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The Hackberry High cheerleaders encourage their basketball team against Fairview during a Top 28 basketball tournament game last week in Burton Coliseum. (Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)

The Hackberry High cheerleaders encourage their basketball team against Fairview during a Top 28 basketball tournament game last week in Burton Coliseum. (Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)

Burton's time to show its potential

Last Modified: Monday, March 10, 2014 5:41 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

So this is what basketball at Burton Coliseum could look like.

Or maybe it’s what it should look like.

We are in the middle of a two-week stretch when the state’s best in high school basketball comes to Lake Charles.

That hasn’t happened since Jimmy Carter was president.

To show you how long ago that actually was, the Civic Center was considered a prime place to play basketball.

Now it’s Burton’s turn to put on the show.

No longer run by McNeese State, Burton has become the concern of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.

And, while the early returns look good, the jury is still out about the future of basketball at Burton.

No question the building will be around for some time. The rodeo needs a place to call home.

But basketball at Burton, especially when it comes to its top tenant, McNeese, is a far different story.

I will give the CPPJ and all those who organized the state tournaments credit, they are putting their best feet forward.

The place never looked better, at least not since I have been going there.

The lighting is much better, the walls are cleaner and the kitties that run wild throughout the building appear to be taking a cat nap.

All has been good through Week 1.

But …

There is still that thing about drawing a crowd.

For the girls’ tournament the crowds have been pretty solid, considering how few local teams were represented in the larger classes. Only DeRidder made it from Southwest Louisiana in the top three divisions and locals only fought for titles in the bottom two.

The news isn’t much better for the boys next week.

We may be the center of the prep hoops world, but we seem to be only servers at the biggest of parties.

Still, this is a great chance for Burton to show McNeese what it can look like, even if most associated with the Cowboys have their hopes set on an arena on campus.

And the old building has some charm to it after all.

Obviously the extra fans help, but there is more.

Yes, Burton could use a big scoreboard over the court for all to see. You have to take your eyes off the action to check the score.

Even the Civic Center has one of those.

Hey, maybe we could move that over. Well, it’s just a thought.

Then there are the stands at each end of the court, something not there in previous years.

Instead of an open end that becomes an eyesore, those stands behind the baskets give the court a feeling of intimacy. Unfortunately they are way too empty when it comes to Cowboys and Cowgirls games.

Those extra stands help keep the noise in the field of play rather than echoing off into the distance.

Suddenly, the one thing lacking from other games played at the arena is there. We have a real atmosphere.

It is something to build on.

A good two-week run doesn’t mean McNeese should forget about building its own gym. Burton still suffers from its biggest issue, that being like the value of all real estate it’s about location, location, location.

Burton is too far away to draw the interest of college kids, many of whom don’t live on campus to begin with.

Until that problem is solved, McNeese is going to have trouble drawing fans on a consistent basis, especially 3 miles from campus.

But it is nice to know that when called upon, Burton can put on a pretty good basketball show.

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at

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