Minium: Because ODU has spent millions on The Ted, it remains the nicest collegiate venue in the commonwealth

November 06, 2018
By ODU Athletics
ODU Athletics

By Harry Minium

I was there to watch Old Dominion christen the Ted Constant Convocation Center in 2002 against the women’s basketball team from the University of Virginia and men’s team from University of North Carolina.

ODU lost both games, but that did nothing to dampen the celebration of a truly extraordinary event for ODU. The smell of fresh paint was still in the air. Everything was sparking clean and brand new.

Finally, ODU had a quality basketball arena in which to play.

ODU once played games at local high schools, the 3,200-seat Norfolk Arena, the 4,800-seat ODU fieldhouse and later, Norfolk’s Scope. None, other than the fieldhouse, offered an on-campus location, nor did any offer a facility with 21st century amenities.

The Constant Center, named for businessman Ted Constant, who donated $5 million to help pay for the arena, was built to be a facility with major sports amenities but with 8,400 basketball seats.

Even as its enters its 17th year, the Ted Constant Center is a wonderful place to play and watch basketball.

The arena has luxury suites, club seats and cushioned chairback seats everywhere with drink holders. I’ve sat all over the arena, watching games concerts, speeches and shows, and there’s not a bad seat in the house.

There are plenty of restrooms and concessions stands, and from the west side of the upper arena, a breathtaking view of ODU’s campus.

So when I wandered into the arena one recent morning, when no one was around, I walked up and down the aisles and marveled at how 16 years later, it almost looks like a brand new building.

That didn’t occur by accident. To keep an arena looking spiffy, you have to spend money. And ODU and Spectra Venue Management have constantly reinvested money back into the arena, spending millions of dollars in fact, to keep it fresh and new.

And their efforts, while little ballyhooed, have worked miracles.

So what’s new this season? A new floor featuring updated logos and a state-of-the-art lighting system. The Ted’s lighting system in 2002 was also state of the art, but I’m told the new lights are Ephesus Arena Pro light-emitting diode (LED) lights.

In layman’s terms, the lights are a lot brighter and clearer and use a lot less electricity, so not only will they improve the experience for fans and players, they will save money and energy.

Over the years officials have torn out bathrooms and replaced them, redid locker rooms, tore floors up and replaced them, installed a much bigger and better scoreboard, installed ribbon scoreboards, a new outdoor message board and so much more.

They’ve constantly cleaned and painted and repaired the arena and with all of the upgrades, it’s a better arena than ODU had in 2002.

 

 A sellout crowd was on hand on March 26 215, when Trey Freeman hit a long bank shot at the buzzer that sent ODU to the NIT semifinals in New York. 

Back then, I thought that The Ted was too small, that ODU would eventually outgrow it. But give former President James Koch, and David Harnage, the university official who helped plan the University Village, a lot of credit.

The Ted’s 8,400 seats have proven to be the perfect size for the ODU men’s team, and 9,100 seats set aside for concerts have drawn some really cool acts. The Harlem Globetrotters, Disney shows and enough concerts to last a lifetime, including acts such as Elton John, Roberta Flack, 50 Cent, Dave Matthews, Maroon 5, Bruce Springsteen, Keith Urban, 3 Doors Down and Green Day, have come to The Ted.

I was there when Elton John came to town, but my favorite concert of all time was a Christian rock show featuring Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher, Chris Walker-Smith and others. It was nearly a 3-hour show, and the acoustics at The Ted are amazing. You see and hear so much more at The Ted than at Scope or the Hampton Coliseum, where sound echoes back and forth off the cement ceilings.

Hundreds of thousands of parents have watched tens of thousands of students graduate from ODU, Tidewater Community College and the Chesapeake schools. Thousands of freshmen and transfer students have attended orientation there, and let’s not forget that an average of 7,500 or so see ODU men’s basketball games. Millions have seen events there. The Ted has done so much to help ODU grow and prosper

My favorite game? Easy. The 2015 NIT game in which Trey Freeman banked in the game-winning 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded that send the Monarchs to the semifinals in New York City. Who can forget the rowdy post-game celebration that ensued?

If you've got a spare minute, click to the right and watch it again. If you're an ODU fan, it will bring tears to your eyes. Trey Freeman's game-winning shot

I contend The Ted remains the best college basketball venue in Virginia. Don’t believe me? Then consult with Pollstar Magazine. It rated the Constant Center the nation’s best college venue in January with less than 10,000 seats.

The ODU women's basketball team has drawn sellout crowds to the Ted for Education Day games.

Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum, though slightly bigger, isn’t close to the Ted in amenities -- the Hokies desperately need an ACC-worthy venue. Neither is VCU’s Siegel Center, which is a gymnasium on steroids (hey Rams’ fans, I’m a VCU alumnus, and while you have a great home-court advantage, you don't have The Ted).

The University of Richmond has done a wonderful renovation to its arena, and it’s close to being as nice as The Ted.

And so is Virginia’s John Paul Jones Center, which is newer and bigger than The Ted, but doesn’t offer the wonderful sightlines, concessions stands where you can buy popcorn and still see the game and convenient, spacious hallways that we have at The Ted.

Sit in the top row at the Ted and you still feel like you’re on top of the game. Sit in the top row at the JPJ and the players look like ants.

At some point, when James Madison’s new arena opens, it may be the best in the commonwealth.

But this week, as the ODU men’s and women’s basketball teams take the floor for their home openers, they do so on a home court that exudes more comfort and luxury than any across the state.

The ODU men host Navy Tuesday at 7. That’s election night, and what better way to avoid all of the angst and anger on cable TV networks than taking in an ODU game against the Naval Academy?

Navy, of course, has a huge alumni base, and I’d expect more than 1,000 fans to be here rooting for the Midshipmen. When Navy played at Norfolk State a few years ago, the Navy fans almost outnumbered the Spartan faithful.

The ODU women open their home season Friday night against crosstown rival Norfolk State, and I have to commend Monarch coach Nikki McCray for playing the Spartans. It should be a natural rivalry in all sports.

Both teams enter the season with high hopes. The ODU men were picked to finish third in Conference USA. Coach Jeff Jones has just two starters back, but with two 7-footers in its lineup, a ton of depth, some really good freshmen, this team could be better than the one that finished 25-7 last season.

The ODU women were picked to finish 11th out of C-USA 14 teams, and excuse me for being impolite here, that’s absolutely laughable. This clearly will be a much better team this season than the one team that went 8-23 last season, when coach Nikki McCray-Penson inherited a program that was sinking fast.

She’s added nine new players. With four juniors, two sophomores and six freshmen, the future looks bright for the Monarchs. They may start slow because of their inexperience, but they will finish strong.

Thanks to the vision of the people who created the arena, and those who made sure money has been reinvested in the Ted, both the men and women have a home court that is the envy of their rivals, and remains a comfortable place for students, alumni and the general public to be entertained.

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