Penn State plays basketball in the Bryce Jordan Center, which is named after a former president of the University. The BJC, as it is known around campus, was opened in early 1996. The BJC is a multi-purpose building with no real design aspects that stick out. This is most noticeable when you look at the "luxury boxes" which are just cement pits between the lower and upper levels with no doors or glass cordoning them off from the general fans. Also, the original plans called for the ability for the BJC to double as a hockey arena, but those plans were later abandoned in a cost cutting move.
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The food and beverage at the BJC is below average for similar sized arenas and programs. For national brands you have Subway, which sells a limited menu of six-inch subs for $5 and Papa Johns, selling pizzas for $8. Other items include chicken fingers ($6 for 4 small strips), French fries ($3), hot dogs ($4) and popcorn ($2).
Sodas are Pepsi products and come in 2 different sizes, costing $4 and $5. The one nice thing about the $5 soda is you can get refills for just $2 and since the temperature in the BJC is typically in the mid 80's, the cheap refills come in handy. They also only open around 3/4 of the available concession stands even for the busiest of games, making your walk to find what you want even longer.
For a unique, local item from the food court, I recommend trying the Creamery Ice Cream, which is made on campus. The offerings at the BJC are a limited menu so if you can't find a flavor you like, then head on over to the Berkley Creamery just two campus blocks away.
The atmosphere at the BJC for a Penn State basketball game varies greatly depending upon the opponent and team success. Early season games against smaller school teams rarely will draw over four or five thousand fans. However, games against traditional powers, such as Ohio State or Michigan State can draw sellout crowds of 15,000 fans if Penn State is in contention for a post-season berth.
There are plenty of promotions to attract fringe fans and a good number of the games include halftime entertainment ranging from a mascot basketball game to the red panda acrobats, a lady who flips bowls from her feet and catches them on her head while riding a unicycle. The media timeout promotions include the traditional t-shirt toss along with a children's dunk contest on a miniature hoop, a foot long sub toss (yes, they toss foot long subs into the crowd) and various contests for the crazy dressed students.
Honestly, there is not a program in the country that offers more promotions throughout a basketball game, but sometimes it leaves you wondering if the athletic department should put more emphasis on improving the product on the court and not rely so much on the marketing department to attract fans.
State College, the neighborhood around Penn State is consistently rated as one of the best places to live in America. College Avenue separates the campus from the town, making it easy to find your way around if you want to do some exploring.
For food, I recommend The Fraser Street Deli, a small sandwich shop that is particularly known for its Paninis and Reubens. All of the sandwiches are named after former presidents and athletes or current coaches at Penn State. The dining area features a nice display of game worn jerseys from various Penn State teams. Another food option is right around the corner called Herwig's, a local restaurant that serves authentic Austrian food that was recently featured by Todd Blackledge in his "Taste of the Town" segment during football season.
For desert I prefer Chocolate Madness, which is beside Herwig's. They have a great selection of homemade chocolates with all of your favorites and a few exotic items like the Komodo dragon, which is a piece of chocolate with a fiery center that includes habanero extract. Other desert options include ndulge cupcakes and of course the Penn State Creamery.
As I mentioned in the atmosphere section, the fans are hit and miss and really depend on opponent and team success. The students are loud when they are there, but they typically only draw more than a few hundred once or twice a year. For a university that sells over 22,000 student football tickets and an overall enrollment at the University Park campus of over 43,000 students, it is very disappointing to say the least.
The alumni portion of the fans is more consistent at showing up, but there is a general lack of overall support. In talking to a number of alumni, it all seems to come down to lack of program success. For instance, the program went 10 years between its most recent 2011 NCAA tournament appearances, leading to a general feeling of apathy.
As shown when the program is having success, Penn State can draw crowds of ten to fifteen thousand in the right situation, but generally speaking, expect something more in the three to five thousand range. In fact, during some games that are known to have low ticket sales, there are curtains that block the view of the upper level seats so the BJC appears to be closer to capacity than it really is.
Parking is free at the BJC and access varies greatly depending on anticipated crowd size and if any other sporting events are using the same parking lots. During a typical game, you can arrive ten minutes before opening tip, park and be in your seat in plenty of time. However, if the crowd is exceptionally large or other events are going on in the area, it is recommended that you show up a good 45 minutes early.
For instance, during the Wisconsin game this past year, which drew a crowd of around 10,000 people, Penn State was also hosting an 18 team indoor track meet in the building adjacent to the BJC. The result was a parking nightmare that quickly filled the lots and left the parking cops nowhere to direct traffic. I can't really explain the entire debacle here in this paragraph but I can say I witnessed parking cops holding traffic in all directions for over 30 minutes because there was no place for people to park. It was the worst situation I have seen in all of my travels to various sporting events.
If you notice that traffic is heavy, I highly recommend that you park across the street from the Stadium West lot beside the OPP building on Park Avenue. It is a bit of a walk, but no one parks there and you avoid the bulk of the traffic.
I also recommend that you purchase tickets ahead of time even though Penn State has not had a sellout in years. The lines close to game time are usually quite long and take a while to navigate. However, those with flex plan tickets or will call tickets can walk right up, get their tickets and enter the game.
Tickets are $15 for general public, not too high for the average basketball program, but probably a little steep for a traditionally bottom tier Big Ten program. I feel that the price is really only worth the asking price for the games versus the traditional power teams, otherwise try looking on craigslist for someone selling tickets below face value.
There is not much, if anything, in the way of tradition or history at the BJC. There is no nice display of past players or anything in the arena, except hidden in the coaches office in the lower level, inaccessible to the general public. It certainly feels like basketball is an afterthought at Penn State and unless you are really interesting in seeing the opponent or the halftime entertainment, there is not much reason to attend a game.
It's clear when you arrive at Penn State that you are in football country. I like that the Nittany Lions have created an opportunity for the fans to be basketball fans. Similar to Michigan State, the students are center court, but are still trying to find their sustainability. Success can certainly breed that sort of fanaticism that makes a place special.
In the meantime, parking is close, free, and plentiful. I would like to see a seating upgrade under one basket where they offer stackable chairs rather than permanent seats. You get the feeling that this is a program entering its teenage years, and I look forward to seeing them mature to adulthood.
109 S Fraser St
State College, PA 16801
132 W College Ave
State College, PA 16801
134 W College Ave
State College, PA 16801
(814) 235-4055 â??
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