Fordham AD David Roach on the Rose Hill Gym: 'Focus on What You Have'

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Fordham AD David Roach on the Rose Hill Gym: 'Focus on What You Have'
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Fordham's Rose Hill Gym opened in 1925. It's the oldest facility still in use in Division I basketball. With a seating capacity of 3,200, it's a quaint, cozy venue. The compliments end right about there.

Most people would agree that a new arena—with modern amenities, more seats and a better game-day experience—is long overdue. The reality, though, is that this isn't going to happen anytime soon.

"I look at some other institutions, even within our league, and I'm not sure their venue is any better," Fordham athletic director David Roach told Bleacher Report.

Roach mentioned La Salle, which plays in the Tom Gola Arena, a 4,000-seat venue that opened in 1998. It wouldn't be considered a great facility by any stretch of the imagination, yet the Explorers still made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in 2013.

On the flip side, Roach did not mention UMass, which is building a $28 million practice facility, or Richmond, which last year put $17 million into its home arena. Both are Atlantic 10 schools.

Instead, Roach said the discussion should be about how to make the best of what Fordham has.

"I like to say 'focus on what you have, not what you don't have, and be positive and move forward,'" he said. "It [Rose Hill Gym] might not be the best venue, but we're in New York City; you can get a great education.

"If we can get a passionate fanbase, then it becomes something where kids want to play there."

Roach has a clear vision of what he'd like to see in the future.

"Let's get it going enough to where this place is rocking and packed and you can't get a ticket," he said about the Rose Hill Gym. "And then the next step is we move to Barclays [Center] or [Madison Square] Garden. But it would make [more] sense to go to Barclays with the A-10 tournament there.

"Get to the point where you're playing a VCU [Virginia Commonwealth University] maybe on a Saturday at Barclays and we're getting 8,000 to 10,000 people."

On December 22, a Monday night, Fordham will play Manhattan, part of a doubleheader that also features a game between Miami and Providence. Roach said he would prefer for that game to be on a Saturday, but for now he'll take what he can get.

"To be honest with you, I wish it was a Saturday afternoon," he said. "We would like to play Manhattan there every year, and Manhattan has agreed to do that. A Monday night isn't ideal, but I think a Saturday afternoon for your fanbase, or even a Saturday evening, you can do well.

"But I think it's a good start. It's good for us to play a game at Barclays with the A-10 tournament there."

Of course, the knock on playing off campus, whether it's been at Barclays or the Garden or in New Jersey, is that Fordham hasn't drawn well in those spots. A couple thousand at Rose Hill looks and feels a lot different than a couple thousand in a large venue like Barclays.

There's the business side to consider as well.

"It's hard to justify if we're playing there and we don't get a crowd," Roach said. "We have to work on that. Hopefully, the combination of the four teams ends up with a pretty good crowd."

In order for attendance to pick up, Roach acknowledged that the Rams will have to win more games. He cited his time as athletic director at Brown, when Glen Miller turned the Bears into a winner and the fans showed up. Roach predicted the same thing would happen at Fordham.

"People want a winner," he said. "We have enough alumni in the tri-state area that they'll come out of the woodwork."

That's exactly what's happening with Fordham football. Head coach Joe Moorhead has turned that program around. After struggling for some time, the Rams are now one of the top Football Championship Subdivision schools in the country. And last week they were picked to win the Patriot League in 2014.

In 2013, Fordham went 12-2 and sold out three games at Jack Coffey Field. Roach believes that same formula applies to men's basketball.

"You have to be good enough where people are excited," he said, adding that about 1,800 to 2,000 students turned out for football games last season.

"If we're winning in basketball, those students are coming to basketball. You put 1,800 students in here, and it's a real tough ticket to get. Then you've got a great home-court advantage.

"I think the Fordham student and the Fordham alum and fan, if you're successful, will really support you."

Roach did say that if someone were to write out a check for $85 million, he was pretty sure a new arena could be built. But don't hold your breath.

"It's something that's been talked about on and off at Fordham for years," he said.

"We would shift more games to Barclays before we would spend $80 to $100 million to build an arena here."

When pressed again, he stayed right on message.

"Right now the plan is we would go to Barclays or an off-campus venue," Roach said, while adding, "You've got to be selling this place out first."

 

Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. A full archive of his articles can be found hereFollow him on Twitter: @CFCostello.

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