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Official Review by Chad Minton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
You might have to do a little searching, but tucked away just south of downtown Nashville in a very historic part of the city is the campus of Lipscomb University, home of the Bisons.
The Bisons compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference, leaving them with very little exposure outside of the local following. They may be a smaller program playing in a conference out of the spotlight, but they play their home games in the pristine Allen Arena.
It’s a fairly new arena, being open for less than 20 years. The layout is more like a square than circular, and all the seating is on the lower level. Holding just over 5,000, plenty of noise can be generated to create a solid home-court advantage. Not all schools at this level enjoy that luxury, but you could say Lipscomb does.
You will likely leave impressed with the strong local following that regularly attends games at Allen Arena to cheer on a mid-major that always seems to be competing for a conference championship.
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It has a very basic menu that's lacking creativity. There are some fan favorites that will get the job done for you if you're hungry. You can get a slice of Papa John's pizza for $4, as well as a Nathan's hot dog also at $4. Also selling for the same price are ordinary nachos and cotton candy. A typical box of popcorn is $3, and assorted candy sells for $2. For just a buck you can get snack crackers, a bag of chips or a Capri Sun drink.
The arena serves Pepsi products for $3, bottled water for $3 and Gatorade for $4. The prices are at least fair, and who doesn't like a slice of pizza from Papa John's?
There's a lot to be impressed with about attending a game at Allen Arena. The visiting fan could end up being very surprised to find out how well the game is presented, especially if it's a big matchup in-conference or a rivalry game with the Belmont Bruins, located just a couple of miles away.
The layout works great for this facility. The fans are right on top of the action with all of the seating being on one level. The concourse wraps around above the seating, allowing for plenty of space to stand and enjoy a great view. Scattered through the concourse and main lobby is memorabilia and their Athletic Hall of Fame.
The two video screens on each end of the court allow you to watch the game in that fashion, as well as other visual effects. Smaller scoreboards are in the corners to keep up with the game stats.
Some of the smaller programs struggle to keep the enthusiasm up with lower fan turnouts than the bigger programs have. That's usually not the case here. They do a lot of different things, like fan contests and impressive maneuvers from the cheer squads to keep fans engaged. The band also does an awesome job keeping the intensity up and filling the arena up with that distinct sound of college basketball.
They also regularly do promotions to win stuff if certain things in the game happen. For instance, if the Bisons score 45 points, then every fan gets a free cup of queso at Moe's Southwest Grill. A larger side of queso is offered if the Bisons score 75 points. Creative things such as this keep the fans coming back.
This part of Nashville is historic and simply beautiful. The area surrounding Lipscomb University is referred to as 12 South, with 12th Avenue South being a popular strip with several trendy restaurants and bars. You won't have trouble finding a pre-game destination for dinner or snacks, but you might have serious trouble deciding which one.
My top recommendation for pre-game festivities near the arena is getting some awesome barbeque at Martin's Bar-Be-Que Joint. It's located just a mile from the arena and has an impressive menu consisting of brisket, pork, burgers and catfish tacos. If you like drinking local brews, then Martin's has a ton to choose from.
If you're wanting a more historical and infamous place, the Bluebird Café is practically within shouting distance of the campus. This historic listening room is world-renowned and plenty of music royalty has played here. Make your reservations accordingly if you want to step foot in here.
I also highly suggest you make a few stops in the Green Hills area. Check out the Greenhouse Bar or the Corner Pub.
This area near Lipscomb is really blossoming and you'll have no issues finding something to do before and after the game. You're also just a few minutes away from all of Nashville's nightlife and sightseeing.
There is a clear local following for the Bisons and they come in full force of all ages. Although it's rare that Allen Arena sells out, the fans attend regularly with passion and loyalty.
Perhaps what is most impressive is the strong student support. Even major conference programs can struggle with getting the student body on board for basketball games, but that's not the case here. They are organized and make plenty of noise to affect the game. You may even spot some students painted up in purple and doing chants.
However, there needs to be more of these passionate fans. Unless they're playing Belmont, the arena won't be much more than half full. Still, a huge shoutout to the fans that do come and stay very involved in the game.
Unfortunately, this isn't the highlight of attending a game here. A lot of disorganization when it comes to parking and even finding the arena. It doesn't really stand out on its own, and signage is basically non-existent.
Good luck finding parking. I suggest parking in the west parking garage, but again, it's difficult to find if you're not familiar with the campus. Don't be shy at asking someone for help because you'll probably need it. This garage is your best bet as virtually all of the outside lots will be full from students that aren't even attending the game.
Navigating your way to the campus itself might also be a little stressful. It's tucked away in some residential areas that can make getting turned around very easy. Your most direct route is hopping on I-440 and going south from there-GPS will be your best friend.
You can take in some excellent college basketball and get some grub at the arena for less than $20. That's hard to accomplish in today's world. Parking will likely be free and general admission tickets are usually about $10. Reserved seating will be slightly more, but not much. With affordable concession pricing, you really can't argue with what you're getting in return.
If you're just a simple fan of the game, then making a stop here is well worth your money. The Bisons are usually competing for conference championships and a NCAA tournament berth.
I'm handing out an extra for the surprisingly strong student support. It was unexpected considering it's a smaller program that's not necessarily known for their athletic prowess. You can count on these students to be rowdy and passionate.
Another extra goes out for the creative halftime entertainment of letting the youngsters play a pickup basketball game. They had referees and the crowd cheered the kids on in unison.
One last extra point goes to how quickly the neighborhood around Lipscomb is growing without sacrificing the beauty of the campus. This is a fun area to hangout in Nashville now, adding to the overall experience of going to a game.
If Lipscomb can keep climbing the ladder of respected mid-majors, I could see Allen Arena becoming an iconic place to see a game. They have the facility, they have the surrounding area, and they have the solid foundation of local fan support. It's widely overlooked, even in Nashville, but that might slowly be changing as more people take in a game here for the first time.
Member Review by ChadMinton on Jan 25, 2013
Nestled just outside of downtown Nashville lies the gorgeous campus of Lipscomb University and their impressive basketball venue, Allen Arena.
Opened in 2001, Allen Arena is a great facility that holds a capacity of just over 5,000. It’s very easy to understand how loud Allen Arena could get with the way the building is constructed.
As a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, Lipscomb rarely gets the big schools to play in their gym. However, they have a great home-court advantage at their disposal if they can just garner the fan support.
Member Review by MattMetsker on Jul 25, 2013
If you attend a game at this arena, your eyes will probably be throbbing by the end of it due to combination of the Lipscomb Bison's terrible play and the fact that this arena is darker than a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at night! In all honesty, trying to watch the action (or lack thereof) at the end of the court puts more strain on one's eyes than reading by candlelight during a power outage! In addition, the Lipscomb student section does not get into the game at all because, in addition to their team being consistent losers for the past few seasons, they are more concerned about making their 10 P.M. curfew. I'll give the Lipscomb promotions staff a little credit for putting together an intense highlight reel for the player introductions, but when their team plays so poorly, the hoopla seems a little ridiculous. There is a bounce house in the concourse, but there are no noteworthy in-game promotions that provide fans over the age of 8 with a source of amusement to make up for the fact that the watching the Lipscomb Bisons play basketball can be downright torturous. The best thing that can be said about the area in which Allen Arena is located is that it is only two miles away from the Curb Event Center, the true crown jewel of Nashville college basketball arenas. There really isn't anything exciting in the immediate area of the Lipscomb campus. The only thing that can make a game at Allen Arena worth going to is if Belmont is playing against Lipscomb in the annual Battle of the Boulevard because the Bruins actually know how to play basketball well!
410 4th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37212
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