UCCS to open new arena

A new era for University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Athletics will begin on Friday as the Mountain Lions play their first games in the new 1,250-seat UCCS Events Center.

The Mountain Lions will face Fort Lewis on Friday and Adams State on Saturday. Women's games both nights will begin at 6 p.m. with the men's games tipping off at approximately 8 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door. Advance tickets can be procured by calling 255-3602.

The Events Center, located directly adjacent to the old Lions' Den, is an upgrade in every way. The new venue features high-tech sound, lighting and high-speed data capability that will make it a truly multi-purpose facility. Basketball fans will most notice the new LED scoreboards, scrolling message scoretables and vastly improved seating, restrooms and concession areas. Also included are a large visitor's locker room, an official's locker room and a VIP area.

"I don't think I can overstate how important the new UCCS Events Center will be for the development of our athletics programs," said UCCS athletic director and women's basketball coach Stephen Kirkham. "It will positively impact us in many areas, particularly in local recruiting and alumni relations."

This weekend's games will be what is referred to as a "soft" opening and will be promoted sparingly. Since some of the finish work in the new facility is still being completed and not all amenities will be available for the first two games, the official grand opening ceremonies will be saved for the games of Jan. 22 against Regis.

With a seating capacity of 418, the Lions' Den was the smallest venue in all of NCAA Division II and among the smallest gyms in all of college athletics, regardless of division or affiliation. The first game played in the University Center Gym (later renamed the Gold Pit and then the Lions' Den) was on Nov. 18, 1988, when the UCCS men lost 107-89 to McPherson. The Gold came back to win the second game, 69-66 over North Central State the next day, which was one of only three wins that season. The women's program was added for the 1989-90 season.

The UCCS campus is located at 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway. Fans are invited to park in Lot 3 or 4. Head up the stairway behind the Mountain Lion statue, which is near the glass tower (not the brick clock tower). The UCCS Events Center is across the plaza at the top of the stairs.