The Citadel basketball team hasn’t played in front of a sellout crowd at McAlister Field House since 1999, and it has happened only three times since the facility was renovated in 1989 and the seating capacity increased to 6,000.
The Bulldogs hope to change that on Sunday when they host VMI at 5:30 p.m. in what has been dubbed a “Pack The Mac” game. First-year Citadel athletic director Jim Senter and former Bulldog basketball player and local businessman Dan Gowdown are working together to implement a fresh approach to marketing Citadel athletics.
“We need to show the community what it’s like to go to athletic events at The Citadel,” said Gowdown, a 1998 graduate. “I think that when the players see the support of fans and the corps, they raise their level of play and in turn it helps the fans enjoy the experience that much more.”
The Citadel’s three sellouts came against Duke (1989), South Carolina (1997) and the Collge of Charleston (1999).
When Gowdown — one of the founders of Charleston Rental Properties (CRP) — presented the idea of “Pack The Mac” to Senter, he was completely on board.
“This is a chance to show off our program, our facilities, and our passion by creating a safe, comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere,” said Senter. “We’ve got a great story to tell. We just have to do a better job of telling it.”
That story can in part be told to a televised audience, as this particular game will mark The Citadel’s first basketball appearance on the new American Sports Network.
The fact that the Bulldogs will be playing one of their oldest rivals and a fellow military institution will only add to the intended flair and pageantry. The entire 2,300-member corps of Cadets will be in attendance for the game. The Bulldogs haven’t had a home crowd of more than 2,000 this season.
Fans can receive four free tickets to the game by going to Packthemac.com. The opportunity to receive free tickets through the website expires at 11 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’ve all been to places where every seat is taken, it’s packed and the energy is off the chart,” Senter said. “We want to create that dynamic, electric environment.”
The game, sponsored by TD Bank with presenting sponsors CRP and Balfour, will feature a Citadel koozie giveaway, a poster contest with the winner decided by the fans, and the opportunity to win $500 in a halfcourt shooting contest.
Future plans call for “Pack The Mac” events involving more basketball games as well as volleyball and wrestling matches at McAlister Field House.
“As we build our enterprise, I’d like to see us be one of the top conference programs in attendance for men’s basketball,” said Senter. “Big-time programs pack their places every single game. Why not us? The dream has to start somewhere.”