UNIVERSITY PARK — Flanked by former coach Bruce Parkhill and current coach Patrick Chambers, Penn State Director of Athletics Dave Joyner announced the men’s basketball program will return to Rec Hall Dec. 14 against Princeton.
The game is being billed as a “retro night,” and although plans for alternate uniforms weren’t revealed, Chambers said discussions were in the works.
The last time Penn State played in Rec Hall — where it owns a 514-183 record — was a 79-50 victory over Wisconsin on Jan. 7, 1996. The home of Nittany Lion basketball from 1929-1996, Rec Hall has a 6,300 capacity and was known for its intimate quarters.
It’s a feel and history Chambers hopes will translate to the Bryce Jordan Center.
“We can build this place (the Jordan Center) as well,” he said. “But it’s going to be nice to go back in time, just a little bit. Just to give (fans) a taste of what it used to be. Hopefully we can tap into that tradition and tap into that history and people can feel more connected and then come back over (to the the Jordan Center).”
The yearlong process to bring a game back to where Penn State won the Atlantic-10 Tournament in 1991 was faced with logistical issues from transporting the court and baskets, to ticket sales and parking, to scheduling with other teams housed in the facility and even having enough bathrooms.
The court will be loaded and assembled the week of the game in conjunction with Prater Flooring and Miller Floors. The baskets from the Jordan Center will be used. There will be 2,100 student tickets available and 4,200 for the general public. Standing room only tickets will be determined later. Suggested parking, which will be free, is in lots typically used for wrestling or volleyball matches.
Adult tickets will cost $20. Student tickets will be $10 with baseline floor seating priced at $100. Students will have general admission seating on the sideline across from the benches and adjacent the floor.
Tickets can be purchased Sept. 10 first for fans that are both season ticket holders and Hoops Club members. On Sept. 16, season ticket holders who aren’t Hoops Club members will be able to purchase seats with the general public getting a chance on Sept. 24.
Parkhill, who coached from 1984-1995 and led PSU to four-straight 20-win seasons, is intimately familiar with the venue, calling it a “grand old lady.”
“When things got going and the student body started standing every game, and the place was full, I know when I was coaching at William and Mary we played at Duke and other ACC places that were supposed to be the best in the country, and I think Rec Hall was right there,” Parkhill said.
The program’s history is something Chambers has embraced since his arrival. His players seem to have followed suit.
“It’s important for us because when you’re playing you want to know what you’re playing for,” said D.J. Newbill. “It’s not just this basketball team here. We’re representing every team in the past years … and the teams for years to come.”
Tim Frazier, who will return for his final season after rupturing his left Achilles tendon last season, has no concerns about connecting with the program’s past success.
“I think it’s easy,” he said. “We took a trip over to Rec Hall and you see the memorabilia around there and it gives you a humble sense of these are the guys that came before us, men and women … and you want to give a certain gift back to come back and get a win there.”
A move back to Rec Hall had been talked about in the past, but never came to fruition. The Nittany Lions even held practices in the arena during the last two seasons. Chambers thanked the athletic administration for its support and also the other coaches, who had to schedule around the event.
It was also clear that Chambers, who is entering his third season as coach, had a message for fans.
“We listened to the fans,” Chambers said. “We listened to our former players. We heard you. And that’s why this game is now a reality.”