The arena was completed by October 1969, ready and waiting for the Flyer’s 1969-70 season. As one future alumnus fondly recalled,

I was at a practice before the season opened and got to go on the court and shoot. I was 11 going on 12 then and me and a friend [sic] somehow figured out how to call the dorm and get our favorite players on the phone. Weird I know but they were rock stars to us and we had no shame. George Janky invited us to the practice. When I got on that court, I couldn’t believe how weird that tartan floor felt. It was like dribbling a huge superball. And there wasn’t that familiar sound of the ball hitting wood. [158]

Games began in the new building before the ceremonial inauguration. December 6, 1969 marked the first UD basketball game at the arena. One of the team’s players that night, Ken May, later recalled his feelings.

Playing before 5,808 [at the Fieldhouse], that was one thing. But you came down the tunnel and there was like this, ‘Buzzzzzz.’ They started up the band, ‘Dah-dah-dah.’ We ran out there, and all of a sudden there’s just this energy. The place was throbbing. By the time the game started, I got the ball the first time, and my hands were shaking.[159]

The Flyers delivered a two-point win over Bowling Green for the sold-out crowd. [160]  Pat Murnen, a defensive specialist, earned the honor of scoring the first points in the building. They were his only points of the night. “Whatever happens in the future, Murnen said, “They can’t take [that] away from me.” As Ritter wrote in his book, many in the crowd “were amazed that the collapsed tangle of steel had in nine months been turned into a fully completed building[.]”

“UD Arena Stands Ready for Opener” Source: Source: Journal Herald, Dayton Daily News, Frericks Scrapbook, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton.

Image of first official game played at the facility, “Dedication Program University of Dayton Arena” Source: Frericks Family Private Collection.

Following the game reporters asked Coach Donoher if had been nervous. He gave the deadpan reply: “I became nervous in 1964 and stayed that way.” [161] Three more games were played in the building before the official opening of the arena was held on January 17, 1970. Once again the Flyers delivered, posting a four-point win against the Ray Meyer’s visiting DePaul Blue Demons.

On this occasion, however, the primary focus wasn’t really the game. Rather, the journey that Frericks had begun five years before had come to fruition. UD’s many fans, students, and local citizens had accompanied Frericks in the meandering path towards that day, and were ready to celebrate with him the achievement. Johnny Carson (1925-2005) (another Bogie Buster attendee), and his Late Show music man “Doc” Severinson provided entertainment. Dayton’s Mayor, State Representatives, the regions local Congressman, an NCAA representatives, and Ohio officials of the OHEFC, were all present.

“Arena Opening,” Source: UD Alumni Magazine vol. 37, no. 1, 1970, 16-17.

The guest of honor that night was Governor Rhodes, in recognition of his critical role in financing the project. Although both Ohio University and University of Toledo were inaugurating new arenas around the same time, Governor Rhodes chose to attend that of the private, Catholic institution. His appearance was perhaps a reflection of the special service he knew he had done for the school. His brief comments echoed Frericks’ expansive vision of the importance of the arena as a symbol for the university as a whole that went far beyond its role as a sporting venue. “I have always felt,” Rhodes said, “the University of Dayton to be one of the most progressive schools in the nation.”

“Governor Winds Up For a Shot At The Basket” Source: Frericks Scrapbook, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton.

“Dedication Program of the University of Dayton Arena” Source: Frericks Family Private Collection.

In fact, during the years in which the arena was being planned and built, the university underwent significant changes. In 1970 the University altered its system of governance to reflect the institution’s increasing move towards secularization. The Brothers of the Society of Mary relinquished substantial control over the school by creating a Board of Trustees composed mostly of lay members. This shift was the next step in the university’s move towards independence that began in 1952 when the “University of Dayton, Inc.” became a separate legal entity from the Society of Mary. Then and now, the school works hard to maintain its rich heritage as a religious institution and exponent of Marianist values, and these changes reflect the modernization of the school and its embrace of the role of a civic institution closely identified, as its name suggests, with the city of Dayton.

At the same time the school had announced its “New Horizons” campaign for Dayton, a part of its bigger “Threshold of Greatness” fundraising effort, a title referring to the promises of change for the school that were underway. The rhetoric of that this campaign focused on the partnership between Dayton and UD. “Dayton needed UD,” the campaign brochure read, “because it would create the next generation of trained and creative people who can cope with social and technological change.” [162] The arena, of course, was a reflection of the way the school was shifting in order to survive in a changing world.  With the arena as a beacon of sorts, it hoped to draw the students who would become that next generation of leaders. The cheers that followed Governor Rhodes’ comments suggest the degree to which the crowd was in accord with the optimistic sentiments he articulated. [163]

In the years immediately after the arena’s completion, Frericks’ efforts on behalf of UD were honored by the decision to commemorate the newly repurposed Fieldhouse as the Frericks Center. Given the history of the arena, there was a bit of irony in this decision, as Frericks’ name became immortalized on the very building he sought to leave behind him. Indeed, it seems that Frericks was destined to never escape the place that he desperately wanted to leave , the place that set him on the path to build the arena and make his name at the University.