Fairfield University reaches agreement with Bridgeport Arena at Harbor Yard; Men's and women's basketball will play home schedule at the Arena

Fairfield University has reached an agreement with Volume Services America, operators of the new Bridgeport Arena at Harbor Yard, to play its men's and women's basketball games at the new arena, beginning with the 2001-'02 basketball season. University President Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. made the announcement at a joint press conference Wednesday, which took place at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard.

(left to right) Rich Ensor, commissioner of the MAAC, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, Father Kelley and Harold Bannon, executive director of Volume Services America pose in front of the Arena at Harbor Yard, currently under construction.

Father Kelley joined City of Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim, University Director of Athletics Eugene P. Doris and Harold Bannon, executive director of Volume Services at the press conference, highlighting the details of the agreement. The agreement calls for both Fairfield University basketball programs to play all conference home games at the Bridgeport Arena for the next five years, as well as a number of non-conference games.

"On the one hand, today's announcement is about a sports partnership between one of the state's leading Division I athletic programs and a sparkling new athletic facility," Father Kelley said. "But really the partnership is about something else as well. Today's announcement represents yet another bridge between Fairfield University and her neighboring city of Bridgeport. When our students and alumni and friends from throughout the region come to the Arena for basketball contests in the future, it will be an ongoing restatement of our commitment to the revitalization of the community."

Fairfield basketball called Alumni Hall, an on-campus facility which holds 2,479 fans, home for four decades. Alumni Hall opened its doors in December, 1959 and has been the primary home for Stags basketball since that time. The move to the Bridgeport Arena at Harbor Yard allows Fairfield's fan base to expand to more than 9,000, and places the basketball programs into a new realm.

Fairfield University Athletic Director Gene Doris addresses the media and invited guests at the December 13 press conference.

"Playing in a facility like Bridgeport Arena provides our basketball programs with a unique opportunity," Doris said. "Fairfield University has always prided itself on providing its student-athletes with the best playing facilities available. Creating this relationship with the Bridgeport Arena helps Fairfield accomplish this goal for both our men's and women's basketball programs."

The men's basketball program began play in 1948-49 as head coach Joe Dunn led the Stags to a 9-14 record. During its 53-year history, Fairfield University has advanced to three NCAA tournaments (1986, 1987, 1997) and to four NIT tournaments (1973, 1974, 1978, 1996). The program joined the Division I ranks in 1964-65. The latest chapter in Fairfield University began in 1998-99, when Tim O'Toole became the 10th head coach in men's basketball history. He is the first alumnus to hold the position of head men's basketball coach at Fairfield.

"Playing in a facility like the Bridgeport Arena shows the University's commitment to the basketball program," O'Toole said. "This move enhances our program by allowing us to bring in national-caliber teams, which in turn helps us reach our goal of playing a national schedule. We welcome the challenge, and feel confident the Bridgeport Arena will be the vehicle for us to reach that goal."

The women's basketball program began varsity play in 1974-75 under Gary Dittrich, which led the team to a 16-0 mark that season. Dianne Nolan took over the program in 1979-80, when Fairfield elevated its program from Division III to Division II in 1979-80. Nolan also supervised the jump to Division I in 1981-82. Since joining Division I, Nolan led the Stags to NCAA tournaments in 1988, 1991 and 1998, as well as a WNIT appearance 2000.

"I am pleased with this opportunity to play in Bridgeport Arena," Nolan said. "Women's basketball has gained a great deal of interest in the State of Connecticut over the last decade. The Arena will provide the State with a premier showcase for women's basketball, and the University is proud to be the primary basketball tenant of this facility."

A banner proclaiming the new home of the Fairfield University men's and women's basketball team hangs from scaffolding outside of the Arena at Harbor Yard.

Fairfield University is a Jesuit school which competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The University offers 21 varsity sports, including 10 men's programs (baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving as well as tennis) and 11 women's programs (basketball, crew, cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis and volleyball).

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 15, 2000

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