Scott Drew, Nicki Collen excited, nervous as Foster Pavilion nears 2024 opening

Baylor Athletics announced the opening of the Foster Pavilion, which is set for Jan. 2 (men's team) and Jan. 3 (women's team). Kenneth Prabhakar | Photo Editor

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

Baylor basketball head coaches Scott Drew (men’s) and Nicki Collen (women’s) are in a unique spot for the 2023-24 season. Nearly half of their respective seasons will be spent in the Ferrell Center, and the back end will be in the new Paul & Alejandra Foster Pavilion.

Baylor Athletics announced on Monday that the gleaming brand-new structure is expected to open in early January for a pair of home men’s and women’s contests. The opening is right on schedule for the original January 2024 target.

The men’s team will take part in a nonconference matchup against Cornell on Jan. 2, while the women’s squad will face TCU in a Big 12 battle on Jan. 3.

Drew said the team will feel some pressure to go out on a strong note in the Ferrell Center when games in that venue conclude.

“But it’s really exciting [to start playing in the Foster Pavilion],” Drew said. “[We have a] great atmosphere here [in the Ferrell Center], but we’re moving into a better venue, and [it’s] something that’s really going to help our team more.”

Entering his 21st year, the head coach said fans can expect to be blown away by the Foster Pavilion and the atmosphere that’s anticipated with it.

“[It’s the] wave of the future, [and it’ll provide a] great home-court advantage [with] fans on top of you,” Drew said. “People are really going to be impressed just with the design technology and how they’ve put the pavilion together. We can’t wait for that. In the meantime, we want to end things right with the Ferrell Center.”

Collen said the new future home makes her a little bit nervous, since it’ll be hard to find time to practice and get used to it.

“[I’m] not nervous from [a] ‘how does it affect how we play’ [standpoint],” Collen said. “I think coaches are creatures of habit — there’s no question. Most humans are as well. But just the routine of the day [and] wanting that to feel like a true home court for us, and not knowing how much we’ll be able to get in there and practice because it will still be an active construction site with the development center and everything else.”

There are still other components that need to be finished, like practice courts, a development center and even a parking garage for fans. Mack Rhoades, Baylor vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics, released a statement on Monday regarding his excitement for the new home of Baylor basketball.

“The opening of this incredible facility is an energizing step for the Waco community, and we are excited to create a first-class experience for our student-athletes and those who support them,” Rhoades said. “We have targeted Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 as our first games at Foster Pavilion; however, these dates are projections based on the current construction timeline. We will make and communicate any necessary adjustments to our targeted opening dates should the construction timeline change.”

The Foster Pavilion sits on the banks of the Brazos River just off Interstate-35, near Baylor’s Clifton Robinson Tower. The arena is a $212.6 million project — the goal of which is to not only house Baylor hoops but also serve as a venue for concerts, performances and public events for Central Texas and the Waco community.

Baylor men’s basketball opens its fall season against Auburn in the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Nov. 7. A start time has yet to be determined. The squad will return to the Ferrell Center for its home opener against Gardner-Webb at 4 p.m. on Nov. 12.

The women’s program will start its season with an exhibition match against Hardin-Simmons on Nov. 3, before the regular season opener against Southern at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6. Both contests will be played in the Ferrell Center.