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In a School Where Hoop Dreams are Made, Students Camp Out to Nab a Spot in the Stands

After a stunning high jump to the Final Four, excitement for the new basketball season is in the air. For some FAU students, it's worth camping out to see the Owls play. They hope that in the future, a bigger arena will mean more seats for everyone.

Justin Backer | MediaLab@FAU

Nov 15, 2023

Basketball is booming in Boca.

Florida Atlantic University’s Men’s basketball team hosted their home opener against Eastern Michigan University on Tuesday night, ushering a dominant win by a final score of 100-57. A few months removed from an appearance in the Final Four, support for the team has risen drastically, which caused many students to take an unorthodox approach to ensure they were in attendance for the Owls’ first home game of the season.

For students, tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis. As such, many took it upon themselves to make sure they were the ones first served, as roughly 30 students camped out on the lawn of Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena through late Monday night and into Tuesday.  

“Home opener, pretty big game,” said Jordan Lasky, a freshman at FAU. “We’re a big basketball school now, so we want to show out for the school.”

Equipped with sleeping bags and other necessities, students packed the front lawn of the arena as early as 8:30 pm on Monday, roughly 23 hours before the Owls tipped off against Eastern Michigan. Lasky says he initially didn’t plan on spending the night outside of the arena, but soon realized that he would have to stick around in order to be in attendance the following day, leading to his decision to stay overnight. 

“When I first came, I didn’t bring anything,” said Lasky. “Then I decided that I’m actually gonna be sleeping out here, so I went back to my dorm and grabbed two beach towels and a pillow.”

Unfortunately for the students camped outside, inclement weather in Boca Raton forced the campers to migrate from the grass, seeking shelter on the deck in front of the main entrance. While the landscape may have been dampened, the campers' moods were not, as most of them did not even sleep at all, opting to spend time with their fellow classmates. 

“I tried to [sleep],” said sophomore Jahlani Immanuel jokingly. “I was just up most of the night just hanging with my friends, and things of that nature.”

Unlike Lasky, Immanuel does not live on FAU’s campus. However, that did not stop him from showing his school spirit. When he received word from his friends of their plans to camp out overnight, Immanuel got in his car and drove over 30 minutes to the arena. With him, he brought a bag full of necessities, including a change of clothes, a sleeping bag, water and snacks. 

Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena has an official capacity of just 2,900 seats. This figure is considerably low, especially given that FAU currently has over 30,000 undergraduate students enrolled. Demand for spots at FAU has grown dramatically in the last several months, largely in part due to the popularity the university gained during the team’s run to the Final Four in the NCAA. Immanuel feels that a bigger arena that can seat more people may be necessary in the near future, in order to prevent students from feeling the need to camp out beforehand. 

“FAU is a growing school, we have a lot of people here,” said Immanuel. “So it only makes sense that we get a bigger arena.”

The campers felt inspired by the students of Duke University, and the University of North Carolina, two institutions where it is common for people to camp outside prior to a big game. The campers are hopeful that their actions will inspire more students to follow suit in the near future.

“We want to make it a tradition here,” said freshman Ethan Eskin. “It’s a really cool thing that we hope to start here.”

Eskin described the experience as “a blast,” citing the quality time he spent with his fellow classmates. However, Eskin and the other campers are in agreement that while camping out was fun, it probably is not something they will do often. Despite this, the campers have no regrets regarding their decision to spend the night outside of the arena.

“I mean it’s hard to camp out for 24 hours like this,” said Eskin. “But if it’s a big game, and we know it’s gonna be packed, I would do it again.”

FAU students camped out overnight to be sure they could get tickets to see the first home game of the Men's Basketball team, but got rained out from their perch on the lawn outside the arena. (Photo: Justin Backer)

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