Since 2003, the Cougar basketball team has traveled up to Salt Lake for at least one game per season, like it did this past week. But why does this tradition exist? For one week per year at the Marriott Center, the ballers are out and the dancers are in as Christmas Around the World takes over. But instead of losing a week of the season, the basketball teams borrow the Jazz’s court.
BYU athletic marketing director Bill Hoops says that ESA is great to work with: “Energy Solutions is great. Their staff and management are extremely accommodating.” Guard Craig Cusick is glad for the opportunity to play in an NBA arena. “It’s fun because we all have dreams to play at a professional level. So it’s fun to be here. It’s a fun atmosphere.” Booking the venue is easy enough, and the players are all for it, but how does the sixth man feel about the trip up north?
There were definitely fewer fans at ESA than there usually are at home, but the ROC was still present and accounted for — rising and shouting. Sophomore fan Erin Miles says she thinks that it brought out a different crowd. “I think it probably got out (to) students that don’t usually go to basketball games (but came) just because it could be a fun experience.” Sophomore Spencer Bush says that the incentives BYU marketing offers to get fans up to Salt Lake worked for him. “My roommates reminded me — ‘Hey, that e-mail says we get two-for-one tickets’ — so that’s kinda why I did it.”
The Cougars will play at least one more game up in Jazz town, but not because of Christmas Around the World. Upcoming opponent Virginia Tech requested to play at Energy Solutions in a call for more neutral territory. Teams like VT and Oregon last year were intimidated by the electric atmosphere at the Marriott Center. The Cougars could head up to SLC for a third time this season, depending on their seed and if they can get in to the NCAA tournament. Energy Solutions Arena will host the second and third rounds.