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Mastodon tracks

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Switch back to Gates will be good

Today's news that the IPFW men's basketball team is leaving Memorial Coliseum to go back to its on campus Gates Center for its home games has been a long time in the works.

Since his arrival in 2007, IPFW athletic director Tommy Bell has been opposed to the Mastodons playing in the cavernous Coliseum, mostly because the $4 parking fee and expensive food and beverages have been a deterrent for students.

Unquestionably, IPFW's presence at the Coliseum has given the program an air of legitimacy, if not credibility, in the Fort Wayne market. It was the largest playing venue among Summit League teams, and the iconic, historic building was a recruiting magnet.

But there was another downside.

Being the largest building in the league also meant the Mastodons played in front of the most empty seats in the conference.

Despite a black drape that concealed one end of the building's seats, and four large, blue banners with I - P - F - W covering more sections of seats, there were still 6,000 available seats, many of which remained empty, since IPFW's average home attendance the past few years has been around 1,500.

IPFW coach Tony Jasick has gone on record in saying that the Coliseum is a great place to recruit. And what 18-year-old wouldn't have Walter Mitty dreams while looking around the spacious building? Why, he could almost hear the full house roar.

Except that wasn't the case. There were times when the Coliseum could be noisy. Most of the time, though, the place had no atmosphere. And on top of that, it was cold, since the basketball floor was laid over the Komets' ice.

But put 1,500 and the IPFW pep band in the Gates Center, and there is some emotion; some electricity to plug into and maybe give a weary IPFW basketball team a necessary jump start.

Yes, the Coliseum can be a wonderful recruiting tool, but a winning program can lock a kid up. Make the Gates Center loud, make it rowdy, make it a place where visitors hate to play and can't wait to leave, and then the Mastodons have a home court advantage. That wasn't going to happen at the Coliseum.

It's a good move, and about time.

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