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Gonzaga Basketball
Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

McCarthey’s limits: When big games come to town, what would it be like to have more seats in the Kennel

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 17, 2019

The McCarthey Athletic Center has a 6,000-seat capacity, but demand is much higher, particularly for games like Wednesday’s clash against North Carolina. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
The McCarthey Athletic Center has a 6,000-seat capacity, but demand is much higher, particularly for games like Wednesday’s clash against North Carolina. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

The opportunities are slim to see the current No. 2-ranked team in the country in person.

With an arena with a capacity of 6,000 people, Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center – the Kennel – has the same number of seats as Reese Court in Cheney and fewer than East Tennessee State’s arena.

The Kennel is right around the middle of the pack in terms of seating in the NCAA and is one of the 50 newest college basketball arenas in the country.

The MAC is eighth largest in the West Coast Conference behind the Alex G. Spanos Center (Pacific), which holds 6,150 people, and the Marriott Center (BYU) with a capacity of 19,000.

Every season, Bulldogs fans question the foresight in limiting the capacity of the Kennel. Why was the capacity capped at 6,000?

The reasons for the cap were well-thought-out.

After spending years planning the arena, absorbing the positives – and negatives – from other venues around the country and determining the max amount of money that could be spent at the time, 6,000 was the number reached.

One of the reasons for the tighter confines was to bring the raucous atmosphere from the old Kennel – the Martin Centre – to the new one while enhancing the environment.

In doing so, the MAC has become a fortress, both in win percentage and sellouts.

The athletic department wanted the court to be as close to the stands as possible and the seats to be steep enough that fans felt part of the action.

Athletic director Mike Roth and deputy director of athletics Chris Standiford stood on the court as the building was under construction and took a tape measure to direct how close they wanted the bleachers to the court.

The architects got within two inches of the request, much to the joy of Roth and Standiford.

“We just got back from Tucson where they’ve got a beautiful building, it’s 14,000 seats and it’s awesome, but now they only sell one or two games out a year,” Standiford said. “There are a lot of places that have to essentially downsize their buildings to try and create a better atmosphere. It isn’t really indisputable; we’ve got one of the best environments for college basketball in the country.”

And that environment they sought has translated into both success and money for the university.

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Since the building opened in 2004 on the site of Pecarovich Field, the old baseball field, the MAC has sold out every one of its 230 games played inside. The Zags are also 212-15 at home, good for a 93.2% winning percentage, which is second in the country during that span.

For as small as the MAC might seem to fans longing to see a game, the Kennel provides a unique experience for both fans and opposing teams alike.

“We hear that all the time from other people, people from other teams, other programs, scouts that go to places all over the country talk about all the time they love to come to games here because it’s so much fun,” Roth said.

And those fans hoping for an expansion or possibly a new stadium (which is no where near the discussion table), the chances the Kennel could squeeze in more fans is about as close to zero as possible.

“The short answer is (possible expansion) was heavily contemplated at the time of construction,” Standiford said. “And the thing that we would have needed to do to make it to be prepared to be expanded would have diminished the initial design of the building in a way that that would have really taken away from that atmospheric kind of element.”

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