After nearly a decade of speculation the Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball team will start playing select regular season games at the on-campus Kress Events Center beginning this upcoming season.
The 4,018 seat arena opened in 2007 and hosted its first Horizon League men’s home game last year due to a scheduling conflict at the Resch Center. The Phoenix lost to UIC in the first ever “Krash the Kress” event which will now apparently become an annual “Homecoming” occasion.
While nothing has been officially announced yet by the athletic department, Scott Venci of the Green Bay Press-Gazette broke the story back on August 3rd that the men’s basketball team will be playing five games at the Kress Center this season. He also notes that the team will be playing four home games per season at the venue going forward starting next year in 2019/2020.
According to Venci, Green Bay will play its lone exhibition game (November 1 against Michigan Tech) as well as two non-Division I regular season games against Wisconsin Lutheran (November 6) and UW-Stout (December 11) at the Kress Center.
Another Kress Center game actually might be Green Bay’s best home non-conference opponent of the season – Indiana State – on Friday, November 9th in a game that tips off at 3:30 in the afternoon. The final Kress game of the season, according to Venci, will be a homecoming game against a to-be-announced Horizon League opponent.
Going forward the Phoenix will play four games per season at the Kress Center that are either exhibitions or games against non-Division I opponents as well as one Horizon League game per season.
It’s a decision that is likely not popular with some season ticket holders, particularly those that live in the Fox Valley that will now have to travel an extra half hour each way to get to games on campus. But given the realities of college basketball scheduling a move to campus for non-marquee home games makes sense.
Ideally, Green Bay would build back up to a program that draws over 4,000 fans every night so that playing at the Kress Center is not an option. But the Phoenix have not averaged 4,000 fans per game since 2009 – though they came close in 2014 averaging 3,979 – and hit a 33 year low this past season when Green Bay only drew 2,475 fans per game.
The truth is as long as regular season games against non-Division I opponents is the norm then it makes sense to move those games, as well as pre-season exhibitions, to the smaller, more intimate on-campus venue. Even if the Phoenix were drawing over 5,000 fans per game like was the case during their spectacular run in the 1990s, exhibitions and non-Division I games will never draw the numbers that justify playing those games at the Resch Center. Those games are where you’ll usually only find the diehard fans who will hopefully continue attending those games no matter where they are being played.
The move also presents an opportunity to engage with the UW-Green Bay student body and the roughly 2,100 students that live on campus. Compared to season ticket holders, students do not pay for their tickets but do support the basketball program through student fees. Playing at a venue that is walking distance from their on-campus housing or a short drive from the campus neighborhoods provides another entertainment option for UWGB students as well as gives the program a chance to be more accessible to students who could become lifelong fans and (hopefully) future season ticket holders and donors after graduation.
In my opinion, moving all men’s basketball home games to the Kress Center would have been a mistake. The Resch Center is easily accessible for fans from all over Northeastern Wisconsin and also provides pregame and postgame entertainment options within walking distance with numerous bars and restaurants nearby. There is also ample parking plus the “wow” factor of playing games in the shadow of Lambeau Field. The Resch Center boasts big-time college basketball amenities including a brand new scoreboard, luxury suites, and an arena vibe that the Kress just doesn’t have.
A permanent move to campus would have also sent a signal that Green Bay is a small time program that is not capable of drawing more than 4,000 fans to a game when the mentality should be to get the program back to place where 4,000 fans per game is the norm. It will be interesting to see how the athletic department’s partnership with the Aspire Group plays out this upcoming season to try and stop the attendance decline.
Green Bay will not be alone in playing a hybrid home schedule in more than one venue. Big time programs like Villanova and St. John’s play a split schedule at their on-campus venue and at the nearby big-time arena. Mid-majors like Idaho, Seattle University, and Purdue-Fort Wayne do as well.
The opportunity to play closer to the UW-Green Bay student body as well as provide a more intimate fan experience while saving a few thousand dollars for the athletic department makes the decision to play a few non-marquee home games at the Kress Center a good one. A permanent move away from the Resch Center, however, would not be a good decision.
A hybrid home schedule for the Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball program makes sense.
Green Bay Phoenix 2018/2019 home non-conference schedule:
- Thursday, 11/1: Michigan Tech (Exhibition) – Kress Center
- Tuesday, 11/6: Wisconsin Lutheran – Kress Center
- Friday, 11/9: Indiana State – Kress Center
- Wednesday, 11/28: Northern Illinois – Resch Center
- Saturday, 12/1: Belmont – Resch Center
- Tuesday, 12/11: UW-Stout – Kress Center