William Pitt Center – Sacred Heart Pioneers
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Sacred Ground for the Pioneers
The William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center is named for the local real estate executive and philanthropist who donated three million dollars to Sacred Heart University in 1996, a portion of which was used to finance the building of the facility.
Opened in 1997, the Pitt Center cost $13.8 million to build. It has three levels, contains four basketball courts, a fitness center, a fencing and aerobics room and a sports medicine and rehabilitation center. In 2007 a wrestling room, a weight room, new floors and locker rooms were added. The Pitt Center is home to Sacred Heart’s basketball, volleyball, wrestling and fencing teams.
The Pioneers joined Division One in 1999. While in Division Two, they qualified for 13 NCAA Tournaments and won a national championship in 1986. The team reached the Division Two Final Four in 1977, as well as the Elite Eight five additional times. Today the Pioneers compete in the Northeast Conference. The team has yet to qualify for the NCAA Tournament since moving up to Division One.
Food & Beverage 1
Concessions at the Pitt Center are almost an afterthought.
There is a pop-up tent next to the entrance to the lobby which houses the concession stand. A bare bones menu is offered here, consisting of pizza slices, various snacks and beverages. Pepsi products are featured here. Alcoholic beverages are not sold at this on-campus facility. There are also a couple of vending machines in the lobby that fans utilize for snacks.
On the plus side, no item on the menu costs more than two dollars. In addition, many people were observed bringing in their own hot beverages on a cold winter day.
The atmosphere at a Pioneer basketball game is a reserved, laid-back one. With the smallish crowds present at most games, there just isn’t a whole lot of noise generated by the crowd. The fans that do show up at the Pitt Center are dedicated and into the action down on the court.
There are a lot of positive features to be found here at the Pitt Center. There is a large video board at the far end of the gym that is put to good use throughout the game. A second scoreboard on the near end of the gym displays some basic game stats. The sound system is state of the art, and music played throughout the game does not overpower the senses. The cheerleading squad performs throughout the game and throws t-shirts into the crowd several times during play stoppages.
As a multi-sport facility, the gym at the Pitt Center is set up to accommodate more than just basketball. Thus, there is a lot of extra space beyond the bleachers. The large size of Pitt Center tends to dampen any noise that is produced by the Sacred Heart crowd.
While Fairfield is a really nice place to live, it’s not exactly what you would consider a destination city. Visiting fans coming to Sacred Heart will not find a whole lot of options directly around the campus. To the north of campus on Park Avenue is a residential area, and a few miles to the south is urban Bridgeport. Fans looking for places to eat may have to drive a bit. Luckily, this area of Connecticut has no shortage of dining or lodging options around Route One, which runs the length of the southern edge of the state along the coastline.
Adjacent to the Sacred Heart campus is the Discovery Museum and Planetarium. This attraction features rotating exhibits and interactive educational displays. Right next door to the Pitt Center is JP’s Diner, a 50s style full-service restaurant.
Crowds at Sacred Heart basketball games are small, but dedicated. The Pioneers average under 500 fans per game at the Pitt Center. With several of Sacred Heart’s conference rivals located close to Fairfield, it’s not unusual to find some visiting fans mixed in among the locals and alumni.
Instead of sitting in the bleacher sections behind the hoops as do most student sections, Sacred Heart students congregate high on the bleachers at center court. While the students show up in decent numbers, they seem almost disinterested in the action going on down on the court. Most of the students spend the game talking amongst themselves or on their phones. They add little to the atmosphere at the Pitt Center.
Sacred Heart University is located in Fairfield, Connecticut, a town of just under 60,000 residents located in the southeastern corner of the state. Located adjacent to the city of Bridgeport, Fairfield is only 60 miles northeast of New York City. In 2009 Money Magazine named Fairfield as the ninth best place to live in the United States, and the best place in the northeast.
Located just off the Merritt Parkway, Sacred Heart is easily accessed by car via either Route 15 (Merritt Parkway) or Interstate 95. Traffic is heavy in this part of Connecticut, so be ready for your drive to take a little longer than expected, whether traveling from New York or elsewhere in New England. Driving directions to the Fairfield campus can be found here. Visiting fans traveling to Sacred Heart will be pleased to know that the area is served by a local Amtrak/Metro North train station, the Long Island Ferry, and is close to several airports. More information can be found here.
The Pitt Center is located on the southwest corner of campus, adjacent to the school’s other athletic facilities, including Campus Field.
All seating at the Pitt Center consists of molded plastic bleachers. Seats in the first dozen rows on one side of the gym have seatbacks. Walkways in front of the bleachers on both sides of the gym serve to push all seating far from the court, and the constant flow of traffic in front of the bleachers can be distracting to fans sitting in the first few rows. It is recommended that you sit a few rows up when at the Pitt Center. Despite the building’s small capacity, there is a lot of extra space beyond the bleachers, negating any home court advantage a cozy gym would provide.
Restrooms are located off the main lobby, and are more than adequate for the typical Pioneer basketball crowd.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to Pioneer basketball games are reasonably priced, costing $10 for general admission seating, $12 for reserved seating and $25 for premium courtside seats. Parking is free in the lots near the Pitt Center, and concession prices are very inexpensive. Overall, taking in a game at Sacred Heart is an affordable alternative for southwestern Connecticut sports fans.
Even though Sacred Heart has only been competing at the Division One level since 1999, they have experienced a great deal of athletic success in that short time. Banners honoring the success of the school’s basketball, volleyball and fencing teams hang from the rafters of the Pitt Center gymnasium, and there is a nice trophy case packed with mementos won by all the Pioneer teams located in the lobby.
The William H. Pitt Center is typical of the gymnasiums that are found in New England. With a few exceptions, college basketball just isn’t the huge deal at Sacred Heart that it is at other schools throughout the country. The Pitt Center is a solid, no-frills facility that fits the needs of the program at this small school perfectly.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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