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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Kelvin Sampson: "It's really beyond my expectations."
POSTED: December 4, 2018 -- 8:28 a.m. CST
HOUSTON, TX (Guy V. Lewis Development Facility) -- Now that the Fertitta Center has hosted its first of many events, Houston Cougars Head Men's Basketball Coach Kelvin Sampson took a few more minutes to reflect on the atmosphere at Saturday's game as well as the lasting impact of the building.
"We've had a lot of great crowds. We beat two top ten teams in the nation (last season). It's not like we played in a front of a big crowd for the first time the other day. But, it's the first time at the Fertitta Center," Coach Sampson said. "There was a lot of hoopla around that. I think a lot of people came to see the new arena; and, maybe, the team was secondary. And, for those people, I hope they liked watching our team; and, they'll come back."
Sampson reflected on Houston's last game in Hofheinz Pavilion compared to Houston's first game in Fertitta Center.
"When you look from it where started - we played that last game (in Hofheinz Pavilion) in March 2017 - to the finished product," Sampson remarked. "It's really beyond my expectations. I knew it was going to be great; but, they're so many little nuances, little amenities that makes it such a great fan experience."
Sampson added, "There's a lot of people that run around this world that aren't happy unless they're unhappy. They spend their lives looking at what's wrong with something. I don't see anything wrong with that place."
Sampson did something he rarely does: he watched the tv broadcast (the replay) of the game; and, he noticed something: a few empty seats behind Houston's bench. But, he understood why the seats were empty.
"You look at it from a big picture standpoint: the Courtside Club experience is tremendous; the student seating is perfect. I was just watching the game: usually, I don't watch the tv version. I just watch the scout version. But, I was watching the tv version; and, there's some empty seats behind our bench," Sampson stated. "I wish those people would stay in their seats longer because that place would look packed. Because, it's a little bit deceiving that we have an unbelievable crowd; but, we have some pockets of (empty) seats. But, they're there. They're just back in the back enjoying what they paid for: they have access to the Courtside Club. They've got their concession area right there."
He's happy to play games in the Fertitta Center; and, he believes people will look at the construction of the building as a 'how to' guide in the remodeling an arena.
"But, I don't see anything wrong. It's a joy to be able to play in an arena like this. Our students continue to support us. But, that Fertitta Center is going to be there long after we're all gone. That thing will stand the test of time for a long, long time. People that are remodeling their arena, they're going to hear about what we did with this one and come back and steal some of our ideas as they should."
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