Here’s how Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center just became one of the premier sports venues in the city

After months of playing in the Drexel Recreation Center, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams made a long-anticipated return to the Daskalakis Athletic Center for practice on Friday.

When the Dragons took the floor inside the DAC this time, they were met with an entirely new experience.

As the players filed in, the facility’s brand new four-sided Jumbotron displayed the words “I AM A DRAGON.” The massive board with a ribbon strip circling below is the centerpiece of a university-funded $6 million project to complete improvements to the DAC.

The project included adding the video board, in addition to eight other screens and displays throughout the venue, with upgraded scorers tables, a production room, and an audio system that can project outside to Lancaster Walk — an active area for students on campus — to draw attention to the venue. All the new screens in the DAC have Daktronics products.

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“That’s an incredible statement from our university in [its continued] support of athletics,” said Maisha Kelley, Drexel’s director of athletics. “For that kind of investment, that’s significant to be able to have the university fund a project in that way.”

“I think it’s important because, one, it shows that the university is serious about what it wants to provide for its student-athletes for premier programs like basketball,” added Kelly, who also noted how Drexel’s initial investment can spur donor engagement. “I think it also speaks to as others contemplate their ways to be engaged and invest, that it’s not just them doing the work. The university is a partner and committed to it as well. That their resources will be a part of the larger picture of what will elevate and advance our programs.”

The DAC has a capacity of 2,500 people, and in a perfect world, Kelly said, it would sell out for every game. That’s something Drexel is aiming for, and this new project will only help bring the university closer to that goal.

“If we’re talking about elevating athletics and wanting to truly reimagine and engage people in different ways, especially coming out of COVID, this is kind of a welcome back to some normalcy and opportunity to be together,” Kelly said.

The goal of this project isn’t just to improve the experience for student-athletes. Kelly said she hopes this makes the DAC a central place on campus for everyone. She also mentioned that it presents an opportunity to advance the relationships with corporate sponsors.

One aspect Kelly talked about is making the DAC an event. She knows how many people are consuming content nowadays, and the new video boards give the DAC opportunities to have information such as live stats and replays around the venue. While sports like basketball and wrestling will take place in the DAC, the new features allow for events like watch parties or concerts to take place.

Talks of the project predated Kelly’s time as the athletic director, which began in June 2021.

In January 2022, Drexel committed to the project, and it took action in April, following the basketball season. Drexel wanted it finished by October, so the team had at least a month to practice on the floor before the season.

Throughout the process, things came up, such as supply chain issues and rising prices for materials, but with a little over a month before the college hoops season, the teams got back out on the floor to a venue fit for a program on the rise .

“We always talk to our guys about, ‘hey, we want to be the best versions of ourselves. Be at our best,'” men’s basketball head coach Zach Spiker said. “… It is very clear that the DAC is now at its best it’s ever been, and there is a level of excitement and energy to make this an incredible experience for our players and our fans.”