With all due respect to Lynyrd Skynyrd, this question needs to be asked of the new McNeese basketball arena.
Let me set the stage for the season home opener Nov. 16.
Music blaring. NBA-worthy light show. Smoke rising to the upper rafters as the Cowboys run onto the shiny new floor. The public address announcer gets his cue … “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, McNeese fans from across the region … welcome to the … Health and Human Performance Education Complexxxxxx.”
My apologies to whoever tagged the $40 million building with the formal mouth full of a name. But it just won’t work, on many fronts. Most important, the official moniker doesn’t get the energy and excitement going for what’s expected to be a full house to open the long-anticipated arena. Health and Human Performance Education Complex doesn’t roll off the tongue kindly. It will rank absurdly low on the opponent intimidation scale.
The new arena needs a jazzy nickname, and I am here to help the cause. This help is unsolicited, of course, by McNeese athletic officials.
Cowboy Stadium has “The Hole.”
Baseball’s ballpark is called “The Jeaux.”
They’re both quite catchy and great for marketing and branding and are just fun and cool.
Before I offer up my suggestions, I wanted to give you a few of the better known crafty arena names around the country for sheer comparison.
One of the more popular nicknames is the “Pit” at the University of New Mexico. It’s so named because the court was built in a virtual hole 37 feet below ground level.
Allen Fieldhouse at Kansas is commonly referred to as the “Phog” in honor of former coach Forrest Allen and his deep, foghorn voice.
I really like the obvious name connection between the Gonzaga Bulldogs’ arena and the “Kennel” or K2, as the program added the number 2 when the arena moved into its second building in 2004.
I didn’t know about this one until I did some poking around. I uncovered the “Slim Gym,” derived from San Diego State’s Jenny Craig Pavilion. The second-best corporate sponsored arena has to be Seton Hall’s Prudential Center, affectionately known as “The Rock.”
There are some names that are way off the charts and placed under the trying-too-hard column.
There’s Kansas State’s “Octagon of Doom; the “Dome of Doom” at Wyoming. (Do the Cowboys win enough games to deserve to use the term “doom?”) There’s Georgia Tech’s “Thriller Dome,” and the little known — until their NCAA Final Four run last season — Loyola of Chicago’s “Big Brown Box that Rocks.”
Closer to home, one of my favorites is the P-Mac at LSU. Simple and classy, it’s named after the legendary Tiger Pete Maravich. U.L.-Lafayette’s CajunDome doesn’t win many points for creativity. But sometimes the obvious is the best choice.
I have a special place in my heart for my alma mater’s former basketball home at Southeastern Louisiana. It was a small, earthy building tagged the Cow Palace because it also played host to many rodeos, big 4H showcases and maybe a few big cattle auctions that rolled through Hammond in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Former collegiate coaching legends have arenas named in their honor across the country. There’s the Dean Smith Center or Dean Dome for short. Rupp Arena is named after the baron of coaching, Adolph Rupp; and there’s the aforementioned Allen Fieldhouse at Kansas.
When and if Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ever retires, will people remotely entertain the notion of renaming the classic Cameron Indoor Stadium?
Never, I say.
I would hope Coach K would thwart any move to change this iconic name. What would they call the Cameron Crazies?
So, with that ground work laid, here are my arena nicknames for McNeese’s soon-to-be-open on-campus complex. Without further delay, here are my top picks in ascending order.
Let’s start with the “JamBox.” Now, before you choke on your boudin, remember the building is quite square-ish and, yes, boxy looking from the outside. This may be too kiddie-sounding, I admit.
We can go short and simple with “The Cube.” Think of how the radio broadcast team can go with “well, the Cowboys have now iced this win at ‘The Cube.’” Let it simmer a bit, as this one will grow on you.
I’ll stay on this configuration theme with “The Blue Box.” There’s a lot of blue around the arena, and it has an easy ring to it.
Next up is the “Mac House.” That’s not my strongest pitch, and it’s way too close to an old McDonald’s commercial for Ronald McDonald. I’m more happy with “McDaddy Arena.” It fits right in with Southwest Louisiana’s love affair with anything “Daddy.”
Be patient. I’m getting to my best ones.
How about 2-H Arena or 2-H-A for short? You combine the Health and Human from the official name and add in a pinch of arena. This one won’t translate well in print. It’s better for radio and TV, I’ll admit.
Here are my top two nicknames, which I predict will get serious consideration with the powers in charge, be they coach Schroyer, athletic director Bruce Hemphill or university president Dr. Daryl Burckel.
It stays away from any reference to corrals, barns, roundups and any hint of anything western. The alliteration plays nicely, but it does leave out the Cowgirls in the name equation. “Pokes Palace” can still work with some massaging.
Drum roll, please. And you are urged to move to the edge of your seat now for my No. 1 nickname and personal favorite …
“The Blue Valley.”
Now before you do a double take and roll back out of your chair in laughter or disbelief, you have to get up close and see the new basketball arena from the floor up.
The arena’s surrounding seating levels from the bottom to the top were constructed with a very steep angle and pitch. This offers fans a bird’s eye view with incredible sight lines from the royal blue seat back chairs. And yes, it appears the hardwood court is in a deep valley of blue.
You will enjoy the basketball game with the feeling of being on top of the action even more than you’d expect from a smallish, 4,000-seat intimate arena such as this.
I’ve heard several times that the complex should be named after McNeese’s highly celebrated basketball star and it’s most venerable athlete. The Joe Dumars Arena, or “Dumars’ Dome” for short, does check off many boxes with historical value, name recognition and attachment and sheer star power from the former Detroit Pistons NBA Finals MVP, All Star and basketball Hall of Famer.
The problem is, Dumars has been distant, uninvolved, uninterested or just plain too preoccupied to have anything to do with his college basketball program and the university as a whole.
I have no direct knowledge that Dumars has a problem or an axe to grind against McNeese. I think he has moved on with his life; doesn’t spend much time back home in Louisiana; and has no real connection with Lake Charles — so maybe he just doesn’t care.
And that’s OK. His choice. His loss. Dumars doesn’t owe McNeese anything and vice versa.
Now the university could take a commercial path and float the idea for naming rights.
There are more corporate deals for collegiate athletic facilities than you might think. The University of Louisville has two. Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for football and the KFC-YUM Center for basketball.
I would guess no Louisville athlete is hungry for a slice of pizza or a piece of fried chicken.
Rick Sarro’s perspectives and commentary can be heard on Soundoff 60 nightly, Monday through Sunday evenings, at 9 pm; broadcast on channel 4 on Suddenlink and is also broadcast on KSWL CBS Lake Charles on Saturdays before network SEC football coverage.