Arlington Hoping Glitter of New University Arena Rubs Off on Its Downtown

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The opening of the University of Texas at Arlington’s College Park Center was the place to see and be seen Wednesday night. As North Texas businessmen, politicians, media personalities and higher-education administrators crowded the hospitality suite, James D. Spaniolo stood at center court before the largest crowd ever to attend a basketball game at the university.

“You know, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” Mr. Spaniolo, the U.T.-Arlington president, bellowed.

Later that night, Scott Cross, the coach of the men’s team, called the $78 million, 7,000-seat special-events arena “a dream come true.” Adding to the opening night jubilation, both the men’s and women’s teams were triumphant.

“It’s a different feeling,” the star forward LaMarcus Reed said of the crowd. “That noise. It just moves through you.”

Across campus, Texas Hall — U.T.-Arlington’s proverbial Kansas where the men had played since 1965 and the women since 1972 — was dark. Gone was the unique charm of a performing arts theater that converted its stage into a basketball court, complete with the ever-present risk of falling into the orchestra pit.

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