Is it mere coincidence that the Atlanta-area team with the most consistently decent record plays its games in the oldest of those teams' arenas? Alexander Memorial Coliseum, home of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets basketball opened in 1956 and shows no signs of shuttering, regardless of how its squads perform.
Call it whatever you like - admirers might choose "The Thrillerdome" due to fond memories of close finishes, while the more cynical might go with "The Big Tit" because of the somewhat suggestive architecture - but the spot is a Dirty South staple. Here have run NBA stars Kenny Anderson, Mark Price, Matt Harpring and Dennis Scott, not to mention the (hopefully) up-and-coming Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal.
There may be no chance for the GT men in the season of this writing (2010-11) and other ACC schools will always look down from their positions on high (Duke, UNC), but there is tradition in basketball at Alexander nonetheless.
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Look left, look right, look left again: There'll be the same food options everywhere you turn. The stands have hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, soda and"¦yep, that's it.
To be fair, there are standalone stalls for pizza (sold by the slice, not in individual pies), burgers and cheesesteaks, though I saw no one with either of the latter two. The problem with these is, they serve exactly one person at a time, and there might be two of them (one likely closed) around the entire concourse. So good luck getting your desired item!
Not much is to be expected of college basketball arena concessions, and not much is delivered.
We're talking ACC basketball, so if you're a fan of the game at all, you know the product is likely going to be pretty high-quality. The Jackets could themselves be having an off-year and they could be playing a (traditionally) lesser competitor like Clemson or Miami, and there's still good play to be seen.
A lot is made of the "theatre" effect of courts these days, and while GT doesn't go for that blatantly, the use of light colors throughout does really make the floor shine. It's advertised that "every seat is close to the floor," and while an obvious mathematical impossibility, there's something to the statement; seats come up pretty close to the action, but because of the semi-steep bowl structure, sight lines are maintained throughout the sections.
As for the student sections (behind each basket) and the resultant home-court advantage, take it a single notch down from your Wake- or NC State-levels, and you've got a picture of the intensity.
Tech is, for better or worse (see "Access" section), right in the heart of downtown Atlanta. That means you're physically close to a lot of cool restaurants and attractions, yet still may have some trouble locating, navigating to and parking for them.
Easy enough, however, is the Varsity, directly across the interstate from Alexander. If for some reason you have never been to Atlanta, please do come and clog your arteries here. If for some reason you have been to Atlanta and neglected to visit this staple, return today and eat an extra chili dog to make up for last time.
And as for you snooty types who just can't eat fast food, there are a multitude of options: an iteration of the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant is less than a mile away (four blocks east, four blocks south, at Peachtree & 6th), as is the Vortex (burgers and more at Peachtree & 7th). About the same distance northeast, you can get haughtier at Shout or Veni Vidi Vici as you near the area of town with those more "cultured" attractions like the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Center for Puppetry Arts.
I mention so many things because, yes, they literally all are bunched together like that (again, see "Access").
Whereas folks love to stereotype SEC and Pac-10 fans, this is a near-impossibility with ACC fans, and for proof, I offer you the collection in the stands at GT games. Within the student section, rabid, painted, shirtless, wig-wearing college attendees can be found in abundance; while in the stands, there are plenty of sophisticated Tech alum clearly putting their engineering degrees to good use by day.
And then, there are the families with young kids, the teens with dreams of being on that court someday, the grandparents visiting their university-age grandchildren, and plenty of unaffiliated people simply come to see a good game. I personally think that amalgam is pretty brilliant, and something you don't always see at a school.
For a scholarly discussion of the sport (my preferred discourse, of course), one can seek out any of the many longtime Jacket fans. Because of the consistency of the program, there seem to be more than a fair share, and even a University of Georgia grad like me loves a good story about Roger Kaiser or those late " 70s GT teams.
The exit for Alexander off I-75/85 is perhaps one of the most nightmarish, and that's as compared to a pretty scary bunch of interchanges in the downtown Atlanta area. As previously stated, there's a lot going on here, between the Coliseum, the northern end of Tech campus, two favorite Varsity locations, the proximity of the popular Midtown and Atlantic Station areas of town"¦
But then again, the aforementioned interstate is more or less the only way to approach. Perhaps if you already live downtown, taking surface streets will make things a bit less frantic, but parking will remain a problem. This was constructed as a school, after all; students get to class typically by walking, and so cars aren't exactly welcome in the cramped spaces.
The hallways of the interior call to mind those of a convention center "" ugly patterned carpeting, long nondescript sections "" and are pretty small, considering the crowds that can amass for ACC games. Trying to navigate these when there are lines at the concession stands is impossible.
This category is variable when the structure of a college basketball season is taken into account; after all, one could see a Savannah State in December as opposed to an ACC powerhouse in February, and while there'd be a price cut, it probably still wouldn't be worth it.
Regardless, though, you get to enjoy Alexander, which as I hope to have conveyed, is a solid if not exceptional venue for the nation's (arguably) finest collegiate basketball conference. No, the Jackets do not have the "it" factor of the Tar Heels or Terps, Deacs or Devils, but the product is enjoyable almost without exception anyway.
To put it simply: Dropping $20 for a seat in the upper regions of the lower bowl (terrific view; not too close, not too far) is close to but not quite worth it for a warm-up, pre-New Year game. Come the home stretch, you're probably purchasing way ahead of time and in a package ($130+ for four games), but if it means you get to see a showdown of real consequence, that way more than pays for itself.
In conclusion, GT basketball and most things associated are done well, but there have got to be at least two tiers above this in their ultra-competitive conference, and I mean that both in terms of play and in terms of presentation.
A combined point goes to Tech's urban campus, which maintains a semblance of beauty and college feel while also blending into the city nicely; and the mascot of Yellow Jackets, which you don't see every day.
The place is a dated, concrete nightmare. It's the ACC so the on-court action and fans make the trip worthwhile but the state of the coliseum takes away from the atmosphere.
The rater is obviously a big east fan! The food options are plenty and they are awesome!! I really am curious as to what side of the bed this rater woke up on during his visit.
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