By: Giselle Rhoden
At 937 Phillips Lane, you’ll find yourself at an arena like no other: the home Elvis Presley’s concerts, Muhammad Ali’s matches, six NCAA Final Fours (1958, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1969) and now the Bellarmine University men and women’s basketball teams.
Men’s basketball head coach Scott Davenport said the university had a vision for a new basketball experience after its Division I announcement on June 17, 2019. In the fall of 2020, the men and women’s basketball teams left Knights Hall to play at their new home, Freedom Hall.
With a maximum capacity of over 18,000 people (about the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden), Freedom Hall is much larger than Knights Hall’s capacity of just over 2,000. A 10-minute drive from Bellarmine takes you to the arena filled with stadium seating, merchandise booths and concession stands.
“It was basically like going to a concert, except I was a part of the concert,” sophomore cheerleader Ryleigh Summers said.
Freedom Hall may usher in thousands of fans, but due to Covid-19, the arena cannot accommodate fans to its full capacity. The Bellarmine community, however, has not let covid-19 ruin this is historic moment for Bellarmine basketball.
“Our fans try their best to make it as packed as possible for us,” women’s guard Ashlee Harris said. According to the ASUN conference website, the Bellarmine women’s basketball team is No. 1 in attendance this season.
Covid-19 also hasn’t stopped the Bellarmine basketball teams from enjoying their new gym. Men’s guard Dylan Penn said, “It feels like you’re in the middle of something big.”
Freedom Hall was completely redesigned to welcome the Bellarmine basketball teams. According to Davenport, Freedom Hall’s renovation is possible thanks to university funding and donations from Bellarmine alumni.
Tim Hourigan, a former accounting major at Bellarmine and now the human resources executive vice president of Home Depot, donated the new floor to support the university on its new journey. Freedom Hall is now complete with a new gym floor, new rims and new locker rooms with personalized lockers for each player.
“I loved it when I stepped on the floor,” Harris said. “It felt like I was home.”
This moment in Bellarmine’s athletic history means a lot to the players and the coaches. “The first time I ever stepped into Freedom Hall in my life I was 11 years old…So to walk down that ramp for a little guy that was 11 years old, I could be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t incredibly emotional,” Davenport said.
Bellarmine basketball’s new home is still missing one thing: a roaring crowd of students. Players said they tend to see more Bellarmine faculty, alumni and parents rather than their classmates at games. “I would love to see more students at games,” Harris said, “It’s a great atmosphere to be around for sure, so enjoy yourselves.”
Student section tickets are free, but due to Covid-19, quantities are limited. They are available on Engage while supplies last, and tickets must be picked up from the Student Activities Center (SAC). Covid-19 restrictions also limit the Bellarmine shuttles to transport students to Freedom Hall. For now, SGA is providing free student parking passes with each ticket. Regular tickets are available on Ticketmaster. Men’s games range from $15 to $20, and women’s games range from $5 to $10. Freedom Hall parking for the public costs $10 per vehicle.