#rushthetrip Day 11: Logan’s Hidden Gem Left With Little To Cheer AboutPosted by Bennet Hayes on February 17th, 2014
RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.
Saturday featured a Utah double-dip. My day began with an afternoon matinee in Logan (Utah State-UNLV) and would close up some 120 miles South in Orem, where WAC leader Utah Valley (yup…) was hosting Idaho. To be fair, my day actually began at 7:30 AM in Butte, MT, where some inclement weather had me holed up for the night. I wasn’t sure if my Chevy Malibu, replete with Arizona plates, would have the juice to push through the snowy conditions, but I somehow arrived in Logan just as the Aggies and Rebels were tipping off. Regrettably, I found myself walking through the front doors of The Spectrum just as the “I Believe” chant was dying off, but I figured forty minutes of basketball would provide the boisterous student section ample opportunity to show off.
Logan is immediately striking. For one, if you are arriving from the North, there is almost no evidence of the town from 15 (the major freeway that runs North-South through Utah). Imposing mountains frame a valley well off into the distance, but it’s not until you climb a smaller hill in the middle of 15 and Logan that you actually catch sight of the town. From a distance, it’s a looker. Downtown and the University sit directly in the shadows of the mountain range visible from the freeway, but snow-capped peaks can be found in any direction you look. It was obvious before I reached town that Logan’s buildings were older, but the full antiquation of the scene didn’t hit home until I was in the midst of it. The combination of the cloudy day, dated architecture and snowy mountains evoked fairy-tales from decades past, and in a very monochromatic way. Logan is definitely not your classic college town – that was obvious after spending just three hours there.
The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum very much fits in with the town. Built in 1970 and renovated in the late 80’s, it also inspires memories of an era long past. Built into the side of a hill at the base of the mountains, there is nothing aesthetically pleasing about the exterior, and the tri-colored seating pattern inside is hardly a joy on the eyes. But the fans that fill it have earned a reputation as some of college basketball’s best, and even if they weren’t at their best on this Saturday afternoon, it was easy to understand how they turned Logan into one of college basketball’s hidden gems. Attendance was listed at just 10,000 (only 250 shy of capacity), but there were more empty seats than that figure would indicate. To be fair, the Aggies have given their fans little to cheer about all season — a theme that would continue in a 73-62 Utah State loss on Saturday, but I still expected a little more out of the atmosphere. Things did get loud during a competitive first half (press row was situated directly in front of the student section, making things even louder on my ears), and those students who were present were equal parts rabid and basketball-savvy. They got in the heads of a number of Rebels, most notably Kevin Olekaibe, who continually played back at fans during the second half. Of course, UNLV won the game and Olekaibe had a game-high 21, but I’d argue that his crowd-taunting was sufficient admission that the USU students had successfully affected him. Even with a diminished crowd on hand in the midst of this disappointing first season in the MW, it’s too bad the Aggies couldn’t keep things closer, because the Spectrum felt like it still had eruption potential.
I heard some first-time Spectrum visitors attaching “overrated” to the arena environment yesterday, but I would hardly go that far. The storied building may not have lived up to all expectations on this quiet Saturday, but envisioning louder, more energetic days was hardly a stretch. Make no mistake — the wins will accumulate as Stew Morrill and the Aggies settle into the Mountain West, and when those winning ways do return, I could only hope to be that unsuspecting soul who, when visiting this sleepy, enchanting mountain town in Northern Utah, stumbles upon one of college basketball’s most frenzied atmospheres.
Next Stop: Orem, UT (Saturday)