MTI much more than a hoops venue

Trine University’s new, high-tech MTI Center was showcased for northeast Indiana media on Wednesday prior to the inaugural game between Trine and Hope College’s women Wednesday night. The new facility also has a bowling alley, esports, athletic training, a banquet room and golf pro shop for Zollner Golf Course. Photo by Dean Orewiler

Trine University showed off its newest jewel to northeast Indiana media on Wednesday. The MTI Center is one of the premier small college venues in the country.

There are some elite arenas in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association already with DeVos Fieldhouse at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and Van Noord Arena at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The MTI Center is at that level and then some.

Pretty noteworthy musical acts who probably love the lake life will jam there. It’s a nice out-of-the-way stop between Detroit and Indianapolis or between Chicago and Cleveland. It’ll be something different, and 4,000 people will pack that place for a concert pretty easily, I imagine. The MTI Center will make Angola and Steuben County more of a destination than it already is.

I tried to ask Trine assistant vice president of athletics Matt Land what he likes about the place. He gave me that look like, “What is there to not like about this place?”

“This is a product of great leadership,” Thunder men’s basketball coach Brooks Miller said. “This is just first-class literally in its detail and organization. To be a part of something that is bigger than us and bigger than basketball is really special.”

A lot of little things will add to the luxury. Like the power T will be big and very noticeable when you step into the arena. Simple branding that stands out.

“As a program, that’s what we want to be known for,” Trine women’s basketball coach Ryan Gould said. “It differentiates us from others what we are.”

There is a basketball meeting room between the locker rooms of both Trine teams and there will be 20 leather chairs in that room. A doubleheader would probably force one of the Trine teams to its locker room, but not a big deal. Trine embraces the women-men twin bills, but they are out of play this season by league vote.

There is some big-time arena perks to the MTI Center. The video board is of the highest depth available, said Trine senior vice president Mike Bock. Cameras in the arena will be remote control. It should add to the entertainment at an event.

There will be arena lighting where the court will be spotlighted and fans in the seats will be more in the dark. The basketball games will be live-streamed on video screens at the golf pro shop and the banquet room next door to the pro shop. Plenty of watch parties potentially in the future, like, for instance, a Thunder football road game in the NCAA Division III playoffs.

The esports room is a players-only room with 30 computers. But as big as esports director Alex Goplin wants to be bringing in gamers and adding to video game options, there won’t be many quiet moments in that room. Goplin said he wants to build that esports team roster up to 65 men and women.

From demanding oil conditions for college competition to glow bowl and bumpers for family fun, the six-lane bowling alley will bring something that is few and far between in the area when it opens later this month. It meets a need on campus and in the Angola community. And the MTI Center is the second set of lanes in the country to have blue pinstripes. The first was in Texas and I’m itching to find it.

The MTI Center definitely adds to the athletic space. Hershey Hall will be the home of the Thunder women’s and men’s volleyball teams and wrestling program. Trine is going to bring in a volleyball specific court to Hershey Hall.

Look at it this way, what Hershey Hall is to Trine is what fabled Jenison Field House is to Michigan State on a smaller scale. The Spartans reached the regional final this past season. Trine’s women’s spikers finally beat D3 superpower Hope this past season. Hershey Hall is for volleyball and those teams can still excel there.

I’m looking forward to also working out of the MTI Center in the not-too-distant future.

Ken Fillmore is sports director for KPC Media Group’s daily newspapers.

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