YSU basketball, Covelli Centre explore collaboration

Since its opening in 2005, the Covelli Centre has hosted concerts, arena football, professional hockey and boxing, among other events.

Youngstown State University basketball may soon be added to that list.

YSU athletics officials and Covelli Centre executives recently discussed the possibility of bringing YSU basketball to the multipurpose arena during the 2012-2013 season.

“We have had preliminary talks of having the basketball teams down here,” said Eric Ryan, executive director of the Covelli Centre. “We’re always looking for events, and with Youngstown State, we’re both interested in doing this.”

Ron Strollo, executive director of athletics at YSU, said the opportunity to play YSU basketball in another local venue is “unique.”

“It gives the opportunity to get YSU basketball in front of some different people and show off our product,” Strollo said.

However, the Penguins have struggled to draw fans to home basketball games. While Beeghly Center can seat 6,300, the men’s team averaged 2,485 fans per game this season, and the women’s team averaged 1,110.

Still, Rick Love, associate director of athletics, said he thinks a Covelli Centre game would bring in crowds.

“It would let people experience our product that might not have come [to Beeghly Center],” Love said. “We’d have to pick the right opponent, set a good date and do a good job of marketing.”

Love said reaching out to season ticket holders, YSU students and all tri-county high school basketball teams would be the marketing team’s top priority.

“I think we could get 5,000 or 6,000 people [at the Covelli Centre],” Love said.

With 5,900 seats for basketball games, Ryan said the Covelli Centre offers several amenities, including 26 luxury suites, 520 club seats and a JumboTron.

“By having YSU play here, we can showcase the arena to people that have not had an opportunity to see it yet,” Ryan said.

Love said ticket prices would remain the same — but he also mentioned an opportunity for reduced prices.

“We could give a business the opportunity to sponsor the event, which would give us the chance to make the tickets cost a little less,” Love said.

Ryan would like the event to take place on a weekend. Ideally, he would like to host Division II and Division III basketball games that would lead up to the YSU game, which would serve as the main attraction.

However, even with interest from both parties, certain challenges must be dealt with before the deal can be finalized.

Finances and scheduling are Strollo’s top concerns.

“Financially, it has to work for both sides,” Strollo said. “We’d have to factor in what we think the revenue would be at the Beeghly Center, and the Covelli Centre would have to factor in their costs, based on their attendance expectations.”

With talks still in the preliminary stage, the parties have yet to discuss finances or revenue distributions. As for the scheduling matter, Strollo said it might be difficult to match open dates for both sides.

“At that point of the year, the Covelli Centre starts to get booked up with various events,” he said. “Plus, we’re limited to the number of home games we have in a non-conference schedule, so it’s tough.”

Strollo said he is “unsure, but hopeful” about the outcome of the possible collaboration.

“We probably won’t know until well into the summer — when the basketball schedule is getting finalized — whether we can make something work,” Strollo said.

In the meantime, expect negotiations to continue.

“Any time we can create a special event, it’s a good idea,” Ryan said. “It would be beneficial to both parties.”