A hotel ballroom at Paradise Island, Bahamas has become an unlikely arena for college basketball. The Imperial Arena, on most days the Imperial Ballroom, at the Atlantis resort is serving as a temporary basketball venue for some of college basketball’s biggest teams including the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
Tonight top-ranked Kentucky will play Arizona State University in the 50,000 sq-ft ballroom with temporary bleachers that hold about 3,500 fans tightly around the court. The lighting system for the space hangs much lower than typical arenas with the ceiling at only 26-feet.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 28, 2016
“We create that of an intimate feeling, so to say,” said Quinton Brennen, the resort’s executive director of special events and entertainment to AP basketball writer, Aaron Beard. “So the players are right there, and they become one with the fans and the fans become one with the players and things of that sort. You hear every scream, you hear every shout, you hear every cheer.”
“This is a little bit different feel because it’s a ballroom,”Arizona State junior guard Shannon Evans II said to AP. “The ceiling is kind of close down to the court. But I feel like after you get in here for a few and shoot a couple of shots, you feel fine and you kind of feel normal.”
You can see how Atlantis transforms the ballroom below.
Both the Kentucky Wildcats and the ASU Sun Devils practiced in the ballroom on Sunday in preparation for tonight’s game and to adjust to the atypical setting. The Wildcats even opened their workout to fans who came out to the Bahamas. After the workout, fans were given the opportunity to meet and take photos with the team at mid-court.
“Anything we can do to make it special for the fans who made the trip,” Kentucky Wildcats Coach John Calipari told AP.
Since 2011, the Bahamas have been home to the Battle 4 Atlantis, a preseason college basketball tournament that takes place every year in late November. Battle 4 Atlantis is the highest paying pre-season tournament, awarding $2 million per school for their participation at Atlantis Paradise Island on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas. This year Baylor took home the Battle 4 Atlantis championship on Friday that took place from Nov. 23-25.