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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

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Purcell Pavilion: the on-campus gem

Purcell Pavilion is one of Notre Dame's most underrated spaces.

Those who know me well know I have no shortage of unusually strange beliefs, many of which I am firm and passionate about. Of course, I acknowledge the unusual nature of my beliefs and I don’t expect others to share in my opinions. One such is my love of Purcell Pavilion. Over my four years at Notre Dame, Purcell Pavilion has become one of my favorite places on this campus. It helps that I love the game of basketball, but after watching hundreds of games there, even when Notre Dame loses, I can’t help but admire the arena itself.

I’m a firm believer that the home-court advantage can be vastly diminished or weakened if fans don’t show up. And, to be fair, often for Notre Dame basketball, the fans don’t show up. Last Wednesday, for the men’s win over Georgia Tech, around 50 students showed up. Of course, many were celebrating Ash Wednesday or Valentine’s Day, so they were preoccupied elsewhere, but the showing was poor. Purcell Pavilion’s layout, though, made this poor showing less obvious. 

At a capacity of 9,149, Purcell is near the bottom in capacity when compared to other schools in the ACC. Only four programs (Miami, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Clemson) play in arenas that host fewer fans. Playing home games among a sea of empty seats is hard, yet, I think the quantity of empty seats is more detrimental to a home team than the percentage of seats open. Luckily, for Notre Dame, the quantity can never be that low. 

Even when students don’t show up — as is often the case — both programs are helped out by loyal season ticket holders, especially on the women’s side. Smaller arenas also allow the fan experience team to reach the entire fanbase, rather than just the first 10,000 fans. This is particularly evident at women’s basketball games, where at the beginning of the season, season ticket holders receive a t-shirt and glow stick. Hundreds of fans don the t-shirt each game, and thousands bring their glow sticks back every game, leading to an intimidatingly unique scene during player introductions. 

Notre Dame will never get 20,000 fans like St. John’s can at Madison Square Garden. But the lower capacity helps ensure that when sell out games happen, the loudest fans are there. And going to those games, in turn, requires some form of sacrifice. It’s almost the opposite of the problem of Notre Dame football; too many tickets are left to donors — maybe not the ideal football fan. 

Last week, Purcell had over 7,000 people in attendance for the women’s squad’s loss to NC State. It was a terrible loss, the program’s worst regular season defeat in 20 years. Ivey’s team hasn’t played particularly well at home; they have yet to beat a (currently) ranked team in Purcell this year. But the fans did their job. It was a loud environment. You could hear the echo from wall to wall. Students stretched across four upper level sections above the band. While I’d love to see the students move down to behind the basket, you can’t fault a program for packing lower-level sections with paying season ticket holders. 

Now, please forgive me. I’m not an architecture major and can’t speak much about what, structurally, makes Purcell Pavilion so great. But from a basketball fan’s perspective, the arena is a perfect complement to the current state of both basketball programs. Neither program is strong off the bench. They don’t really benefit much from the second unit. The second unit — or really the sixth man — is the environment and the surprising support the teams receive from the arena itself. 

Notre Dame doesn’t play under the brightest of lights, the loudest of fans or the biggest of crowds. But at home, they dribble the ball in a calm environment, one full of fans that want to see the program improve. The experience feels clean — almost a reflection of the Notre Dame brand. 

At this point in my Notre Dame career, I only have five regular season games left to cover in this marvelous arena. I’m looking forward to (and am grateful for) each one of these opportunities. In the next few years, I envision both basketball programs to see significant success. Purcell will be rocking during those games. Don’t wait until then to experience the magic. Notre Dame hosts Clemson on Thursday.