Home Sweet Home: Pitt Celebrates Two Millionth Fan at Petersen Events CenterPosted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2013
Jason Prziborowski is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s Big East game between Pittsburgh and Marquette.
Pitt hoisted a banner at halftime of Saturday’s game against Marquette, marking the occasion of two million fans who have watched games at the Petersen Events Center. In addition, the banner marked a few notable achievements in The Pete’s 11-year history: 5-0 versus Top 5 opponents, a sellout each and every year, and six conference championships. Pitt plays its home games in the Petersen Events Center, the relatively cozy arena on campus that holds 12,508 spectators chomping at the bit to see Panther victories, something that typically happens early and often throughout the season. Pitt is in its 11th season at The Pete, and it has reeled off an astonishing winning percentage that is close to 90% in almost 200 games. All of this begs the question of why is it so tough for opponents to win there?
First and foremost, there is The Oakland Zoo, Pitt’s famed student section. The 2,000 deep U-shaped student section that occupies the majority of the bottom 10 rows of The Pete is a great place to start. An hour before tip-off, The Zoo is about 75% full, with students outfitted in this season’s gold Oakland Zoo t-shirts. On the back of every chair when students arrive sits a large single sheet of newspaper print. During starting lineups, every member of the section covers his or her face with this newspaper when the opposing team is announced. They want everyone in the building to know they are not impressed, a la McKayla Maroney of the US Olympic Gymnastics Team. The Oakland Zoo brings energy, dedication, and a presence, not to mention noise and intimidation, all of which is very hard for the opposing team to tune out.
Second are the sheer size and acoustics of The Pete. Petersen is not a cavernous place. Even though concerts are held in it from time to time, this is an arena designed for basketball. With 12,508 seats for a school with 18,427 undergraduates and 28,766 total students, it’s still a tough place to get a ticket. That leads to a lot of engaged fans who are there to cheer on Pitt. On Saturday against Marquette, you could count the number of opposing fans on two hands. I am not sure how Pitt treats access for opposing teams, but it is clear that the vast majority of fans at most games are cheering for the home team. The Pete is smallish as far as basketball arenas go, and it is also still relatively new as well. With only 11 years in existence, The Pete came designed with modern acoustics in mind, so sound travels very well here. It makes it seem like there are a lot more people in the building when fans get excited.
Third is the style of Pitt’s play. For the course of Jamie Dixon’s decade coaching at Pitt (all in The Pete), the Panthers have played a very physical and punishing style. They bruise their opponents. They get rebounds. They don’t allow easy buckets. They look to go inside early and often. They battle. Fans love to cheer on and share in that battle. It is this gladiator style that Pitt plays that fans have come to know and love, and opponents have come to fear and loathe. The Pete is Pitt’s Coliseum and The Oakland Zoo has been only too happy to reward and cheer for their gladiators as they represented their school.
Alas, even though the gladiators showed up at the coliseum Saturday to play against Marquette, they didn’t have enough in the tank to escape their 21st defeat at the Petersen Events Center. One of Pitt’s most important players, Tray Woodall, left in the first half with what is likely a concussion, severely limiting the Panthers’ offensive and defensive toughness for the rest of the game. Pitt found a way to push the game into overtime, but the same afflictions that have plagued them in the past struck again: poor free throw shooting, an inability to rebound, and carelessness with the basketball. The Panthers will win again at the Petersen Events Center this season and for many seasons to come, because that’s just what they do when they play at home.