Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director, Strategic Communications
Northridge, Calif. – During its 51-year existence, the Matadome has endured a few dull, mundane names; Matador Gym, Northridge Gym, San Fernando Valley State Gymnasium.
Do you believe the building was once called KPE100 (Kinesiology Physical Education 100)?
Now the old building that is home to the CSUN basketball and volleyball teams has entered a new era.
In the past couple years, an extensive multi-million dollar makeover has included a new court, video boards, new graphics, new scoreboard, new sound system, high definition cameras, a live video production studio, new seats and bleachers, VIP floor seating, air conditioning, and the improvements go on-and-on. Matador fans attending games this year will be thoroughly impressed.
Once a decaying old edifice, an infectious enthusiasm has infiltrated the environment. It is indeed fun to witness a game or match. Welcome to the Matadome.
The Matadome opened its door at the start of the 1962-63 basketball season. "This is a $3 million Physical Education facility that is a dream come true not only for the Physical Education Division but for the entire college," the press release said in 1962. "The new facility is one of the largest (original capacity was 5,000) and most modern buildings in California."
It was during CSUN's transition to NCAA Division I in the late 1980's that the building needed a new name to replace the old musty names such as Matador Gym or SFVSC Gym. A new environment had to be created.
"We were not going to call this place simply a gym or a place to go to class or lift weights," said Sam Lagana, who was hired to be CSUN's Director of Marketing in 1988 and helped the school make the transition to NCAA Division I. "And we certainly were not going to call the place KPE100 (Kinesiology Physical Education 100).
At the time of the move to a new environment within the NCAA, Bob Hiegert served as Athletic Director, Pete Cassidy was the men's basketball coach, John Price was winning championships with the nationally-ranked men's volleyball program, and Walt Kerr had the women's volleyball program in high gear amongst the best programs in the country.
"If we were going to invite people to the gym, we needed to find a name that would give us a little more grander than just a gym," said Lagana, who later served as Athletic Director at Cal State Dominguez Hills, and is now Associate Vice Chancellor – Advancement at Pepperdine University. "Part of the problem was nobody knew where Matador Gym was located. Let's be honest, the building was a box. I was sitting in my office one day thinking … 'what do we do?; what do we do?'"
Lagana then thought of a new name for the facility.
"Welcome Home to the Matadome," beamed Lagana. "I gave it a try over the public address system and it seemed to resonate with everybody. We decided to keep the name. I remember Bob Hiegert calling me into his office to remind me that the Matadome was 'not a dome.' I told him that nobody was coming to the games anyway. I told him, let's create an environment that feels bigger than it is. I'm not sure he endorsed the idea but he went along with the new name."
On Nov. 2, 1990, CSUN hosted an exhibition men's volleyball match between the United States National team and Japan. A still record crowd of than 3,100 spectators filled the Matadome. Throughout the evening, the name "the Matadome" was frequently announced over the public address system. The Matadome was becoming very popular.
During Lagana's tenure (1988-94) at Cal State Northridge, Dr. James Cleary and Dr. Blenda Wilson served as presidents of the university.
"When Belinda Wilson became the president of the university, she actually changed all the direction signs on campus to the Matadome," Lagana proudly stated. "That was really cool. I really didn't think the Matadome would ever stick."
At the time, men's volleyball was a sport that attracted capacity crowds. It was competing for championships at the national level. "We wanted to make the facility a lot more fun. So we started to use the name, the Matadome."
Students packed the facility to enjoy an evening of entertaining, high-powered collegiate volleyball.
"The name stuck and everybody liked it," said Price, who is now an assistant women's volleyball coach at CSUN. "Back then we were on Prime Ticket a lot and the announcers started to call the place 'The Matadome'. The Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News both had valley editions. They were two newspapers that were competing against each other for stories. Both newspapers also called it The Matadome. The name was catching on."
Along with the new name, the Matadome, the students were now being referred too as the Matamaniacs. The momentum was shifting in the right direction.
"We were trying to create a student support group that would bring a kind of NCAA Division I feel to the facility," said Lagana. "We are the Matadors playing in the Matadome with the Matamaniacs cheering in the stands. That's how it all became a reality."
The marketing idea worked with the new name, the Matadome. Men's volleyball led the nation in attendance. "We put together some other fun marketing ideas for the students like a taco eating night. We had a torta tossing contest. We also had a volleyball played named Jamal Thompson who had a bald head. If you came to the match with a bald head, you got in free. We did a lot of fun things. We now were a NCAA Division I program. Even the school band bought into everything we were trying to do."
After the devastating Northridge earthquake of 1994, an idea floated around that the Matadome be renamed the Epicenter. That idea didn't last very long.
"We are the Matadome," said Lagana. "We are not the epicenter. That was something that would have generated bad memories, not celebratory ones."
Other improvements were made back then to improve the fan appeal to attend the Matadome. Originally the entrance was on the northwest side of the gymnasium during the late 1980's," Lagana remembers. "We flipped the entrance to the other side of the court where a lobby area was constructed. It is still the main entrance to the Matadome today. People would come into that new entrance since there was parking in that area. It changed the dynamics of the place. When the building was extended, a ticket office was added."
Today, the facility is still proudly known as The Matadome.
"Welcome Home to the Matadome" … Nice !!!
Matador Memo …
During the first four years of collegiate men's basketball at Cal State Northridge, the Matadors had to play their homes at several high schools in the San Fernando Valley including Granada Hills, Monroe and Birmingham High Schools … Cal State Northridge started collegiate men's basketball in the 1958-59 season but didn't move into its permanent home until the 1962-63 season … In its first season in its new home, the Matadors were 0-11 … The first game at the Matadors new gym (then called San Fernando Valley Gymnasium) was on Nov. 30, 1962 … Pepperdine beat the Matadors that day, 69-59 … Exactly one year later, the Matadors recorded its first home win on its home court with a 99-89 decision over Cal Poly Pomona … In the previous 51 years, 625 home games have been played at The Matadome … During that time at home, the Matadors have produced 41 winning seasons, five .500 seasons and only five losing seasons.
Go Matadors !!!