griping about the cost of the Event Center and the entire Renaissance project. But it is a done deal and it is time to embrace it as a positive for the city of Enid and for the young athletes.
Some even complained the new floor did not have an ‘E’ at center court, instead having the Enid Event Center logo. But keep in mind this floor will be used for other events, including tournaments, which hopefully may one day include a regional as the 3,200-seat arena rivals any other prep facility in the state.
The Enid Event Center also is the linchpin for downtown’s rebirth with two downtown hotels now being planned. Some may also take issue with the $32,000 per year the school is paying to use the facility.
But this is where sometimes you have to look past the dollar signs.
The pure joy, smiles and enthusiasm of the players as they took in their new home affirmed the investment as worthwhile.
Each player talked about how much it meant to them to be able to play in such a facility that sported their colors and their team name. The pride was oozing in their comments which were not rehearsed, but came tumbling out with spontaneity, none more so than from Plainsmen senior Marcus Moore.
“It (the Mabee Center) didn’t touch my heart as much as this already has touched my heart,” Moore said when asked about the new facility as he looked around and took in the colors.
He even ventured that the team will go undefeated.
Will the Enid Event Center mean more wins? Who knows, but when a young athlete expresses that kind of sentiment, can anyone seriously question the worthiness and value of this new facility?
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at email@example.com.