Column: Should Cassell Coliseum Undergo Renovation, Hokies Should Use Non-Conference to Tour State

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics

One of the glaring questions surrounding Virginia Tech athletics, is the future of Cassell Coliseum. 

We’ve seen the addition of the all maroon seats, the new press row, and the “Courtside at Cassell” courtside-seat availability. We’ve also seen an entire upscale of Virginia Tech baseball’s English Field At Union Park, where Virginia Tech completely redid the entire baseball stadium.

At Thompson Field — home to Virginia Tech’s soccer and lacrosse programs — a brand new state-of-the-art jumbotron has been installed. There are new stadium seats behind home plate at Tech Softball Park. That doesn’t even include the re-branding of Virginia Tech athletics with the addition of the sparkling new Student-Athlete Performance Center just a couple weeks back.  

Still, there’s been lots of speculation about a potential full scale renovation of “The Cassell” in the coming seasons. Now, COVID-19 may have somewhat put a pause on a lot of this speculation. But hypothetically, let’s say it still happens. 

A Hypothetical Scenario

Let’s say Cassell Coliseum goes under such a major renovation to expand concourses and update aisles that Virginia Tech is forced to relocate for a season to the Berglund Center in downtown Roanoke — 42 miles away from the Hokies’ home floor. This would be eerily similar to when Clemson renovated Littlejohn Coliseum and was forced to relocate to Greenville for the 2015-16 season.

Perhaps necessary, that seems a little boring though, right? Sure, you’d have to deal with your “home games” being played 42 miles away from your students for conference match-ups. But Virginia Tech can control venues for non-conference play. So we think we have a solution to how they should handle the non-conference slate should the Hokies ever have to relocate.

So what is it?

We’ll tell you.

What’s The Plan?

Let’s start with the easy part. The Hokies will play in their typical Thanksgiving week tournament, and will travel for that year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge as well as to any other major non-conference Power 5 match-ups. That team will then return the favor by coming to Blacksburg when the newly-revamped Cassell Coliseum is ready to go. 

Then you have the other non-conference contests called “buy games” where Virginia Tech signs off on a hefty check to a low mid-major program for visiting Blacksburg. Except for that year, it would be in Roanoke.

That’s a place where Hokies would likely struggle to fill up The Berglund Center against a Maryland-Eastern Shore or Coppin State just a few days prior to Christmas. 

So how about this idea? Virginia Tech uses those types of games to invest that same money in something else.

1) Play in others arenas around Virginia as a “home game.”

2) Sell tickets to fans through Virginia Tech’s athletic department.

3) Up revenue by likely selling out an arena in an area swarming with Virginia Tech alumni.

Boom, you’ve got something. 

Where To Go? 

Let’s take this into account. Virginia Tech has thousands of alumni in the Hampton Roads area. Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Chesapeake, Hampton are all loaded with Hokies. It’s the same with Richmond, Fairfax, and the entire Washington DC metropolitan area. 

We used Coppin State and Maryland-Eastern Shore as an example for games the Hokies could opt to replace by doing this. Here’s an easy way to do so; and make more money.

Both those schools are in the MEAC. You know who else is in the MEAC? The Norfolk State Spartans.

If we’re Virginia Tech Athletics Director Whit Babcock, here’s what we do. Call up the city of Norfolk. They could rent out Norfolk Scope Arena – which holds a little over 10,000 people – for one game, and “host” the Spartans. 

Hokie fans and alumni in Norfolk would be jumping at that opportunity for Virginia Tech to host a game in their home city, especially when things like work, school, and other activities would keep them from traveling up to Blacksburg for a game.

All of a sudden, Virginia Tech takes what would be about a 7,000-fan turnout for a game like that into 10,000. This would also provide the Hokies an opportunity to market to their fans in the fans’ home city. 

If that works close to as well as it’d hope, Virginia Tech could “host” nearby Hampton University at “The Scope” for another game. Then maybe stay in Norfolk to “travel” to Old Dominion for a traditional road game if they’re not as lukewarm to play into Virginia Tech’s hands for a check. 

The Hokies could also “host” William and Mary in the 757 as well. They even could travel to Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg to play the Tribe so fans there can catch some action. 

Continuing The Tour

You can’t forget about the state capital either. We have a similar idea for Richmond.

Rent out historic Richmond Coliseum. “Host” mid-major power Virginia Commonwealth as well as the nearby Richmond Spiders in downtown Richmond inside the 12,000-seat arena. That would be a fun one. 

Then to Northern Virginia/Washington DC as well — a hub for Virginia Tech alumni. 

The plan continues as the Hokies travel to George Mason to see the fans in Fairfax. Go to George Washington in DC and rent out The Verizon Center to play the Georgetown Hoyas. We understand the non-conference slate is only 12 or 13 games. Those are just some other possibilities. 

The Hokies could even travel to Lynchburg to play Liberty or Harrisonburg to play James Madison. They don’t even need to rent out arenas and sell tickets on their own if they don’t want to. Just to be able to go all around the state and draw big crowds to cheer on the Hokies would be a huge perspective boost for Mike Young’s team. 

Will It Happen?

All and all, this is just hypothetical, and pure speculation. Due to the pandemic, it’s more likely that Virginia Tech moves away from wanting to renovate the Hokies’ home since 1962. 

But it’s still fun to think about. Rest assured, Hokies’ fans from all across the commonwealth of Virginia would surely like the idea of bringing Virginia Tech basketball closer to the place they call home.