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Sweet Home Arena

Originally published in the September 3, 2010 issue

After three years of shuffling from court to court, the volleyball and women’s basketball teams have finally settled on a home.

The arena opened its doors Friday night for the Hotels at Grand Prairie Invitational volleyball tournament. In front of a record crowd of 1,752 fans, the Braves defeated Western Illinois 3-0.

“We knew we were going to get a lot of people but we really didn’t know exactly what number,” said senior Caitlin Staib. “So it was kind of exciting as we were warming up to look at the stands and see more and more people coming.”

The volleyball team has two seniors, Melissa Collins and Staib, and the two of them had played home games on three different courts leading up to this year.

“It’s a little difficult [to switch from court to court] when you don’t have a home court that you’re used to,” said Staib.  “There’s a lot of different changes whether it’s the floor, the space in between the court and the stands, ceilingwise.”

The $50 million facility replaces Haussler Hall as the home of the Athletic Department and houses all of the new offices. The arena was built on the location of the Robertson Memorial Fieldhouse.

“It was kind of different from the Fieldhouse because the fans were so far away from the court,” Collins said.

In addition to the volleyball team, the women’s basketball team will play its home games at the arena this year.

“It will be great to play [on campus] again,” said senior Raisa Taylor. “I played at the Fieldhouse in the exact same spot [as the arena].  Going across the river, it was like we had an away game basically. Being back on campus has that homey atmosphere again where the students can just walk over if they need to.  It will be nice to play here again.”

On Nov. 13, the Braves will open their season against the Butler University Bulldogs.

“I think it will be close to capacity [for the home opener].  I feel like everyone has been anticipating this gym being built.”

Beyond proximity, the senior is taking advantage of the simple things.

“My favorite part of the new facility is the air conditioning, I have not played in a gym that had air for the past three years,” Taylor said.