(BASIL JOHN / THE STATESMAN)
President Samuel L. Stanley, right center, helped lead the ribbon cutting ceremony for the SB Arena. (BASIL JOHN / THE STATESMAN)

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. said, to quote Italian poet Dante Alighieri, at the ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new 4,000-seat Stony Brook Arena on Oct. 3. “This is our house.”

For Seawolves fans everywhere, one could only hope that opposing teams visiting the new home of men’s and women’s basketball will have to go through hell and run out the door after a Stony Brook victory.

Members of the Seawolves community, from athletes and season ticket holders to politicians and donors, made up an impressive crowd in the revamped sports and entertainment venue adjacent to the intimate Pritchard Gymnasium for the official opening of the arena.

“This is their home,” Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron said in reference to the student-athletes of Stony Brook.

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“They know that they have a first class facility and I think they have earned the opportunity to compete in a building like this.”

In the last moments of basketball in the 1,700 seat Pritchard Gymnasium, which only accounted for 20,000 square feet, the men’s team lost a heartbreaker in the America East Championship game to Albany in their quest for a program-defining trip to the NCAA Tournament.

According to New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who has been a tireless advocate for Stony Brook both educationally and athletically, there are only good things to come in the new home of the Seawolves.

“This will follow in the footsteps of Pritchard,” LaValle said, talking about the successful seasons both the men’s and women’s basketball teams had last season. “The teams that we have this year are going to have great records and they’re going to show that this is our house, and we are not going to get beat in our house.”

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No ribbon cutting would be complete without an opening shot, in Stony Brook Arena’s case a couple of them, to start a new era.

Junior Jameel Warney and senior Sabre Proctor each took their shot, Proctor taking a handful of steps to the hoop for a layup, while Warney nonchalantly dunked to mark the men’s and women’s basketball team’s entrance into their new home.

Warney won the America East Player of the Year Award last season, while Proctor was named to the first team all-conference last year, along with fellow Seawolf Chikilra Goodman.

“It’s great that those teams, all of the hard work they’ve put in, that they have this kind of venue to really showcase their talents,” Stanley said in reaction to the
ribbon cutting.

They have talent, indeed, Stanley.

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As Pikiell noted in his entertaining speech to the crowd, the Seawolves will grace their new court, fully equipped with a suspension system underneath to make the brunt of a basketball game easier on the players, with a much different set of players than Pikiell started with ten seasons ago.

That year, he lead his first team at Stony Brook to a  minuscule four wins.

“This arena now makes a statement that men’s and women’s basketball are here,” Pikiell said, talking about two teams that have had their most success within the last few seasons. “We’re here loud and we’re here proud.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams joined politicians, including State Senator John Flanagan and Assemblymen Steve Englebright and Mike Fitzpatrick in the day’s ceremonies to cut the ribbon.

Heilbron summed it all up, singing music to the ears of Seawolves fans everywhere.

“It’s pretty amazing when you look at transformation,” he said. “Our men’s and women’s basketball programs, they’re going one place, to the top.”

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The student-athletes look to start their journey to that very pinnacle starting on Nov. 14 as the men’s basketball squad play host to fellow New York school Columbia.

The women open up their home court advantage the next day against Saint Peter’s.

With this new arena comes heightened expectations for the two basketball teams.

In the spring, both fell in their respective America East championship games to Albany.

Neither have ever had the chance to compete in the NCAA tournament, which they will look to remedy in their new home.

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