Wisdom built it. Lonn Reisman has spent the last 20 years pumping life back into it. Now, Troy Jones is taking on the task of decorating it.
Not that Wisdom Gym on the campus of Tarleton State University isn’t dressed up with plenty of Texan and TexAnn decorum, but for an event of this magnitude, says Jones, only the best will do.
“We talked about making the tournament a true championship experience for the student-athletes,” said Jones, who is acting as tournament director, “and the same goes for the fans. We want them to leave here saying, ‘Wow, that was a first-class event.’”
Jones has envisioned an environment that maximizes the use of approximately 60 signs and banners provided by the NCAA, without taking away from Wisdom’s traditional decorum.
As fans approach the main entrance from the south parking lot, staring at them from the glass windows above the doors will be the official logos of every school in the bracket.
Upon entering the lobby, a purple banner hung from the ceiling will catch the eye of fans, welcoming them to the event. To their left - the Tarleton trophy case. To the right - the Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame. Signs and roped-off ticket lines will make for hassle free entry and arrival at the appropriate seating section.
NCAA merchandise for sale will be on display, the Purple-T on the lobby floor shined and ready. Then, just as fans are realizing it is truly a special event, they turn the corner, and the arena and gym floor come into view.
“When they turn that corner, we want it to be like, ‘Boom!’” said Jones. “It has to jump out at you.”
The Tarleton floor will be decked out with NCAA decals, the scorers’ table will be adorned in a South Central Regional banner, scorers and game-time media will have assigned seating, with room for other media to work at the base of the second-level bleachers.
Sections will be blocked off for fans of both the home and visiting teams and room will be saved for bands. The chair-back seats will be sold out (assuming ticket sales continue at the current rate), and photographers and cheerleaders will be positioned at assigned corners of the court.
“It will be very obvious the second you see the court, that championship basketball is being hosted here,” Jones said.
One significant decal will not be covered by any NCAA logals. The Purple-T at center court will be left alone.
“Don’t make any mistakes about it, this is still our place - it’s our home,” Jones said. “The ‘T’ stays.”
Until 3 p.m. today, with the exception of painting and other various aesthetic tasks, Wisdom will be left alone.
“It’s just a vision right now,” said Jones. “We don’t want to make any changes until we have to. This is still Coach Reisman’s gym and the team’s gym until practice is finished (today). Then, he’ll turn it over to us, and we’ll work through the night until early Friday morning.”
Also ahead for Jones and his crew is setting up rooms for hospitality, working media and press conferences.
“It’s going to be a major undertaking,” Jones said, “but we’re ready. We’ve done it twice before, so we know what works, and we also know what didn’t work and how to make it right this time. When it’s all said and done, I think we’ll be ready to present a perfect setting for some great basketball.”
See Thursday’s edition of the Empire-Tribune for part three of ‘Rollin’ Out the Red Carpet,’ and take a closer look at the impact the tournament has on the Stephenville community.