Philanthropist gives $750,000 toward event center

Mike McGough

It was a Swiss philanthropist who stole most of the show at Tuesday evening’s Men’s Basketball Hall of Fame & Tip-Off Banquet by announcing a donation of $750,000 toward a potential event center at Sacramento State.

Millionaire Ernest Tschannen, 90, received great acknowledgement from coach Brian Katz to open the eighth annual banquet at Harper Alumni Center on campus.

“If I have my way, this arena will be named ‘Ernest Tschannen Arena,’” Katz said.

Tschannen said he decided to make the endowment in part due to his connection with Lee Grichuhin- a financial adviser based out of Gold River, California- who met Katz and his coaching staff at a fundraising event at a Bel Air supermarket in the spring. Tschannen was put in touch with Katz and the university’s administration following the connection.

“I will be here for hopefully many more years,” Tschannen said. “If I’m able to, I’d like to support even more. [It’s] a good priority, money for Sac State.”

Plans for a 5,000-seat event center have been in the works for the past year, and in the 2014 fall semester, students voted against paying extra in tuition and fees to help fund construction. For Sac State men’s basketball, the proposed event center would serve as the Hornets’ new home court, replacing the Hornets’ Nest, which seats 1,012.

Tschannen’s donation was part of the athletic department’s fundraising initiative, “The Power of 1,000 Hornets,” an effort to get 1,000 donors to each give $1,140 to fund the event center.

Sac State Director of Athletics Bill Macriss did not put an exact dollar amount on the planned arena, but said a similar-sized construction starting at Portland State University, another Big Sky Conference campus, will cost about $50 million.

“There have been some incredible moments already, from the moment we announced it, getting a $50,000 donation, to this generous, generous gift from Ernest Tschannen; it really shows the community that we mean business, that we’re serious about this,” Macriss said. “We’re not just going to sit back and hope to make it a reality. We’re going to work hard to try to make it a reality.”

After Tschannen departed the banquet to a standing ovation, Katz introduced the 2015-16 team. He then began ceremonies to induct four new members into the Coaches Circle, a wing of the Hall of Fame reserved for program alumni who went on to coach basketball at the high school and collegiate levels.

Inducted were Tom Brian (in memoriam), Bob Opp, Neil McCarthy and Burnel Pinkerton.