While the Palestra is one of college basketball’s most historic sites, many Penn students fail to attend basketball games.
Attendance at Penn men's basketball games has been consistently dropping over the past two decades — while an average of 5,571 people attended each game in 2000, this had dropped below 4,000 by 2009. Many Penn students lack knowledge about Penn’s basketball history, and even those who know about the team are often not interested in attending games.
But this does not have to be the case. Students should recognize the historic value of the Palestra and attend games to support Penn’s basketball teams.
The Palestra, which opened in 1927, is the oldest major college basketball arena still in use today. Known as the “Cathedral of College Basketball,” it has hosted more college games, more college teams, and more NCAA Tournament games than any other arena in the country. It is a top destination for college basketball fans across the country and is the historic home of the Big 5, an unofficial conference of Philadelphia-area teams including Penn, Villanova, Temple, St. Joseph’s, and La Salle.
It has also hosted basketball legends including Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kyle Lowry. Last year, the men’s basketball team swept its Big 5 opponents, and the women were Ivy League regular season co-champions. So, for both teams the Palestra has been the site of some of Penn basketball’s biggest victories.
While Penn is not a Power Five school, its women’s and men’s basketball teams have historically performed well in the Ivy League Tournament, and support from the student body can only enhance this performance.
Often at basketball games, players try to rally the student section before important moments. This shows how much student support matters to Penn’s athletes. If students show up to games in higher numbers, and cheer louder, it can boost athletes’ confidence and help them perform better.
This could create a positive feedback loop of Penn performing better in games, which would lead more students to want to attend a winning team’s games. On the other hand, if attendance at games continues declining, Penn’s athletes may feel demoralized and disconnected from the student body.
In 2018 the Palestra saw a historic 78-75 win for Penn against then-No. 17 ranked Villanova. This win was unprecedented and the attendance in the student section is no better proof of that.
Fans stormed the court, proud of their school and proud of their team. This moment was historic not only because of the high profile of Villanova’s team, but because this was a meaningful and exciting time for Penn students. Why can’t we recreate this moment more?
Attending basketball games strengthens Penn’s team and affirms the Palestra’s unique history. It’s time for students to recognize this and start engaging with the space.
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