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Colleary unsure of future opportunities

| Sunday, March 10, 2002

Duquesne University Athletic Director Brian Colleary beams with the pride of a parent about the NCAA East sub-regional visiting Pittsburgh in 1997 and again this week, and the NCAA Women's East Regional making a stop at Mellon Arena last spring.

But the big question heading into this week's "March Madness" festivities is not can Duquesne pull it off again, but will the NCAA return to Pittsburgh if a new facility isn't constructed to play host to an event of such magnitude?

"That's a good question," Colleary said. "It's not that we don't have a new building, it's that everybody you're bidding against does."

Colleary cited the presence of the MCI Center in Washington., the Fleet Center in Boston, the First Union Center in Philadelphia and HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., as prime examples of what Pittsburgh is up against when trying to attract the NCAA's interest.

Mellon Arena is currently the oldest building being used by the NHL, and it lacks the amenities of many of the much newer arenas around the country.

"We really have to jump through some hoops," Colleary said. "That's why those guys (on the Mellon Arena staff) have been so great.

"Other facilities have things pre-determined; we have to implement."

Colleary said that he has not officially been told by anyone from the NCAA that the tournament will not come back unless a new building is constructed.

"No, they just said it's real competitive," Colleary said. "They'd never say 'don't waste your time.' "

"It's very difficult to say," said Jim Marchiony, the media coordinator for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. "There are a lot of good things about that arena. Certainly, as more new arenas are built, the competition gets tougher. That facility is more than adequate, though."

Pitt will open the Petersen Events Center next season. Its 12,500 capacity meets the NCAA's minimum 12,000 standard for such events, but it might not for very long.

"As of right now, yes," Marchiony said.

"There's an indication they're driving the numbers up," for minimum capacity, said Bib Imperata, the executive vice president of the Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

As for the need of a new facility relative to the city playing host to future NCAA events, "I'll tell you without hesitation it would improve our chances dramatically, not just to get this (sub-regional) level back, but to move up a level (and host a regional final)," Imperata said.

"We'd definitely have to (have a new building) if we wanted to move up a level. One of the things we want to do as we continue to build a reputation in this area, I would love to have the Women's Final Four. With that you get the Women's Coaches Association annual convention. It's a real coup to pull that off."

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