With all due respect to the late Jim Valvano and his now-realized dream of a new basketball home court that is the PNC Arena, the home place of the true heart and soul of NC State basketball is Reynolds Coliseum.
Any Wolfpack fan old enough to have seen basketball games there in the Valvano era or before would almost certainly agree: it is the place that coaches like Everett Case, Norm Sloan and Jim Valvano patrolled, and it is the place that coaches like Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski feared to come and play in, no matter how good their teams were.
Basically, it was everything Cameron Indoor Stadium is now, but bigger, and without the smarmy pre-planned smartassery that Duke’s students have somehow managed to turn into a caricature of itself (today, the Cameron Crazies are like cartoon characters.) Reynolds was steamy hot most nights, it was loud, and for the opposition, it was often stifling. The students and fans were right on top of the action, and the noise inside during a big game would often leave your ears ringing for hours afterwards. And while Duke fans think they have a perpetual patent on wit, older fans can easily recall shenanigans in Reynolds like everyone raising a newspaper to greet Mike Krzyzewski when Duke visited a couple of days after Coach K had chewed out a reporter for the Duke student paper.
Times change, and the Wolfpack moved on to a newer, larger and better facility, but truth is, for all but the biggest games, the new building has something missing. Sure, the new building doesn’t seem to properly respect the history of the college team that calls it home. It’s easier to find a parking space, and all the banners are hung in there, the trophies are on display in the hall, but you can tell that NC State is just another tenant in room when you see the plastic banners on the sidelines and the hockey banners mixed in with the national championship ones of NC State. It’s home now, but it isn’t quiet the same.
Often, you will hear fans lament these changes with wishes that the team could “go back home to Reynolds,” and this week, Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried said the same, at least for a single conference game. “I’ve asked [Athletic Director] Debbie [Yow] a couple of times about the possibility of playing a conference game in Reynolds, there are some challenges for her obviously.”
The complexities Coach Gottfried refer to are quickly obvious: Lifetime Seating Rights were sold to fund NC State’s equity portion of the PNC Arena, guaranteeing tickets to those who bought them. It would be all but impossible to relocate those to Reynolds, considering that it has been reconfigured and seats fewer fans – 9,500 now, down from 12,500. Out of those 9,500, some of the tickets would go to the visiting team and to NC State students, lowering the number even further. That reason alone makes it very difficult for Yow to make it happen.
Speaking from a strictly personal viewpoint, I would love to see it. While I have no doubts it would be for a visit from a Boston College or perhaps Miami, and not UNC or Duke, it would be really fun to see the old barn burning with Wolfpack passion once again. And it would be even better to put on a display not only of what once was, but what can be once again. Eventually, the PNC Arena, which opened in 1999 will need to be have a major overhaul or even be replaced. Modern arenas tend not to last as long as older ones, and are replaced more quickly. UNC is starting to talk about replacing the Smith Center, the home it built itself after they outgrew Carmichael Auditorium. Come 2025 or so, expect the same discussions to start concerning the PNC.
When NC State does contemplate replacing its home floor, it should build its next arena on-campus with the same level of amenities that the PNC offers fans but also the same homecourt advantage that Reynolds offered and seems to be missing today. It should be a place that restores the fan intimacy with seating that comes nearly to courtside. It should not have a third level located above the scoreboard and so far away from the action that the players seem distant. Every fan should feel like they are part of the action, and they should feel like their voice can be heard courtside. Any new arena should allow students to walk to the games without any need for busing, and they should have seats courtside. Any new arena should NOT have Lifetime Seating Rights as a part of its construction financing because an unintended consequence of LTRs in the PNC are empty seats especially in the lower bowl when well-heeled donors can’t be bothered to attend games that they don’t consider interesting. Sell those seats to students. A new area should reflect Wolfpack basketball and Wolfpack basketball only, and there should be no doubt whatsoever to someone who walks in the building who plays there.
In other words, build a “New Reynolds” Coliseum. The old building probably could not be reconfigured to fit modern needs, so a new one would have to be built. But it could be a new building that would not only accomodate the needs of NC State in the 21st century, but also accomodate the need of the spirit of Wolfpack basketball to once again have a proper home to call its own.