Fourth Downtown Classic basketball game coming Nov. 6

Nov. 2, 2015

Jonathan Toman
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For the fourth year, the men’s basketball team will make a trip down to the Colorado Springs Auditorium to play one of their regular season games.

UCCS will take on Northern New Mexico in the Downtown Classic on Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m. The team has won two of the previous three games held at the auditorium, with the lone blemish coming in the inaugural game against CSU-Pueblo.

Athletic director Steve Kirkham thinks the event has been positive for both UCCS and the community.

“It’s kind of old school,” he said. “The reverberation, the noise level, I don’t know it’s just something about playing in an old-school gymnasium that’s fun.”

“I think it’s been a good deal, I think we’ve had good crowds, a lot of people have had good feedback from it,” he added.

Kirkham sees the game as a win for both UCCS athletics and downtown Colorado Springs, with UCCS serving as a marketing tool for the city, and vice-versa.

“I think we attracted new fans that came up here to our gym, I know we did,” he said.

“So as long as that continues to be part of what happens and we get some people who never get to see us play otherwise, and they can come to a game downtown and they like us well enough to come watch us play elsewhere, that’s a good deal.”

In a change that started last year, the game is now a part of the non-conference schedule for UCCS, instead of against an RMAC opponent. The home court advantage of Gallogly Events Center is critical for conference games, Kirkham said.

“All the big-time schools play off campus, but for us, when you practice all the time in the gym, the shooting background, where the wall is, all that stuff helps.”

“I wouldn’t want a steady diet of (the Downtown Classic), but for one time a year, I think the kids actually enjoy it.” In another change from all previous Downtown Classics, the Mountain Lion women’s basketball team will not play in the event.

According to Kirkham, scheduling affected that decision more than anything else.

Because it is not a conference game (which are usually played as a doubleheader), the two teams don’t usually play on the same day. Athletics did not want to play the game on a Saturday, which would’ve defeated the purpose of the game, Kirkham said.

In addition, it is tough to set up the auditorium for basketball, so it would be impractical to schedule a women’s game on another day. But the situation could easily have been reversed, Kirkham said, with just a women’s game that evening.

“Some of the conversation was that it might be better as a single game just because it’s a long night (with two games),” he said.

The game will also start at 5:30 p.m.; a change Kirkham thinks will allow people to come straight from the offi ce to the game that starts right away.

Brian Burnett, former senior executive vice chancellor for Administration and Finance, spearheaded the idea for the game when he was part of the downtown development council, Kirkham said.

“He thought that the arena could get some people in, a different type of atmosphere, different types of activities, it might help generate some interest,” Kirkham said.

“We’re kind of up here on the hill, a lot of people don’t really realize when they drive by our campus we have a gym.”