%@ page contentType="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" language="java" import="java.sql.*" errorPage="" %>
New arena's inaugural events announced
Ribbon cutting, basketball extravaganza and opera concert are announced as first official events to christen the Save Mart Center
The inaugural events to be held in Fresno State’s new 18,000-seat, on-campus arena, have been announced, and might surprise a few.
The Save Mart Center will hold it’s first athletic event Nov. 5—the Bulldog Basketball Extravaganza, athletic director Scott Johnson announced.
Officials also announced the opening of the center itself as well as the inaugural concert—an appearance by world-famous opera singer Andrea Bocelli on Nov. 7.
Johnson said the basketball extravaganza will have a midnight madness atmosphere, including an autograph session and intra-squad scrimmage.
Both the men’s and women’s teams will participate, and tickets may be around $5-10, Johnson said.
Unless an earlier preseason tournament can be scheduled, the first home game will take place when the Bulldogs host the McCaffrey Classic Dec. 5.
Johnson said the home court advantage provided by the new arena was a deterrent in getting higher profile opponents to travel to Fresno in its inaugural season.
“ We all had hoped we could get a Kansas or a UCLA or a North Carolina to come in here, and they didn’t want to have any part of it,” Johnson said.
However, those who do want to be a part of the opening of the center can attend.
The center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 27, and on Nov. 1, an all-day community open house is scheduled as well.
Seventy-four marching bands from high schools in surrounding counties have been invited to the open house, and Fresno Falcons mascot Freddie will be there for pictures.
Fresno State President John Welty said the center will not just be a venue for college sports, but it will be a facility to house new cultural events as well, the first of which will be the Bocelli concert.
“ [Bocelli] has sung throughout the world at some of the most famous opera houses in the world, in the largest arenas in the world, the biggest stadiums in the world,” said Ron Eichman, the general director of the Fresno Grand Opera—the event’s promoter.
Bocelli will begin his seven-date, North American tour in Fresno and end it at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Eichman said Bocelli would not be coming to Fresno without the Save Mart Center.
Tickets to the Bocelli concert went on sale Aug. 15 and range between $56 and $276.
Subscribers to the Fresno Grand Opera’s season ticket package get first priority on seating, and Eichman said 7,500 tickets have already been sold to subscribers.
Eichman said tickets are scheduled to go on sale to non-season ticket holders at all tickemaster outlets on Sept. 2.
In addition to the opera singer, more events would be announced in the next few weeks said Deborah Adishian-Astone, project manager of the Save Mart Center.
Steve Tadlock, the general manager of the Save Mart Center, said the center could house future motor sport competitions, family events and children’s shows, as well as equestrian events.
Fresno State associate athletic director Randy Welniak said the center would pursue a contract to host the Snaffle Bit Futurity, a horse show being held in Reno this year.
Johnson said he’s exploring the possibility of hosting an NCAA tournament regional, but the first opening will be in either 2006 or 2007, but the facility must be open for a year before being allowed to apply.