Delaware basketball was thriving in the 1990s. The school made four NCAA tournament appearances, had a stellar coach in Mike Brey and a newly built arena. Through the decade, the Bob was constantly packed and rocking as the Hens won a fair share of games. Fast-forward to the 2012-2013 season and it has been a struggle since Delaware moved to the CAA eleven years ago. Though the team has improved recently, the crowds and atmosphere have dropped off. One constant is the arena as the Bob Carpenter Center reaches its 20th anniversary. The place still shines and from the outside to the concourses to the interior, this arena overall is a decent facility.
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 concourse circles the top of the seating bowl and though there aren't too many food stands, they are easily accessible to make a quick grab. As soon as you walk up the stairs to the arena, the concession highlight is visible to the right. The Pit BBQ stand is enough to make for a quality dinner. Barbecued pork, beef or chicken with two sides for $9.50 is a decent amount of good food. There are plenty of side dish options too, like macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes, broccoli, baked beans, etc. A side dish platter is available as well for $6.25. If you eat at the game, definitely make this your choice.
Other options around the arena are standard in appeal. Hot dogs ($2.75), Italian sausage ($5.50) and meatball sandwiches ($5.25) accompany snack items like popcorn, pretzels and nachos. Despite the very good BBQ stand, I had to knock a point off for the less than stellar pizza that was offered. There are better choices available. Pepsi was the vendor of choice at the Bob and being on-campus, there is no alcohol offered.
For dessert, make sure to check out the Udairy Creamery. This is as local as it gets as the new creamery (started in 2008) produces ice cream from the cows at the school's College of Agriculture. There is some very good stuff here, with several flavors, and there is something comforting about enjoying a product that was made fresh just down the road.
The Bob is a small, intimate arena with a rather standard setup. Each side has a section of seating that goes up about 20-30 rows, while the corners of the arena are left open. Most of the sideline seats consist of blue chair backs; however, there is one side where bleachers remain on the end. They are plastic and not as comfortable, but for most games you should be able to slide over a section to an open blue middle seat. Bleachers set in concrete can be found behind the baskets, with one end reserved for students and the other for the pep band. They block off the rest of the seats near the pep band with signage as the team hasn't come close to using those seats lately. Everything inside is well-lit and the facility has a very clean appearance. There is one luxury area, and it is kind of hidden above the walkway that surrounds the top of the arena. The enclosed Bob Carpenter Club has a view of both the basketball arena and the football stadium on the other side.
Above center court is a scoreboard that fits the facility well. Despite the lack of video, the scoreboard and accompanying corner stat boards work just fine. With the quality and quantity of the UD Marching Band seen at football games, I was expecting a decent pep band, and they did not disappoint. The band helped with some energy and played good numbers throughout the game. Along with the cheerleaders, Delaware also has a dance team.
Newark is a fine college town, with the heart of the city around East Main Street, where the University meets up with downtown. There's a great vibe in this section as both students and locals enjoy the center of town. When visiting, make sure to say New-ark, as opposed to New Jersey's version, known as New-erk. There are several restaurants, taverns and bars to check out on East Main Street, including the Iron Hill Brewery and Deer Park Tavern. Both have some history and are decent places for a pre or post game stop. Finer restaurants are also around for those looking to have a more fancy sit-down meal.
Downtown is not exactly near the Bob Carpenter Center, as the facility sits within an athletic complex a few miles south of campus. The vibrant downtown quickly dwindles to a more open area with the arena close by to a few hotels and a TGI Friday's.
Over the last few years, the women's team has far outdrawn the men as the Lady Blue Hens have had some national success with local product Elena Delle Donne. On the men's side, crowds typically are at half or less than half of the arena's capacity. I attended Delaware's home opener and though it was a Tuesday night, there were only a thousand or so in the stands (actual paid attendance was 1,789). As CAA play gets going, crowds increase a bit, but they haven't come close to selling out even against the top tier of the league. Delaware annually ranks in the middle of the conference attendance standings.
As for the crowd itself, there was nothing special as the fans did what you would expect during the game. Students were disappointing as out of the nearly hundred that showed up, only two of them stood, chanted and cheered through the game. The rest were spread out through the end bleachers, sitting and watching. There was not much of an energetic student section. Delaware is and will always be a football school; however, I'd like to see what happens at the Bob if the Hens become more competitive.
I had travel troubles getting to the game I attended, but it was due to an accident that blocked traffic, frustratingly delaying my arrival by over an hour. Putting that aside, the Bob is very easy and convenient to get to. Located just off of Exit 1 on I-95, the Bob is just a few miles down South College Ave (Rt. 896 North). The athletic complex is on the right and there is plenty of free parking within the complex near and to the southwest of the arena. Inside, there is sufficient room to enter and walk around the concourses. The bathrooms were small, but enough for the crowd on hand.
Overall, prices are decent and it starts with free parking. Though there are some tolls on I-95 to deal with, it's nice not to have to take out your wallet when entering the parking lot. Inside, the program was only $1 and concessions were reasonable. Tickets ranged between $8 and $15, with the bleacher seats being the cheapest.
The Bob Carpenter Center makes a great first impression with the bright and roomy opening atrium. Before taking the stairs up to the arena, check out this space that includes the UD Athletics Hall of Fame and the athletics memorabilia in the display cases. For some reason, access is limited to the Hall of Fame, so this policy will hopefully change down the road. Otherwise, the display cases are interesting, especially seeing the NCAA championships that the football team has won.
Another point is awarded for what seems like a very small touch, but is in fact quite thoughtful and useful. Some sections of the concourse feature several large, rounded tables at which you can eat. This is overlooked in many small or mid-sized arenas, but having a spot to sprawl out and eat is much appreciated.
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