New Mexico State announced Wednesday that it would close the four upper corners of the Pan American Center, cutting the seating capacity so that fans can sit closer together "to create a more intimate and raucous environment" and "give a true home court advantage."
According to associate athletic director Steve Macy on bleedcrimson.net, the school in January hired a consulting firm to help assess what could be done to improve the game experience at Pan Am, and out of that came this recommendation:
Reduce the seating capacity to 8,000-9,000: they looked at comparative data from across the country, as well as our community size, alumni base, student population, 20 years of ticket sales data and demographics. To create a better environment for our fans, we needed to immediately implement a more intimate seating solution. Therefore, we have permanently closed the four upper corners of the arena, which will allow our fan base to sit closer together and give us a true home court advantage. The new configuration will allow for 8,994 seats in the Pan Am for basketball.
New Mexico State averaged 5,860 fans at home games last season, so that means the arena this season should be expected to be more than half full as the Aggies contend for a WAC title.
Attendance at New Mexico State became a topic of discussion last January when forward Wendell McKines blogged of his frustrations with playing in "an empty house." "WHAT'S THE POINT OF HOME COURT ADVANTAGE!!!," he wrote then. The blog post was deleted, but the point was made.
Two seasons later, McKines is a star senior and should expect a supportive crowd because the Aggies have the talent to get to the NCAA tournament. Also, the fans will be packed in closer and will conceivably make themselves heard.