Dayton receives variance request for 10% capacity at UD Arena

The Ohio Department of Health and Montgomery County approved a variance request that will allow approximately 1,340 fans to watch games at UD Arena.

Dayton Flyers Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said UD received the approval Tuesday morning for 10% capacity. UD Arena can seat 13,407 fans.

The request was not related to the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game, which will be held at UD Arena on March 14. It was something UD had been working on since November, Sullivan said. UD submitted five variance requests for increased attendance throughout the season. He said he does not know how many fans the A-10 will allow to attend the championship game.

The approval of the variance request also led to the Ohio High School Athletic Association announcing Tuesday it will bring its boys and girls basketball state championships to UD Arena in March.

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The approval was bittersweet news for Sullivan because he pushed hard to get it last week so Dayton could have more fans for the final regular-season men’s and women’s basketball games. Dayton had a limit of 300 fans all season for 11 men’s basketball home games and seven women’s basketball home games because of the COVID-19 situation in Ohio.

“I say it all the time, and it’s not cliche,” Sullivan said. “Of all the college basketball fan bases in the country, ours is one that has a deep relationship with the fans. The fans deeply care for the players, and it’s certainly sobering this year to be (at UD Arena) and not have that. The notes of support fans would send in, some of the history behind the fan cutouts, it was certainly heartwarming.”

Still, Sullivan can’t wait to get back to the point where UD Arena is back to normal or close to it. The men’s team at least gets a chance to play itself into another home game. It likely will have to win three games in three days in Richmond, Va., from March 4-6 to earn a spot in the championship game at UD Arena.

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The opportunity to host that game came last week when the men’s tournament was moved up a week in March with the championship game remaining on Selection Sunday.

“I think it’s an important game for the league, and it’s an important game for college basketball,” Sullivan said. “It’s a championship game from a successful basketball league. When the opportunity presented itself, it doesn’t take long for me to share that we think we have a first-class venue that is good at hosting basketball games at every level, and it was an easy decision on my end.”

The game will be televised by CBS, giving Dayton its first chance to showcase the renovated arena on a network television.

“Network over-the-air TV has great reach,” Sullivan said, “and it leads up to the Selection Show on CBS. That’s important to us.”

It will mean even more if the Flyers can reach the game.

“The most important thing to us, more than hosting, is playing,” Sullivan said. “That’s obviously our goal.”

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