The year 2013 was a big one for Towson University. During the spring, the Towson Tigers completed SECU Arena, the crown jewel of their sports complex. The arena is a $68 million, environmentally friendly, 116,586-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, which is home to four of the university's teams -- men's and women's basketball, volleyball and gymnastics.
Since opening, the arena has also hosted the Harlem Globetrotters; Special Olympics Maryland; Towson University commencements; a host of high school graduations; and some big-name concert entertainers, including the Backstreet Boys.
SECU Arena features four premium mezzanine-level private suites, approximately 340 premium club seats around the top of the lower bowl and 120 courtside seats. The building is column-free, which allows fans a clear view of the floor action from anywhere in the arena. Another major feature is the four-level, center-hung scoreboard, which offers video replays and plenty of in-game information, which can be seen clearly from any seat in the arena. The facility also boasts a 1,500-square-foot hospitality room, a 680-square-foot multipurpose room on the mezzanine and an 800-square-foot team store on the concourse level.
SECU Arena was built to complement the Towson Center, which formerly housed the university's varsity athletic teams. So with the new arena in place and the recently renovated Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson University officials have fulfilled the commitment they made in 2001 when the athletic program was accepted as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association -- to have a state-of-the-art multi-sports complex.
One of the big challenges for Jim McTygue, Towson's event and conference services director, is making sure SECU Arena serves the needs of the Towson University community, as well as that of Baltimore and the state of Maryland, while at the same time filling as many dates as possible with quality sporting events, concerts and entertainment.
PressBox spoke with McTygue about his responsibilities, as well as what the future holds for SECU Arena.
PressBox: What prompted Towson to build SECU Arena?
Jim McTygue: At the time the Towson Center was scheduled to be renovated, university planners performed an analysis of the costs for renovation of the center versus new construction of a home to our varsity sports teams. It was decided that constructing a new building would be the best way to use our current resources as well as position our athletic programs in our conference.
By building the SECU Arena as an addition to our campus environment, it allowed us the benefit of preserving the Towson Center and keeping it operational primarily for practice, kinesiology classes, student and other campus and external events.
PB: What is your vision for SECU Arena?
JM: I want to see the arena be active year-round, hosting quality events as often as possible. The arena must serve the needs of the university first, and then we will branch out as we move into the sports and entertainment business.
If you look at what we have done so far, you will see the template to the future we are crafting for our facility. It is very nice to be sought after by so many concert and sports promoters. So my vision for the building is already clearly in place, although I am sure it will evolve in the coming years.
PB: The Washington Wizards have held their training camp at VCU and George Mason in the past. Would you look to attract them to Towson?
JM: While SECU Arena is modeled like a small NBA-style arena, the Wizards' training camp dates would not match up with our availability. The Wizards begin training in the fall. We have built a championship-quality football program, and that is where our fall focus needs to be.
Scheduling in the fall is completed around school being in session, our current athletic schedule of fall sports and the timing of the CAA schedule release. All of these challenges would make it difficult to accommodate the multiple dates of the Wizards' training camp. So while we would welcome the Wizards playing a preseason game here, at least for the time being, their training camp just does not fit our schedule.
PB: How important are sponsor dollars to the arena, and is the local business community supportive?
JM: The support of the local community in terms of corporate partnerships has great importance for the success of Towson University athletics as well as the success of the arena. In 2011, there was a strategic partnership created called Towson Sports Properties.
That partnership, between Towson athletics and CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, clearly shows the commitment and desire to grow revenues and relationships within the community. Partners like SECU, Under Armour, MedStar Health System, Aaron's and PNC Bank are what make the Towson program special, and will continue to make a direct impact on the Tigers' future.
PB: Who in the region do you see as competition, and how do you beat them?
JM: The mid-Atlantic region has a number of top-notch facilities. But while we certainly can't compete with the Verizon Center or the [Baltimore] Arena, we feel very strongly that at 5,200 seats, we have the right size building to attract a number of quality events. SECU Arena fills a niche that was needed in the Baltimore region, as there really isn't anything of this size or quality in the area.
There has been a lot of excitement about SECU Arena, and I receive numerous calls weekly for potential events. SECU Arena has pulled events from other venues in the area, such as basketball championships, and we have increased the number of high school graduations that we accommodate. SECU Arena is pulling in events that may not have traditionally come to the area, like Ball Up: Search for the Next Baltimore All-Star.
PB: What do you think SECU Arena has added to the Towson community?
JM: The venue is another point of pride for our students, our alumni, our faculty, our staff and for everyone who is a part of this vibrant university community. When you walk around our campus, you will see how we have grown to better meet the needs of our students.
The College of Liberal Arts building, the psychology building, the West Village section of campus -- these are all recent additions to the landscape that, along with SECU Arena, help make Towson a large university with a small university feel.