Tribe's Finale Marks The End Of Kaplan Arena As We Know It

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When William & Mary takes the court Feb. 29 against Elon, it marks the last time the Tribe will play at Kaplan Arena as it currently exists. 

On Feb. 1, the university athletic department announced that part of a $57 million project includes plans to “revitalize Kaplan Arena.” 

Said William & Mary president Katherine Rowe in a release: “The complex will stand as a symbol of excellence. It highlights the university’s commitment to athletics as an integral part of the learning experience.”

Construction on the project begins this year, with an estimated timetable for completion of autumn 2022. 

Athletic director Samantha K. Huge championed “a very noticeable difference in the way fans can participate.” If that means creating a more raucous environment for Tribe basketball, William & Mary could look forward to quite a home-court advantage in the future. 

Since opening in 1970 with a game against Dean Smith’s North Carolina Tar Heels, Kaplan Arena has hosted some memorable contests – like a 1982 win over a Wake Forest team that featured three NBA players. 

Of course, the Tribe had a future NBA’er of their own on that team, former San Antonio Spur Brant Weidner. He’s one of the William & Mary alumni like David Schneider and Marcus Thornton who shined at Kaplan Arena. 

Thornton’s legacy carries on with the renovation after the retirement of his jersey at the Tribe’s penultimate home game before the project begins. 

William & Mary added Thornton’s jersey to the rafters Feb. 15 during the Gold Rush, a thrilling, 81-77 win over Delaware in which first-year Tribe coach Dane Fischer emphasized the environment of Kaplan Arena playing a factor. 

“What an atmosphere,” he said in his postgame press conference. “Our fans, our community have been phenomenal all season. Our students were unbelievable, and every big play we made, seemed just a little bit bigger.”

As for an upgrade to the arena itself, Fischer touched on a variety of areas in which the revitalization benefits William & Mary basketball. 

“It’s huge news for us on a number of levels. No. 1, just the functionality of our program and all the student-athletes here,” Fischer said on Feb. 3. “For our student-athletes just to go about their day, it will streamline things. 

“Another way it’s important for us is just our connection to the community,” he continued. “We’ve had phenomenal support all year. They love their hoops team here, they’ve been great. An upgrade of the facility with a better game experience is just going to even strengthen that connection to the community.”

Lastly, Fischer added the impact on recruiting. Facility improvements play a huge part in modern-day recruiting efforts; William & Mary aims to ensure it creates more lasting memories at Kaplan Arena with outstanding prospects coming into the fold.

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