UConn’s first regular-season women’s basketball game at the Webster Bank Arena was a great commercial success. A sellout of 9,274 turned out for the Huskies’ 80-36 win over Temple Saturday.
The crowd tied the record set by the UConn men December 28 against Eastern Washington for the largest to see a sporting event in this venue, which opened in 2001.
UConn’s largest announced crowd this season was 9,872 at Gampel Pavilion against Cincinnati on Dec. 29. But there were scores of empty seats that night. That wasn’t the case on Saturday.
If it was up Charlie Dowd, senior vice president of operations of the arena, talks about UConn returning next season would begin immediately.
“I am sure we will sit down over lunch with Warde Manuel [UConn’s athletic director] soon,” Dowd said. “But we already have an excellent personal and working relationship and now we have a framework to work from [for the future].”
One thing is certain. Geno Auriemma likes the idea of playing in Bridgeport very much.
“The atmosphere was really cool here,” Auriemma said. “You feel it [the excitement]. It was almost a big-game feel, even though you could have said looking at the schedule that Temple was a big game. There is something to be said for going to play in a place where the fans don’t get the chance to see you. They were appreciative. They enjoyed it. There was enthusiasm.
UConn’s previous contract with the XL Center prohibited the Huskies from playing home games in any venue other than Hartford or Gampel Pavilion. Its current one-year deal with the building’s new management group deal opened the door for exploration.
“They’ve [the building administration] has demonstrated its support for UConn basketball,” Auriemma said. “I think it’s a natural to come here. Who knows, maybe there are other places we can play [Mohegan Sun Arena]. But right now, this is a beautiful arena. I wish we had one just like this on campus.”
Any future games in Bridgeport – or Mohegan Sun – would likely still be played during the school’s winter break. Auriemma did say he advocates playing majority of home games on campus when school in session for the sake of the students.
The Huskies previous 10 games in Bridgeport were all in the NCAA Tournament; three NCAA subregionals (2004, 2008, 2012) and two regionals (2006, 2013). Last season they defeated Maryland and Kentucky to reach their sixth straight Final Four.
“We meet and talk about it all in a month or so,” Manuel said. “I’ll talk to my staff and the coaches and see how the game went beyond how great it was for the fans.”