In the early 1900s, when a new sport called basketball was beginning to infiltrate new parts of the country, the game would often have to be played in local social halls.
The modern gymnasium, with space for fans, didn’t quite exist as we know it today. So the early teams often found refuge in a church basement or a local dance hall, where the ceilings were low, the conditions claustrophobic, and the court was surrounded by a wire-mesh cage.
There’s no cage surrounding the court here at Imperial Arena at the Atlantis resort, but you might say the setting for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament is a nod to the game’s roots.
Kansas will open the tournament on Thursday afternoon against Wake Forest in the Imperial Arena, which, during most parts of the year, is simply known as theImperial Ballroom
, a 50,000-square foot space used for conferences, dinners, concerts or other big events. (Hey, country star Kenny Chesney apparently played here last year!)
“It’s been kind of weird,” said KU senior forward Tarik Black, who played in the Battle 4 Atlantis last year while still at Memphis. “Just a different type of feel.”
The Jayhawks practiced inside the arena for an hour on Wednesday afternoon, and if there’s one thing that stands out, it’s the low ceilings. You probably won’t see Andrew Wiggins scrape the ceiling with a three-point attempt, but it’s still a little jarring.
The stands, meanwhile, are temporary and can accommodate nearly 3,900 fans. And the lighting is almost exclusively focused on the court, leaving the rest of the room (it is basically a big room) feeling like a nightclub.
“It’s real bright, the lights are bright,” KU guard Naadir Tharpe said. “The rims feel pretty good.”
There is, of course, a reason that basketball games would eventually move away from their ancestral homes inside bingo halls, theatres and basements. But for three days, Kansas coach Bill Self likes the idea of playing in the tight quarters.
Part of that, though, stems from the fact that the Kansas athletic department chartered four flights for KU fans coming down to the Bahamas. And Self expects close to 2,000 Kansas fans at the Jayhawks’ game on Thursday.
“I think it’s great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Part of the excitement of these tournaments — a lot of times you’re playing in a little bit smaller venues.
“I think it’s really cool. I think we’ll be amazed, just how intense and how loud and what a factor the crowd can be.”