Baylor Bears open basketball arena on banks of Brazos River

WACO, Texas — Baylor‘s basketball teams are playing in a new home along the banks of the Brazos River after 35 years under the golden dome of the Ferrell Center.

The 18th-ranked Bears christened the brand-new Foster Pavilion in their nonconference finale Tuesday night against Cornell, The sixth-ranked women’s team debuts Wednesday night against in-state rival and 23rd-ranked tcu in a matchup of undefeated Big 12 teams.

While there are parts of the $212 million facility not yet completed away from the court, the 7,000-seat arena with standing-room space for about 500 more spectators was ready for games. It came 18 months after ground was broken in May 2022.

Athletic director Mack Rhoades said there were a lot of conversations about whether to move in for games without everything done.

“There were two primary drivers for us when we thought about that decision. One was our student-athletes, giving our student-athletes, particularly our seniors, an opportunity to play in a venue like this,” Rhoades said. “And then I think for our basketball programs, we knew both of them were going to be really, really good teams this year, but giving them the best home-court advantage that they could have during the Big 12 season.”

Before tipoff Tuesday, when most seats were filled, the school’s mascot delivered the game ball with a rappel from the rafters, where banners commemorate the men’s 2021 national championship and three national titles won by the women’s team. Former player Matt Sayman delivered an invocation.

Foster Pavilion is on the edge of campus across Interstate 35 from McLane Stadium, the football stadium that opened in 2014. The basketball arena is part of a $700 million riverfront development in partnership between the school and city of Waco.

“We were very intentional about the fieldhouse design, about walking in, about clean sightlines, big volume, about holding noise, making sure that in the arena portion, it can be as loud as possible for our fans and for our basketball programs,” Rhodes said.

It is just over a mile from the Ferrell Center, which had a basketball capacity for more than 10,000 fans. That facility was built for about $12.5 million and opened in 1988.

Ferrell Center will remain home to the school’s national champion acrobatics and tumbling team, and the women’s volleyball squad.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams will continue to use their practice gyms at the Ferrell Center. The development center at the new arena with practice courts, dedicated locker rooms and team lounges will be completed later this year.

If the Baylor women make the NCAA tournament and host first- and second-round games, those would be played at the Ferrell Center because of the extra space needed that wouldn’t yet be available in the new building.

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