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Official Review by Joe Rogers, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Originally constructed in 1973 as an unaccompanied gymnasium and christened the Kirby Field House after a prominent Lafayette family, this small college gem has undergone two major renovations since, transforming the now Allan P. Kirby Sports Center into arguably one of the finest athletic complexes of any college or university of its size in the United States.
The first renovation, a $35 million project dedicated in 2000 saw the addition of an extraordinary atrium overlooking Fisher Field, the Leopard’s football field. This remarkable facility also boasts a 110,000 square-foot area dedicated to the college’s intramural and recreational programs including three 50-by-84 foot courts for basketball and other sports, an elevated 1/10-mile jogging track and six courts reserved for racquet sports.
There is also a spacious 6,600-square-foot fitness center and accompanying weight room which includes a full strength-training circuit, sizable free-weight area, more than 30 cardiovascular machines, a 35-foot climbing wall, an aerobics area and several offices. The more recent renovation which took place prior to the 2013-14 season at a cost of $2.5 million truly placed it in the upper echelon of small-college basketball venues as new seating was installed (1,462 chairback seats and 1,188 bleacher seats), a large four-sided video scoreboard was hung high above mid-court and an LED scorer's table was placed on the north side of the arena between the player’s benches and an entirely new paint scheme put the finishing touches on this masterpiece.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
As with most small venues, the concessions are usually limited as is the case here. Although the menu is quite modest, the prices are reflective of this and very easy on the wallet. The diminutive menu consists of hot dogs ($2), soft pretzels ($2, or 3 for $5), Cuban pork tacos ($5), chips ($1), candy ($1) and beverages ($3). The concession area located behind the bleachers on the west end is quite roomy though and very accommodating with plenty of high-top tables and comfortable chairs for your enjoyment during a break in the action.
Outside of the Kirby Center with torrential rains pounding the streets at a record setting level and on the inside, a mid-week match-up of teams that were occupying spots at completely different ends of the Patriot League's standings, one would assume that there would be little to no excitement in this contest as the intimate arena would be... a...let's just say intimate.
I was already prepared to take these factors into consideration prior to the tip. Not so fast.
A Lafayette fan base, although a little smaller in numbers than last season's when it witnessed their Leopards capture a fourth league championship and play the role, albeit a short-lived one, of Cinderella in a dance with top-seeded Villanova in the NCAA tournament had every reason to pack this season in a few weeks ago and not venture out into the horrendous weather conditions; but they did just that.
They showed up and energized the home team to a near upset of the Bucknell Bison, eventually losing in double-overtime 86-83. The action on the floor was non-stop even during timeouts with the Leopard's Dance Team performing for the crowd. There was a free-throw shooting contest that took place with two students in the first-half and a young co-ed missed the opportunity to leave the Kirby Center with an extra $1,000 as her three attempts from half-court fell way off the mark.
Lafayette is located in Easton, Pennsylvania with the school just a 5-minute commute to downtown and Northampton Street where there are several options for a cold beverage and a hot meal prior to, or following the game.
Two Rivers Brewing Company, located in the 500 block, has a great selection of craft beers brewed on the premises. Choose the Colonel Left Eye IPA (6.8%) named after Lafayette College grad Colonel Charles Wikoff who lost his life leading the charge up San Juan Hill and pair it with the Peanut Butter Bacon Cheeseburger. Porter's Pub, located on the 700 block is another option, a quaint corner spot with a vast selection of beers. Join the Porter's Mug Club and begin the task of drinking 60 different beers from an established list and receive your mug.
I only wish that I could have been there last March when the Leopards defeated American University to win the Patriot League Championship and advance to the NCAA Tournament or for a game with their rival Lehigh. At the game of this review, the fans were a little scarcer than last season, but nonetheless energized. With a game that was back-and-forth down the stretch and eventually into overtime, the crowd repeatedly voiced their displeasure to the officiating crew when a call went against the home team.
The college is easily accessible off Interstate 78 at exit 75 and parking is free outside of the Kirby Center, so it does not get any better than that.
With the comforts and intimacy following the newest renovations, the quality of play in the Patriot League which is getting better with each passing season and the fact that they manage to keep ticket prices well below average awards you a high ROI. Ticket prices are as follows:
•Adult - $7
•Senior (65 and older) - $5
•Children (3-13) -$5
•Courtside Seating (if available) -$20
Lafayette does a tremendous job of incorporating the "new" with the "old' as they showcase a completely modernized lobby, bold with the maroon and white school colors and logo and blend it superbly with athletic trophy cases and a Hall of Fame exhibit honoring its past in the vintage hues of its history all under bright lights that make it a great gathering area. The athletic staff at Lafayette is absolutely amazing in their friendliness and eagerness to assist and I can honestly say that I look forward to my return to the Kirby Center.
Member Review by collegiatestdms
The Allan P. Kirby Sports Center was originally built in 1973 as a standalone Field House but has grown into a gigantic 110,000 square foot sports center with intramural and recreational sports facilities. The major upgrade occurred in 2000 and cost $35 million with the upgrades to the Field House portion costing $2.5 million. Thankfully they left the facility as a great, intimate place to watch a basketball game.
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