A majority of the recent criticism has been about the empty seats in the choice section of Lawlor Events Center for home basketball games. While UNR claims that it has sold more than 9,000 season tickets, the average per game attendance this year has dipped to more than 7,000 - about a thousand less than last year.
UNR eliminated walk-up sales this year and that has irritated locals more than anything since northern Nevada has always been a "same day" area for local sports and entertainment events. The rationale was that if fans didn't want to buy "season" or advance tickets then they could listen on the radio.
Another of UNR's excuses, a school that continually seems to cry "poor mouth," is that there is a cost in same-day sales due to the extra hires that must be put in the box office. Recently, Athletic Director Cary Groth did admit publicly that one of the reasons for the lack of attendance in the lower level, prime seating is the fact that UNR hands out more than 1,000 complimentary tickets.
After taking over as athletic director, Groth raised ticket prices for the home basketball games and instituted a "preferential" policy for nearby garage parking. In defense of that move, it must be noted that when Groth was being recruited for her present job, she attended several Nevada home basketball games during the golden Fazekas era and she may have reckoned that the almost-capacity crowds were a fact of life at Lawlor. If she had researched the attendance figures, she would have found that when the Silver and Blue was fielding less-than-championship-caliber teams, only the most loyal of Pack fans were half-filling Lawlor. Those fans of yesteryear are now priced out of attendance or languishing high in the nosebleed sections.
With the athletic department's large staff, perhaps AD Groth can find someone to help her figure out a solution to what has become her most vexing problem.
Another issue Groth has to quickly address, according to many of the letters from the discontented and disenfranchised, is the quality of the public address system during home games. The announcer has been roundly scorched as has been the ear-splitting and almost deafening hip-hop music that blares out at mostly inappropriate times.
Another sore point has been the mediocre halftime entertainment. With an abundance of professional acts in the area at all times it would seem fairly easy to secure some top-flight halftime performers.
Another constant complaint from loyal fans is the rise in prices and the downslide in quality of the concession stands at Lawlor. Recently, a constant attendee of some 30 years journeyed to a beer kiosk at halftime and was informed that they had "run out" of beer.
While former coach Trent Johnson and current coach Mark Fox have vastly improved the quality of the Nevada teams they have headed up it seems their efforts have been short-changed by the ineptitude of the athletic department administration.
Don't look for things to improve this season.
Thanks to cable TV and last Sunday's wintery weather, many of the entertainers that used to frequent this area could be seen on the tube. Top of the list was "ol' blue eyes" Frank Sinatra, who was starring in a 1954 flick opposite Doris Day, entitled "Young at Heart." That particular year marked the re-ascension of Frank as a major star, since it followed his Oscar-winning stint in "From Here to Eternity." Several years prior to "Eternity," Frank had made his Nevada stage debut at Reno's Riverside Hotel showroom.
At a low point in his career and personal life at that time, Sinatra was playing to audiences numbering about 50 in the 250-seat Riverside showroom. All that changed after his Oscar win and he became the most significant figure in show business for the next four decades. He appeared many times in Reno and Tahoe and one of his most famous visits was during his son's kidnapping in 1963.
Another Reno favorite, Eli Wallach, due to his role in "The Misfits," was on Sunday in a 2006 film, "The Holiday." Even at his advanced age, Wallach is still able to steal every scene in which he appears. Another regular visitor to Reno, this time as a boxer turned actor, Archie Moore, had a feature role last Sunday in a Charles Bronson starrer, "Breakheart Pass."
It is still interesting to see old Reno personalities in old films.
Harry Spencer is a Reno freelance writer.