Sharing courts strengthens schools’ bonds

St. Thomas basketball fans had to travel to Concordia-St. Paul for "home" games this year, but the schools' neighborhood bond grew as a result. (Josh Kleven/TommieMedia)
St. Thomas basketball fans had to travel to Concordia-St. Paul for "home" games this year, but the schools' neighborhood bond grew as a result. (Josh Kleven/TommieMedia)

Construction of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex left many St. Thomas sports teams homeless and the school’s pockets a bit lighter, but while the school’s bank account took at hit, its relationship with neighboring Concordia University-St.Paul blossomed.

Despite having a good relationship with schools around the area, finding a temporary home wasn’t a cheap endeavor for St. Thomas.

Tom Rubbelke, Concordia-St. Paul’s athletic director, couldn’t give exact numbers, but he estimated that renting out the Concordia-St. Paul’s Gangelhoff Center could cost a team upwards of $2,500 per event. Rubbelke said St. Thomas paid a flat rate from the onset of the sports season instead of paying each time they used Concordia’s facilities or at an hourly rate.

“I’m sure the [money] was good for CU, and I’m sure it helped with their budgets, but that wasn’t why we did it.” Rubbelke said. “[St. Thomas was] a school in the area who needed some help, and we were just trying to help them.”

If Rubbelke’s numbers are accurate, and St. Thomas paid for each home event at the beginning of the year, then it’s possible the school paid around $52,500 for use of the facilities for its temporary home. That number does not include the cost of St. Thomas using Concordia-St. Paul’s dome facility, which does have an hourly rate, or the handful of “home” games that were played at Macalester College.

“It’s been a long year for everybody, but when you see the new facility going up … the excitement of that has certainly overshadowed the difficulties of the year,” said Steve Fritz, athletic director and men’s basketball coach.

This year St. Thomas teams, including volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball, played a combined 21 “home” games at Concordia-St. Paul’s Gangelhoff Center, and played a total of 49 games at various road venues.

Junior basketball player Alex Healy said the staggering statistics didn’t bother him and his teammates.

“It was tough having to play off campus compared to playing at Shoenecker [Arena] last year, but overall it was not that bad,” he said. “I think we handled it pretty well. We only lost one home game this year against Carleton.”

The hardest part for all the schools involved was working around each other’s schedules.

“I think the practice side of things is the biggest challenge,” Fritz said. “It’s never like being in your own facility. You have to add on time of travel.”

Rubbelke said his teams had to be creative in scheduling their home games so St. Thomas had ample opportunity to have a normal routine not because St. Thomas demanded it, but rather because he felt it was the right thing to do.

“Steve Fritz is a great guy; I’ve known Steve for a long time,” Rubbelke said. “We were just trying to make it as much as a home court as possible for them.”

Fritz stressed that the money issue is secondary compared to the helping hand local schools offered in St. Thomas’ search for a temporary home.

“We were looking for somewhere that wanted us, and would treat us well,” he said. “I think Concordia was very good to us.”

Rubbelke said that kind of camaraderie between all the local schools makes it easier to open up their facilities to one another. No one is afraid to offer help because they know each school would do it for them, he said.

“I think we’ve always had a great relationship with all the MIAC schools in the area I hope this strengthens [the relationship],” Rubbelke said. “If they came into this situation again we’d do anything for them in a heartbeat.”

Ben Katzner can be reached at

One Reply to “Sharing courts strengthens schools’ bonds”

  1. My wife and I attended most of the men’s and women’s basketball games at the Gangelhoff Center this winter. We found the parking was excellent, the facilities were great and the staff were very friendly and helpful. Congratulations to Steve Fritz and Tom Rubbelke for working out such a good arrangement. P.S. I also quickly caught on that the concessions people left the unsold popcorn and hot dogs on the counter for free takings at the end of the games.

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