The University of Akron, with three Mid-American Conference titles in five years, has become the pace-setter in Mid-American Conference basketball for now, although the Kent State University's Golden Flashes remain a solid contender.
We think facilities are important to keeping our Flashes Mid-American Conference contenders and in that department, sadly, we conclude KSU needs to take a hard look at the situation.
Some kind of update to the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center needs to become a priority. The MAC Center is fast becoming one of the least appealing places to watch and play basketball in the conference and KSU's ability to attract talent will doubtless be affected by this. Should an update be attempted, we suggest the following needs should be addressed.
First, student seating desperately needs improvement. Currently, students who want to watch KSU basketball are split into two sections, both at the ends of the court. This arrangement tells students they are not important and yet student attendance is what should form the largest contingency of spectators. Giving the students better seating and grouping them together surely might encourage their attendance and help spur the Flashes on.
Second, visibility in the upper stands needs to be improved. When one is sitting among the rafters, one loses a feeling of connectedness with the playing court. Something needs to be done to connect spectators in those sections with the game.
Third, the glassed-in Blue & Gold section has never worked the way its designers hoped. It is mostly empty. The glass barrier blocks the sound for the few who do sit in it. Except for the occasional Blue & Gold gathering in this section, it does not add to the spectator experience. Why keep it?
Fourth, current office facilities send a message that coaching and recruitment are not important. The university might do well to put together a task force to make a series of visits to see what other universities offer. We believe the visits might be an eye-opener.
Fifth, Division I locker rooms for high-caliber Division I athletes have improved a lot in the last three decades. Maybe that task force could report back on how to improve the locker rooms, therapy facilities, and conference rooms.
Sixth, weight training facilities may need enhancing. It's obvious that LeBron James, who hosts a basketball camp annually at the University of Akron, puts great stock in sheer physical strength. It showed markedly this year as the Zips dominated the paint. They out-muscled every MAC team they played, nearly every game. They have raised the bar in this respect signaling that the days of the tall, but skinny basketball player is coming to an end.
Seventh, for the sake of the spectators, parking for the MAC Center urgently needs to be addressed, especially if the basketball program wants to attract those not employed by the university or not residing on campus. Parking in close proximity was sharply reduced to make way for the expansion of Risman Plaza. For sure, Risman Plaza's extension has improved the approach to campus from Summit Street and Campus Center Drive, but it has unfortunately made it more difficult for those who might enjoy watching basketball to enjoy convenient access. The university's talented campus planners need to be assigned the task of improving parking and access and the sooner the better.
Eighth, press box reflects poorly on KSU.
When it opened in the 1950s, the MAC Center was one of the finest facilities of its kind anywhere in Ohio, but in 60 years times have changed. True, revisions were made in the 1980s, some of them good, but some of the not living up to expectations.
We do not pretend to be designers or campus planners, but we do observe needs. Our suggestions are offered in good faith. We're Flashes fans and want Kent State to continue to hold its head high in Division I basketball. To do so, we believe, improved facilities are a must.