Pam Evans Smith Arena: an unlikely venue for a Division I women’s basketball game, yet that is exactly what occurred Sunday, as Wittenberg hosted the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Classic between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Valparaiso Crusaders. Ohio State defeated Valparaiso, 89-38 to win their first game of the season.
According to Vice President and Director of Athletics and Recreation, Gary Williams, the opportunity to host the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Classic came to be when Wittenberg was approached by Brian Alger (’80), current coach of WNBA Dallas Wings.
“[Alger] is a strong advocate on behalf of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame, of which many Wittenberg players and coaches have been inducted into,” Williams said.
Wittenberg currently has 12 inductees in the Hall of Fame, including the 1961- and 1977-Men’s Basketball teams, and the arena’s namesake, Pam Evans Smith (’82).
Wittenberg recently completed the Steemer along with renovations to the 1929 Fieldhouse and the HPER Center, and according to Williams, “one of the goals of the HWA project was to provide Wittenberg and Springfield, a viable option to host events like [The Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.]”
Wittenberg used the new locker rooms in between the Steemer and HPER to host Valparaiso, while Ohio State used the women’s team locker rooms as the home team. The new field sports entrance on the Eastern face of HPER was used as a VIP and Media Will Call. But the largest transformation was in the Pam Evans Smith Arena, as following the conclusion of the NCAC Women’s Volleyball Tournament Saturday night, Jonathan Wojciechowski, Assistant Director of Athletics-Facilities and Events, along with Williams set about on transforming the Pam Evans Smith Arena in to a venue fit for a Division I game. Visitors Sunday might have noticed the addition of VIP courtside seating along the sidelines and the eastern side of the court in addition to ticketing areas in the Hall of Honor Lobby.
“Up to tip-off, a lot has gone into preparation for the event from increased work around ticketing, concessions and event management, to providing courtside seating,” Williams said of the preparations by Wittenberg for the game.
Once the game tipped off, fans were treated to a blowout by Ohio State, as the Buckeyes stretched their legs on their way to a victory over Valparaiso. The experience was a unique one for Ohio State Buckeyes as they played in a smaller arena which only seats 3,044 compared to their normal home of Value City Arena which seats 19,500.
“This time we had a lot of fans, and it was really cool to hear them, as sometimes in a big [arena], the fans [noise] will get lost because it’s so big,” Dorka Juhasz, an Ohio State freshmen said of the experience playing in the Pam Evans Smith Arena. Ohio State freshman Kierstan Bell summed up the experience as “small gym, big crowd, lots of hype.” Hosting the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame allowed Wittenberg to share the spotlight with Ohio State and Valparaiso on Sunday, and Williams hoped that “people have a tremendous experience and want to come back and experience all that Wittenberg has to offer, not just in athletics, but also in theatre, music and other community events like the Witt Series.”