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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
For 36 years, Benjamin Johnson Arena has played home to the Wofford Terriers basketball team. The school touts the arena as one of the most intimidating arenas in the Southern Conference, and there is some substance to that reputation. In 1997, Wofford joined the ranks of Division I basketball, and has twice qualified for the NCAA Tournament. For a school with a meager enrollment of just over 1,600, Wofford has a history of relative success in their athletic endeavors.
The year 2017, however, will be the Terriers' last in Benjamin Johnson Arena. A new 4,500-seat and 123,000 square foot venue will open in fall of 2017 to replace the BJA and signal both the end of Wofford basketball's original D-I era and the growth of an athletic program over the last two decades.
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".
The standard concessions at Benjamin Johnson Arena are pretty standard. But being connected to the food court in Wofford's Campus Life Building offers a huge variety of options.
At the concession stands on either end of the court (east and west), the highlight option is a Chick-fil-A sandwich for $5. The remainder of the menu includes pretzels ($3), hot dogs ($3), pizza ($3), nachos ($5) and a variety of snacks for $2 or less. The connected food court which is accessible from the concourse includes Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, Chick-fil-A menu items, and a variety of other sandwiches.
Drink options in the standard concession stands include Coca-Cola products, bottled water and Monster energy drinks for $2-$3. Again, more drink options are available in the Campus Life Building including a full service Starbucks.
While it almost feels like cheating, take advantage of the food court in the same building as the arena. From Starbucks to cheesesteaks, you'll be treated to a much larger menu than what you'll get at the venue concessions. If you choose to stick with the venue concessions, a Chick-fil-A sandwich is easily the most unique item on the menu.
While Wofford's Benjamin Johnson Arena may not be the most spectacular of college stadiums, its charms shouldn't be lost on the average college basketball fan.
The venue itself has no seating at either end of the court, only walls behind the baselines. Two-tiered seating on either side of the court consists of chair back lower reserved seating and bleacher upper seating that is all General Admission. The venue is small enough that without behind the basket seats every view is a good one. General Admission is more than ample for the average fan. The most unique characteristic of the venue is the signature parquet floor with the giant "W" in the middle. The arena may not be huge, but it definitely has character.
In addition to the character of the arena, there's ample amount of entertainment for the average fan. A small pep band plays fight songs as a small but rowdy student section cheers on their terriers. Boss, the Terrier mascot, works his way around the crowd giving high fives and pumping up fans young and old. Enjoyable in game promotions such as the "Cheeseburger in Paradise" promo with cheeseburgers being tossed into the crowd and stacking pizza boxes for free pizza entertain the crowd. And during the final season, ex-players have completed a countdown of home games.
While the seatback padded chairs of the lower seats may be comfortable looking, the General Admission seats offer views that are more than adequate at a more affordable rate. There's not really much of a reason for an upgrade.
Spartanburg is not exactly known as one of the most livable cities in the country, but it's not without its share of charms. Most of the places you'll want to visit are off campus and will require a short drive.
Easily the most recognizable food staple is The Beacon Drive-In. Ranked as the second largest drive-in restaurant in the United States, The Beacon offers vintage curbside service with menu items such as a chili cheeseburger buried in onion rings and multiple barbecue pork options. Featured on Food Network, The Beacon is at the top of the list of must eats in the area. Beyond that, there are a variety of restaurants around the Main Street area. One of the more highly rated options is The Farmer's Table, which offers all day breakfast and farm to table local cuisine.
The immediate area around Spartanburg is not at all full of unique attractions. But if you venture out a little further, there are some places that are definitely worth a stop. Kings Mountain State Park consists of a revolutionary war battlefield and plenty of outdoor activities and is just a short drive up I-85. More locally, Spartanburg is home to RJ Rockers Brewing Company which is one of the most well known in South Carolina. Definitely worth a stop for the craft beer lover.
Spartanburg has its fair share of places to stay, but the Spartanburg Marriott is by far the closest to campus. Literally blocks and just a very short drive away, it's the ideal spot to stay for a game.
The numbers definitely aren't there for the Terriers games, which is probably a result of the small student population. But the fans that do attend make their share of noise and stay engaged.
Wofford averages around 1,600 fans a game, which is just about the size of its entire student population on campus. This is about half the capacity of the Benjamin Johnson Arena, and the new arena will add another 1,000 seats. There's room to grow in the relatively decent sized city of Spartanburg, but that growth has yet to be seen.
For such a small crowd, the fans are very engaged in the game. The tiny student section yells, screeches and does everything they can to make the environment as hostile as possible for visitors. Alumni and locals do their part and are definitely there to pull for their local Terriers. While the fan base overall isn't going to win any national accolades, they do their best to build an intimidating atmosphere.
While it's not particularly difficult to get to the Wofford campus, there are some slight challenges in navigating the area.
The nearest airport is in Greenville, South Carolina, just 30 minutes or so away from campus. While not a major airport, it's large enough to find reasonable flights in and out. If you're driving, I-85 and I-26 pass right through the Spartanburg area. It may be a bit off of the beaten path from the main southern cities, but it's still close in proximity to Greenville and not a terrible drive from Columbia or Charlotte.
Once you arrive on campus, you'll have to look for signs and follow traffic. GPS does not do a great job getting you to the arena. Parking immediately around the entrance is reserved for season ticket holders, so you'll have a slight walk through campus from free parking lots that you'll be directed to. But it's hard to complain when parking is free.
Once you enter the arena, the layout is a bit confusing. Since you can't navigate from one side of the court to the other in the gym itself, you'll have to use the building hallways to move around. You'll feel like you're anywhere but a basketball gym as you cross from one side to the other, so you'll probably want to stay on the side you bought your seats for.
There really isn't much in terms of concourses, more just hallways leading from one side of the court to the other. Once you enter the gym itself, navigating to your seat is pretty simple as long as you get the east/west side correct. This confusion can be eliminated by just buying a General Admission seat. The smaller crowd means you're unlikely to run into any congestion or long lines, but the hallways where the concession stands are located can be a bit cramped even if the lines aren't long at all.
Tickets here aren't particularly pricey and the atmosphere has its unique characteristics, making this a decent bargain if you're in the area.
At $10 for General Admission and $12 for Reserved Seating, ticket prices are average or a bit on the low side compared to similar arenas. Throw in free parking and food prices below $5, and there are no high prices here. While you're not getting a premium experience, it's worth the price of admission.
Despite small crowds and short basketball history, Wofford does everything in its power to sell the basketball experience to visitors. Free programs are massive and contain a huge amount of information and detail on the current team. Banners fly around the arena, even if you've never heard of the players. The promotions in game keep fans engaged and drive the small but mighty student section into a frenzy. Boss, the mascot, works the crowd and excites fans on a consistent basis. And the unique parquet court gives just enough character to the venue that it becomes anything but forgettable.
Based on the attendance, school size and brief history, you really wouldn't expect much of Wofford basketball. But Wofford exceeds modest expectations across the board. That by no means makes Benjamin Johnson Arena an elite venue to visit, but the effort put in here speaks to the pride the Terriers of Wofford put into their program.
Member Review by brian on Feb 11, 2013
A number of household names in the sports world were born in 1981. Eli Manning, Troy Polamalu, Justin Morneau, Josh Hamilton, Jake Peavy, Carl Crawford, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Willis McGahee and Vince Wilfork are just a few of the names who share that birth year. It is a common thought among many that once an athlete passes the age of thirty, their career is on the decline. This, however, is not always the case.
Wofford College's Benjamin Johnson Arena also enjoyed its birth as a replacement for Andrews Field House in 1981, and any notion that this facility is on the decline would be greatly exaggerated. Though Division I basketball has only been played in the facility since 1997, the Terriers have certainly enjoyed their share of winning basketball on the parquet floor in Spartanburg. Wofford made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011, winning the Southern Conference championship in both years. Wofford's enrollment may be small (slightly greater than 1,500 students are enrolled), but their aspirations for basketball success are quite the opposite.
Member Review by ianmccor on Apr 19, 2014
A bare-bones facility that is not that good, but respectable for SoCon hoops.
Member Review by alee1227 on Nov 22, 2014
I went to my first game at Wofford, and it happened to be the 7 a.m. Tip Off Marathon game. I have to admit these scores might be high just because of that. The atmosphere was amazing. Such an unique event.
255 John B White Sr Blvd
Spartanburg, SC 29306
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Spartanburg, SC 29302
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299 N Church St
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