Sonoma State University basketball teams start season off campus

After 47 years, Sonoma State's 'Wolves Den' will finally get a long-overdue remodel.|

With the first official Sonoma State University basketball practice just 10 days away, the teams are facing a unusual challenge to start the season.

After 47 years, Sonoma State’s “Wolves Den” will finally get a long-overdue remodel. Sonoma State will start the capital project Nov. 21. The remodel is estimated to cost $1.1 million, with $650,00 going toward new bleachers.

The remodel will come at a much greater cost for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Both teams will miss a significant number of home games this season due to the renovation.

A total of 13 home games will be played at different arenas for the teams.

Sonoma State’s away “home games” will take place at either College of Marin or Santa Rosa Junior College.

The project was originally scheduled for May, but delays in funding and construction pushed the remodel back to November.

The Wolves Den is not just an athletic facility; it’s shared with the kinesiology department that has classes scheduled Monday through Friday. Sonoma State was faced with the tough decision of interrupting the kinesiology program or scheduling home basketball elsewhere. According to Athletic Director Bill Fusco, kinesiology has priority over basketball because it is an academic program.

“It just feels like sports aren’t important at Sonoma State,” said senior center Naaman Hightower. “It doesn’t make us feel confident as a team.”

Sonoma State’s men’s basketball team will miss seven home games at its gym, all during conference play. The women’s team will miss six home games.

“Guys work really hard to get to this level. It’s a real bad way to send seniors out,” said Hightower.

No home games also means no home court practices. Practices will be held in Sonoma State’s rec center side gym, where intramurals usually take place. The rec center is not equipped with the proper NCAA rims and backboard. It’s also not a full-size gym like the team is used to.

Over winter break the rec center closes, which will force the team to practice at SRJC. The team will lean on carpooling for traveling to off-campus practices. A van will also be provided if players need transportation, Fusco said.

Attending on-campus basketball games has been a part of the student experience at Sonoma State for decades, but for now it’s being put on hold.

“I feel bad for our student fanbase and the parents who travel to come watch their kids play basketball,” said Hightower. “It won’t have the same energy. It won’t be a real home court.”

Fusco, who was honored by Under Armour as one of 28 athletic directors in its National Athletic Director of the Year award, said the university tried its best to schedule the remodel around traditionally low-attended games.

“I know it’s extremely disappointing and it can be a disadvantage but, that being said, the current situation is not the environment you want your students and fan base in,” said Fusco. “It’s not ideal, but this is the time frame we were given.”

Since last season, the gym has had trouble with its bleachers. Only one side of the bleachers currently work, which means both home and away fans have to sit on one side and the arena can only fill half its capacity.

The remodel will feature new modern bleachers on both sides of the court with more than 449 chairs with new seat backs. There will also be upgraded bathrooms in the lobby, a new fire alarm system and a hearing assistance system.

Fusco says the first game back at the newly renovated Wolves Den is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 3 against rival Chico State. But there is no guarantee construction will finish on time.

Men’s basketball will tip off its exhibition schedule Nov. 4 against 2015 NCAA division I tournament competitor UC Irvine. The women’s team starts things off against Pacific Union University on Nov. 3.

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