PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Sports

February 14, 2013

Best of West: Lamar moving up with completion of Montagne Center

PORT ARTHUR — Editor’s note: The following column from the Best of West collection was originally published in the Port Arthur News on Nov. 22, 1984.

BEAUMONT — Workers continue laboring away at tasks inside and outside the gleaming white edifice rising high above Cardinal Stadium. Seats on the building’s floor are still being assembled. A large group of women employee remains had at work wiping off dust that’s collected for months inside the spacious arena.

Seventy-two hours before Lamar University unveils the long-awaited Montagne Center, many finishing touches are yet to be completed. But the doubt is gone now. The hump has been cleared. The Cardinals are going to open in their new palace Saturday night.

Good-bye Beaumont Civic Center. And good riddance.

Several years after the Cardinals established their right to dwell among college basketball’s elite, they’re taking up residence in surroundings more suitable to their success. LU has bade farewell to the low-rent district, has departed a neighborhood it outgrew long ago.

The Cardinals, as Lamar sports information director Rush Wood so cleverly depicts with tuxedo-clad players on the cover of Saturday night’s souvenir programs, are “Movin’ on Up.” Like televisions Jeffersons, they’ve finally got a piece of the pie.

In one word, the Montagne Center is a showpiece. It’s not the Superdrum, nor The Summit, but for the price — approximately $12.5 million — and construction time (17 months), it’s a jewel. As an entertainment facility, nothing in Jefferson County comes close to it.

To Cardinal fans used to the rinky dink Beaumont Civic Center, with its terrible sight lines, the contrast promises to be stunning. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Some, of course, are better than others, but all afford a reasonably good view.

Lamar officials are understandably proud of the Montagne Center. And they’re most anxious to hear the public’s reaction.

“Without question, it’s a major league arena,” gushes Cardinal athletic director and head basketball coach Pat Foster. “I’m prejudiced, but I have to  admit when I walk in there the building hits me with a greater impact than I ever imagined.

“It’s above and beyond what I hoped for and what I thought we’d get. For what we spent, it’s amazing. I’d never want to be involved in something like this again, because you can’t imagine the headaches. But seeing the end results make a lot of it worthwhile. I can’t hide the fact I’m pretty excited.”

When the doors open Saturday evening, the Montagne Center’s seating capacity will be slightly over 8,000. By season’s end, when additional rows are added at the top, capacity swells to 10,200, or roughly the same as Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston.

Because of the sunken-in design, and close-to-the-floor seating, it could become one of college basketball’s most deafening pits.

A sea of red surrounding a shiny hardwood floor, the Cadinals’ new playpen offers much in the way of creature comforts for the fans. For openers, the space between rows promises to be  a joy for anybody over 6 feet tall. No more scrunching, considerably fewer contortions when the guy down the way needs to heed nature’s call.

Speaking of nature’s call, and we might as well since long lines in restrooms are almost as much a part of sporting events as the players, waiting time should be noticeably less at the Montagne Center. Each of the ladies’ rooms are equipped with 22 toilets. The two men’s rooms have 15 urinals plus five toilets.

There are four main concessions areas, strategically stationed so no fan need walk more than half the length of a concourse for food or drink. Twelve water fountains are also available and, for those in need of feeding Southwestern Bell, 20 pay phones await your quarters.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Lamar chancellor C. Robert Kemble, after being given an official tour with the school’s regents Thursday morning. “I think it’s an absolutely gorgeous arena. Short of finding serious flaws that aren’t obvious, it comes as close to early perceptions as anything I’ve ever been involved with.

“I think it’s going to become a major asset to Lamar University in Southeast Texas. The potential for what can be done with it is enormous. Hopefully, it can become a rallying point for this entire area. We’ve got so much divisiveness in the Golden Triangle. We need something to bring us together.”

Pleased as he is with the Montagne Center, Foster says he’ll be surprised if there is not a certain amount of fault found with it.

“I expect 90 percent of those who walk in here Saturday night will be pleasantly surprised and very complimentary. But you’re always going to have the other 10 percent. We’ll get some criticism, which will probably be legitimate. I know we’re going to get complaints over the railings. In places, they’re too high. We know that. But they’re built to state specifications.

“What we’re doing is like moving into a new home. As an owner, you love it so much you can’t see the flaws that somebody not so attached might spot. I remember after we renovated Barnhill Arena at the University of Arkansas. We were so proud of it we were about to burst.

“The only problem was that when we opened it, blacktop work wasn’t finished in the parking lot. We were playing Texas on a rainy night and Abe Lemons had to walk through some mud. You know Abe. His quote in the paper the next day was that it was the first time he ever had to take a shower before the game.”

Oh, well, Lemons won’t be at the Montagne Center Saturday night.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Bassmaster Elites are coming back

    The Bassmaster Elite Series returns to Southeast Texas in March 2015 to fish out of Orange.
    The announcement was made last week, ahead of Bassmaster’s official tournament schedule announcement and the buzz is already strong in Southeast Texas and beyond.
    I was in Orlando, Fla. attending the ICAST (fishing trade) show and talked with a number of top anglers including Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli and Shaw Grigsby who said it was no surprise they would return considering the massive turnout for the weigh-ins and that the area welcomed them in a very special way.
    It’s far too early to speculate anything like who the top contenders will be or how the fishing will be but there are some things to keep in mind and to look for over the next few months and into the event itself.
    • Prefishing-There is a pre-fishing cutoff that usually extends to right before the Bassmaster Classic and I fully expect most of the anglers in the Elites to come back and prefish.
    Last go-round probably 2/3 of the field fished the area but this time I expect that to be just about everyone. Many of the anglers that did not pre-fish told me they expected to have a lot of water to fish but the sheer volume and diversity was almost overwhelming.
    Beginning probably in the early fall we will see many anglers fishing local waters to get a better idea on how to approach the area.
    • East to West Runs-The Elite anglers fished far and wide but I expect even more running next go-round. After launching from the Simmons Drive Boat Ramp in Orange angler Bill Lowen ran down the Intracoastal, across Galveston Bay and fished in the Clear Lake area and placed in the top 12. The more adventurous anglers will try super long runs, in my opinion, even longer than last time to try and score on big fish. The Intracoastal Canal system makes that possible.
    • Sabine River -Very few of the anglers actually fished in the Sabine River despite the event being called the “Sabine River Challenge”. I think that will change with more anglers running as far north as they can to find pockets of fish that receive little pressure and perhaps a four or five-pounder to push them over the top.
    • Bigger Turnout-Last year some 34,000 people attended the event which set a Bassmaster record for an Elite event.
     It was broken a couple of weeks later in New York but I fully expect the 2015 tournament to draw 40,000 plus. The reason they are coming back is not for the stellar fishing because while we have lots of bass, everyone knows our fishery cannot compare to Toledo Bend for example.
    The support from the public however was amazing and that is what is bringing the top anglers on the planet to fish our area.
    We will have the very best coverage of the event beginning now and leading up to it with exclusive interviews with all of the top pros with not only their thoughts on the big event but with unique tips on how you can catch more fish.
    It’s an exciting time and I look forward to bringing you special coverage on a special event.
    (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com or watch him on “God’ Outdoors with Chester Moore” Saturdays at 10 a.m. on GETV.org)

    July 23, 2014

  • Mid County knocked out of tournament

    The Mid County 16-18 Babe Ruth squad’s run to the World Series is over.

    July 22, 2014

  • West golf notepad: West duo claims title in Texas Father-Son

    July 22, 2014

  • Mid County sets up championship series with Tri County

    The Southwest Regional Babe Ruth championship series is set and yes the hometown Mid County squad will be there to play.

    July 21, 2014

  • MC Babe Ruth goes 2-0

    First things first, give Clint Landry and the rest of the officials credit for making the Southwest Regional Babe Ruth tournament possible this weekend at Nederland High School.

    July 19, 2014

  • Up the odds for solid bank fishing

    There are certain limitations to fishing without a boat.

    July 19, 2014

  • Derek Williams, Summer Money League light up the lanes at Max Bowl

    Thursday nights Summer Money League produced some very impressive scores.

    July 19, 2014

  • West column: Pacers hiring Pat Knight didn't help Lamar

    July 19, 2014

  • Babe Ruth.jpg Mid County Babe Ruth set to host Southwest Regional

    The Mid County Babe Ruth 18U team is once again knocking on the World Series door. Mid County will host the Southwest Regional at Nederland High School starting today. Mid County’s first game of the tournament is slated for 7 p.m. Friday against Pine Bluff, Ark. Thursday was a special day for Mid County Babe Ruth as two locals, Jimmy Collins (shown speaking) and Skip Hopkins (back left) were inducated intot he Southwest Regional Babe Ruth Hall of Fame. Both Hopkins and Collins have been involved in Babe Ruth for over 40 consecutive years either as player, coach or board member. There are nine teams in the tournament with the winner headed to Washington state for the World Series.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • West golf notepad: Eleven-year-old Henry scores ace in YMBL tourney

    July 15, 2014

From the Fieldhouse blog