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Friday, February 09, 2007

Tony G Column for Saturday on MAC approval

There must have been a full moon Thursday night. Either that or the earth toppled off its axis.
First of all, the Monmouth University men's basketball team actually won a road game, but that paled in terms of the significance of the school's victory at the West Long Branch Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The off the court triumph took place when Board Member John Aria Thursday delivered a decisive fifth vote approving Monmouth's long-proposed multi purpose activities center (MAC), its much needed new home for its men's and women's basketball teams.
It ended a long string of MAC setbacks that may have included some sort of a national record for town hall losing streaks.
Since the mid 1990's Monmouth had seen its MAC plans rejected for various reasons more often than a shot attempt against John Bunch. So Friday school athletic administrators weren't exactly dancing on their desk tops.
""Cautiously optimistic,'' is the way Marilyn McNeil, Monmouth director of athletics, described the mood of her department. ""The fact that we've been waiting for this for a long time, we're cautious about celebrating too quickly.''
McNeil said she is hopeful for ground breaking this summer with the MAC opening by January 2009, though other school officials estimate it may take until the fall of that year.
With the Thursday vote not coming until around midnight, most students on Friday afternoon were not aware of the developments including junior Alex Benanti from Middletown.
""That's kind of cool, Boylan Gym is pretty terrible,'' said Benanti having a late lunch at the Student Center. ""It'll be good to have a real gym,'' he said.
On the Boylan Gym court Monmouth freshman basketball player Jhamar Youngblood hadn't yet heard the news, but it was music to his ears.
""I'm happy that by senior year I could be like a part of it,''said Youngblood. ""I'll be excited to play in it.''
Dave Calloway, Monmouth men's basketball coach, said the arena's athletic impact will range far beyond the basketball scope.
"You come in here during (basketball) practice and you watch the track team have to do their stretching in the (Boylan Gym) lobby,'' he said. ""Baseball and lacrosse have to come in here at six in the morning. Every sport needs this facility, not just basketball.''
But there is little doubt men's and women's basketball stand to benefit greatly and not only from the recruiting aspect.
The 4,100 seat MAC will the largest and newest venue of its ilk in the Northeast Conference, a building that will also make Monmouth competitive with some facilities at schools in ""higher level'' leagues.
As for Aria who changed his negative vote of December, and Board Member Samuel Guidetti, Board Chairman Rocco W. Christopher, and Board Member James V. Meola who made up the other affirmative votes, perhaps they should be awarded season passes to the MAC. Or be invited to toss up the symbolic first ball.
After all, without their reasonable and forward thinking, the issue would still be unresolved.
Meanwhile, board members Ellen Anfuso and Douglas Bostwick adopted their "Hack-a-MAC" stance to the end, voting against it.
At midnight Thursday they were still stuck on traffic issues that both West Long Branch and Monmouth agree are not issues.
I doubt if they'll be attending events at the MAC, probably in dread of gridlock.
But if they show up I have a suggestion for school authorities - make them pay double.
Meanwhile, Monmouth University athletic programs appear finally poised to take a giant step forward. It's been a long, long time coming.


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