2019 Freedom Classic moves to VSU Multi-Purpose Center on Jan.19
Fred Jeter | 1/11/2019, 6 a.m.
The Freedom Classic Festival basketball game has a new home.
The 24th annual event is moving to the Multi-Purpose Center at Virginia State University in Ettrick.
With the slogan “More than just a game,” the event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be held Saturday, Jan. 19, with a 4 p.m. tipoff.
The previous 23 Classics matching VSU and Virginia Union University were played at the Richmond Coliseum on Sunday evenings during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
This year, the King Holiday is on Monday, Jan. 21. But no events have been booked at the Coliseum in 2019 because of its murky future. The Coliseum is at the center of a controversial replacement plan backed by Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney as part of a redevelopment proposal for the area.
“We wanted to get ahead of any issues,” said Sterling Giles, project manager for JMI, organizer of the Freedom Classic.
The VSU Multi-Purpose Center opened in 2015 with a basketball seating capacity of 5,200. That should be sufficient seating to handle the size crowds the Freedom Classic has drawn in recent years. Attendance at the event at the 12,000-seat Coliseum has dwindled, from highs near 10,000 in the 1990s to the 3,000- to 4,000-person range.
Moving the game to Saturday afternoon also would avoid a head-to-head conflict with the popular NFL conference championships that stretch into Sunday evening.
The Freedom Classic also may have lost some of its luster since VUU fell from NCAA Division II powerhouse status. The most recent of the Panthers’ three national titles was in 2005.
Last year, VSU scored an 82-72 Freedom Classic victory over VUU. No attendance figures were released, but the lower deck, which seats about 6,000, wasn’t full.
The VSU Trojans and the Panthers will collide a second time on Saturday, Feb. 9, at a location to be determined, according to Jim Junot, VUU’s sports information director.