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Before the George Mason University men’s basketball team’s home opener against Wichita State on Saturday, the sold-out crowd at the Patriot Center in Fairfax was treated to the unveiling of a sign commemorating the team’s Final Four berth. But not all the Patriots fans in attendance were so jazzed about the banner hoisted to the rafters.
Ticket holders in Row Z of Section 106 had their views of the scoreboard and the far basket blocked by the 16-foot-by-14-foot flag. Mark Sharp, a frequent GMU basketball attendee, had driven up from Oak Hill, Va., with his daughter and her friend. He hoped the banner would move at tipoff, but it didn’t.
“The seats were fine until they raised the banner,” Sharp says. “Then you realize that you can’t see the game, and it’d be like this the entire time. I had no idea it’d be like this when I bought the tickets.”
Sharp moved to some vacant seats, but about five minutes into the game, the rightful seat-owners showed up. An usher shooed them away, but not before Sharp demanded that his party be moved to some unobstructed seats. Despite the sellout, the university holds a block of seats for just this type of situation, and Sharp et al. were relocated to new, and much better, seats.
John Besanko, assistant general manager of the Patriot Center, says that the facilities staff, new to the whole basketball royalty thing, had only been able to make a test run of the banner-raising the morning of the game.
“This was all brand-new to us,” he says. “It’s our first time going to the Final Four, the first time raising a banner.…If we’ve got only 16 seats needing to be relocated, that’s pretty good.”
Besanko also says that the snafu was a one-time-only thing; after the game, the banner would be moved to a less intrusive location.