50@50: FIU Arena’s grand opening and Miami Vice cameo

To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News will share 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ series. We continue this weekly series with FIU men’s basketball’s first head coach Rich Walker, reflecting on the opening game played at FIU Arena in 1986.

By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17 

For a number of years, several FIU Athletics programs did not have facilities on campus to call home.

That changed for some on Feb. 1, 1986, when the FIU men’s basketball team played its first game in the Sunblazer Arena (now called FIU Arena). On that night, the FIU Sunblazers defeated local rival Nova Southeastern 75-60 in the arena’s “Dedication Game.” (FIU didn’t become the Golden Panthers until 1987.)

Prior to the arena’s opening, FIU men’s basketball played its home games in several venues around Miami, including the Miami Christian High School Gymnasium, the James L. Knight Center and Miami Dade Community College–South Campus.

“This was very special for us because it was our home,” said Walker, who coached the team from its inception in 1981 until 1990. “Everyone enjoyed the moment. We were just so excited to be in there.”

miamivicefiusmallerevenThe game, however, wasn’t the first notable event to take place inside FIU Arena.

Before the facility officially opened, the hit ’80s show Miami Vice filmed several scenes in the arena for an episode titled“The Fix,” featuring the Sunblazers and a guest star appearance by former NBA great Bill Russell. It aired March 7, 1986,as part of the show’s second season.

And – in case you were wondering – yes, you can actually watch that episode on Netflix today.