Members of the Brookland-Cayce High boys basketball team weren’t ready to leave practice earlier this week.
The players continued to put up shots way after practice ended as they continued to get accustomed to their new basketball arena. The 43,000-square-foot building is nearing completion and debuts Jan. 22 when the Bearcats host rival Airport.
“Lot of our kids wanted to stay after practice for an hour or two to get more shots up,” Brookland-Cayce basketball coach Robert Wells said. “All those things matter playing in a nice facility with nice goals and a nice overall basketball arena. That makes kids want to stay after practice and get extra shots up. That will pay off in future.”
The 1,500-seat arena is a stark contrast to the 800-seat facility that has been used for the past 40-plus years. That arena, while creating an intimate setting and loud homecourt advantage, lacked the amenities the new arena has.
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Wells remembers a playoff game where an opposing team complained because of lack of space, and some officials didn’t enjoy working games there because of that same issue.
“Everyone is kind of excited. I’m a graduate of Brookland-Cayce High School in 2002 and have been part of the community,” Wells said. “This is like home to me. People are happy in Cayce to have a nice basketball arena, can play volleyball matches and have events. We are blessed to have facility like this that our kids can play in.”
The $10 million arena is part of the $225 million package of improvements approved by voters in 2014. There are still a few things that need to be ironed out before the opening such as finishing paving in front of the arena. But everything has gone to plan, according to project engineer Clayton Stoddard.
“This project is pretty unique. It has so many high-level features. It is not really typical for a high school gymnasium,” Stoddard said. “It is going to showcase the school off well. I have been here since the start. When you see coaches and players come in and everything, it makes it all worth it.”
Some of the high-level features include a big concourse area at the entrance that will showcase the school’s championship trophies and include a concession area. There are coaches offices, conference rooms and a spot for B-C’s Hall of Fame. That room also has a built-in backdrop to be used for college signees and new conferences.
A 4,200-square-foot weight room also is in the building and used by all B-C athletes. The weight room has a 50-yard turf field for running, TVs, murals of past B-C athletes and huge doors than can be opened when the weather is nice.
“Weight room is gorgeous,” Wells said. “All our student-athletes will get a chance to lift in a very nice place. That makes a difference so they can lift more and be successful in all our sports.”
The locker rooms, which Wells said is his favorite part of the building, have the Bearcats logo when you enter the room. Both locker rooms have individual lockers with name plates, stools and a small storage portion inside each in which kids can lock up valuables.
The basketball court features the school’s red and black colors on the bleachers and three scoreboards, including a giant one over center court. The arena will use portable goals similar to those used in colleges. It will take a little bit of adjustment getting used to shooting on the goals because of the sight lines.
Wells put his mark on the court design with a darker shade of brown from the goal to the 3t-point line, similar to what Michigan State has at Breslin Court.
“I was watching Michigan State one night on TV and saw the dark court design inside the 3-point line and that was pretty cool,” Wells said. “They did a good job giving me, coach Rusty Charpia (athletic director) and Principal Greg Morton our inputs in the facility and to see what is best for the kids. We want to make sure the focus is on the kids and that they have everything to be successful in athletics at Brookland-Cayce.”
The arena will be used for more than just basketball, with volleyball playing their matches there, and is available for concerts and other events. But basketball will be the centerpiece, and Wells said there are plans in place to bring a preseason boys tournament partnered with Big Shots.
There also will be a post-Christmas tournament that will showcase teams from South Carolina but mainly focused on teams from the Midlands.
With the NCAA men’s tournament coming to Columbia and Colonial Life Arena in March, there is a good chance those college teams will use the facility to practice on it in advance of their games.
“We are in contact with people that are in charge with getting college teams to practice during March Madness. … Hopefully there is an opportunity for Duke University or North Carolina to practice here at Brookland-Cayce in this nice arena,” Wells said. “We are working on doing some big things with the Thanksgiving and Christmas tournaments. I think the community could really get behind that and see good basketball.”