The star Wednesday at Stony Brook's basketball media day won't be a factor in a single men's or women's game this season. So think of this as a redshirt season for Stony Brook Arena, which is in the midst of a $21.1-million renovation project and isn't scheduled to open until next fall.
But men's coach Steve Pikiell and women's coach Beth O'Boyle each said the planned 4,008-seat facility already has had a profound impact on both programs. "As we are building our program, to have an arena like this is such an incredible asset," O'Boyle told a small media gathering seated on the newly installed wood playing surface.
"You bring every recruit here. It definitely adds to it. When we're talking about what we're trying to create, they've seen the steps, and it validates it. They want to be part of it."
The seating has been installed, the dual scoreboards and video boards at each end of the court are in place, and the finishing touches on the suites should be complete in another month. "It's been a long journey by a lot of people to make this happen," said Pikiell, who said he received verbal commitments in August for all three available scholarships for next season. "This facility is exciting for the program, the players and the community."
According to Todd Phelps, associate athletic director for facility operations and events, Phase I, which includes about 90 percent of the project, is nearly finished. Phase II includes blowing out one exterior wall, reconstruction in the main lobby of the building and construction of a television truck pad outside. Building should commence in two or three weeks.
The renovation should be complete by August in time to hold an inaugural entertainment event. The most impressive aspect of the transformed arena is the intimacy of the seating in a complete bowl around the playing floor.
"We're very happy with the way this came out," Phelps said. "We expanded the concourse so there's more movement, and what that did was bring everything down tight to the court. That was Jim Fiore's vision. He wanted to have the fans enjoy it and make it a tough place to play. I think we've done that."
Now, it's up to Pikiell and O'Boyle to build teams to attract fans. In her rookie season, O'Boyle produced a 10-win improvement to 14-16. Pikiell's team won its third America East regular-season title in four seasons, and its 25-8 record was the best in school history.
Pikiell said adjacent Pritchard Gym, the 1,800-seat band box entering its final season, "has been an awesome venue. We've made Pritchard the toughest home court in our league. Now, we're going to have to make this facility the same."