HCC's new $26 million arena opens with basketball doubleheader

Harford Community College's brand new, 3,300-capacity APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College is set to open its doors to the public for the first time Thursday, and on the schedule for this evening is a double dose of Fighting Owls basketball as the women's and men's teams kick off their 2012-13 campaigns with matchups against visiting Delaware County.

The HCC women's have the first game, starting at 5 p.m. and the men's game tips off at 7. Thursday's contests mark the first of 10 men's and women's doubleheaders scheduled to take place this season at the new arena.

The recently finished arena, which according to HCC officials has the largest capacity of any indoor venue in Northeastern Maryland, had not been named until late February of this year, when APG Federal Credit Union, the local banking institution with a seven-decade presence in Harford County, stepped in with an offer. For naming and advertising rights, APGFCU pledged to pay HCC $50,000 annually for the next 15 years.

"The new arena opens up a lot of really tremendous opportunities, not just for the school, but also for the surrounding community," HCC President Dr. Dennis Golladay said. "We'll be able to have performances and stage events there that we wouldn't have been able to host in the past. For instance, the Harlem Globe Trotters are coming at the end of December, and that event is already sold out. We'll be able to host the Harford Community College commencement ceremonies there, as well as local high school graduations. The basketball and volleyball teams will have a new facility with much more seating. It's the biggest venue of its type in this area, and it's just going to be a great place to host events we couldn't have before."

Ground was broken in summer 2011 for the new arena, which is part of an expansion project for HCC's 44-year old Susquehanna Center, the original home of the Fighting Owls men's basketball, women's basketball and women's volleyball teams. At an estimated cost of more than $26 million, a sum covered by HCC, the State of Maryland and Harford County, the center, which in addition to the old gymnasium housed a swimming pool, dance studio and fitness center, was expanded from 49,150 square feet to more than 100,000 square feet.

Golladay said completion of the APG Federal Credit Union Arena, and the expansion project in general, took slightly longer than projected, adding the delays could not be attributed to anyone.

"It took just a little longer than expected, but it was finished before the start of the winter sports season, which was the deadline," Golladay said. "Construction was held up a few times because of the strange weather we've had over the past two years."

Golladay pointed out that the start of construction coincided with a frightening natural phenomenon: The 2011 Virginia Earthquake.

"The day we broke ground on the project, we had that earthquake," Golladay said. "Some people might have taken that as a bad sign, but I didn't. I said, 'we started digging and the earth shook.'"

Accounting for 37,460 square feet of the area added in the expansion project is the APG Federal Credit Union Arena. According the HCC website, the new venue has 2,552 available seats for spectators at sporting events, but that number jumps to 3,200 during staged events when the gymnasium floor can be used for seating.

The Susquehanna Center's original gym, the old home court of the three squads moving to the APGFCU Arena, will be turned into an auxiliary room to be used for fitness classes, as well as intramural sports and HCC phys ed department activities.

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