Guest Column: Basketball can revive High Point’s downtown

Dec. 17, 2012 @ 01:00 AM

As I write, High Point University men’s basketball team is set to face Wake Forest University.  Regardless of Wake Forest’s lack of stature as a powerhouse this year, this game is bound to gain recognition because of the reputation of the ACC as well as Wake Forest’s past successes. 
As the rumors swirl as to what High Point University will do with Oak Hollow Mall, ranging from a football stadium to a mixed-use residential and entertainment complex; one thing is clear, athletics are going to play a huge part in rebuilding our community.  The sport that is going to do it is basketball. 
In accordance with the trend, rumors have also been flying about a new state of the art athletic facility which would serve as the home to the HPU Panthers, but where will this facility be located? My vote is for downtown. Adding a basketball arena to the IHFC Building, Showplace and the High Point Plaza Hotel would provide the anchors for an entertainment complex complete with restaurants, bars and retail.  Consider complexes from larger cities such as LA Live (Los Angeles, Calif.), Atlantic Station (Atlanta, Ga.), and the Epicenter (Charlotte, N.C.).
I am a rational and intelligent person, thus I understand the vast difference in the economic climate and populations in comparison to these cities.  I understand that the home of the Panthers will not be the Staples Center and the High Point Theatre is a distant step-cousin of the Nokia theatre, but the potential is there and the possible impact is huge.  The opportunities are endless for such a facility: major concerts, trade shows, large scale events, sporting (indoor track), sports management and physical therapy educational opportunities for the university, just to name a few.
Let me explain my logic.  First, from an economic standpoint, it is understandable that most schools find success with football, which typically generates more income. However, with such a small school, it would be difficult to draw in the money (except for the large paychecks doled out to be the doormat for a powerhouse opponent such as LSU vs. Towson, which earned $500,000 for the game). 
The NCAA tournament has proven to be more accessible propulsion into the national spotlight and hearts of sports fans across the country with teams such as VCU, Davidson, Northern Iowa and Lehigh have made a splash in the past few years.  In continuation, let’s look at Duke University, a private school with around 6,400 undergraduate students and Xavier University a small Catholic university located in Cincinnati, Ohio with an undergraduate population of around 4,500 students. 
According to Forbes most valuable college basketball programs, Duke University ranks  fourth with a current value of $25 million boasting a $15.1 million in basketball profit, whereas Xavier ranks 17th holding a current value of $12.9 million and $7.3 million in basketball profits.  In a ranking on businessofcollegesports.com, Duke basketball is ranked amongst all sports including football coming in at 26th with a profit of $15.1 million. Whether it be North Carolina, Louisville, Duke or Xavier, you cannot reach these types of numbers without your fan base.
With HPU’s growth in enrollment, campus size and employees over the past seven years, a concentration on athletics is a sensible next step.  Bring the new basketball arena downtown; it is our opportunity to make a statement.  High Point does have the potential to be extraordinary, but if you give the entire city something to root for the possibilities are endless.  Bring High Point University out in the open, the air is fine and let’s take this university and this city to the next level.

Ryan Saunders is a 25-year-old young professional who works for his family’s electrical contracting company in High Point. He has taken an interest in revitalization efforts within the city and has begun his own efforts to contribute, most recently with the inaugural Release the Youth Music and Arts festival.