Amaker Discusses Plan for New Basketball Arena

Lavietes Pavilion has been around since the Roaring Twenties, but Harvard basketball fans may soon be roaring in a brand new arena.

On Thursday night, senior associate director of Harvard Athletics Jeremy L. Gibson said at a Harvard-Allston task force meeting that a new basketball facility would be built between 2017 and 2022, replacing the Pavilion that has recently proven too small to suit a growing interest in the men’s basketball program.

“This is a master planning project, and what we’re trying to do is make sure we have things that might happen in the next 10 or 15 years in the mix,” Director of Athletics Bob Scalise said. “[But] it’s really too early to say. It’s such a preliminary scope out of what it would be right now, but it’s nice that [a new stadium is] being considered in the Allston plan.”

With a seating capacity of just 2,195, Lavietes is the second smallest arena in the Ivy League—with 95 more seats than Dartmouth’s Leede Arena—and one of the smallest in the country among Division I teams.

Accompanying the Crimson’s rise to the top of the Ivy League over the past two seasons has been an increase in ticket sales. Harvard sold out 12 of its 14 home games last season—with tickets to the biggest contests often selling for high prices on online marketplaces—leading many to point to the need for a larger arena.

“I think every coach would like to see facilities improve,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “We’re all in the same boat when it comes to that. It happens every so often and you need the donors and those things to step forward.”

In addition to calling for the construction of a larger basketball stadium, Harvard’s Institutional Master Plan also includes a new building for executive education, renovations to several Business School buildings, the creation of a hotel and conference center, and a renovation of the Soldier’s Field Housing Project. Gibson also said that Harvard Stadium, the oldest football stadium in the country, would be renovated.

“[The Allston expansion] has been in the works for a while, and obviously it’s been put on hold somewhat over the past few years, but it’s exciting not just for the basketball possibility of that but [for] all the other things that are mentioned too,” said men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker. “[This] expansion will make this environment that much better for all of our students, employees, and faculty.”

In addition to being one of the smallest stadiums in the nation, Lavietes is also one of the most aged. First opened in 1926, it is tied with Oregon’s McArthur Court as the second-oldest facility still used for basketball, behind only Fordham’s Rose Hill Gymnasium, which opened two years earlier.

“Given the age of the facility and the size of it, [a new stadium is] something that definitely should be in the mix,” Scalise said.

Originally named the Briggs Center, Lavietes was initially home to Harvard’s indoor track teams, and its batting cages were a favorite of a number of collegiate and professional baseball players, including Ted Williams.

Following the 1981 construction of the Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis facility, the building was refurbished as the new home of Harvard basketball, replacing the Malkin Athletic Center. The Crimson’s first contest at the facility was on Nov. 27, 1982 against MIT, and it has played every home game there since.

In March 1996, the building was renamed after Ray Lavietes ’36, a former player who made a $2.1 million contribution to the arena’s second refurbishing project in the mid-90s.

The Crimson has enjoyed an enormous amount of success on its home court of late, going 25-1 there over the past two seasons. It had the second-longest home winning streak in the country at 28 games—behind only national champion Kentucky—before it fell to Penn in its final home contest of the season last year.

Amaker said that when combined with the program’s recent success, the possibility of a new arena could help attract “even higher level recruits.”

“There are a lot of things that are part of that plan, [so] it’s nice to find out that maybe we can be included in that,” he added. “It’s a long way off, but certainly it’s nice that these things will take shape at some point for our campus as a whole.”

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