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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
What exactly is the McMaster Way? According to the markings inside the David Braley Athletic Centre, the McMaster Way is about leadership, innovation, commitment, integrity and responsibility. Outsiders would probably say that the McMaster Way is all about success. The McMaster Marauders have a number of successful athletic programs as a part of the university located in Hamilton, Ontario, and one of the most preeminent is the basketball program. McMaster has seen a great deal of success on the basketball court winning Wilson Cups as OUA (Ontario University Athletics) champions in 1970, 1972, 1987, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2006. The Marauders have yet to bring home the USports National Championship as the best team in all of Canadian university basketball, but they have made a number of appearances in the Final 8 tournament.
History for the Marauders runs deep as they are a charter member of what was then the CIAU, the first formal organization for Canadian interuniversity athletics. In 1904 McMaster helped found the CIAU, which would eventually become USports as of 2016. With over 25,000 students, McMaster is a decent sized university which has done well with student support for their athletic teams.
The home for Marauders basketball is in the Burridge Gymnasium in the Ivor Wynne Centre. The gymnasium is named after Arthur Burridge, the first Athletics Director of the Marauders. Like the former home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Ivor Wynne Centre is named after a McMaster athletic alum who would go on to succeed Arthur Burridge as Athletic Director at McMaster, and further build the athletic program to be one of the best in the country. The lineage of athletic directors continues to current AD, and former General Manager of the Toronto Raptors, Glen Grunwald. The McMaster Way continues to be all about putting winning teams on the court which is worth checking out in Hamilton.
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".
Concession options in the Ivor Wynne Centre are pretty limited. Candy, chocolate bars, chips, cotton candy, caramel corn, nachos, popcorn ($2.00), and hot dogs ($4.00) essentially make up the entirety of the menu. The concessions are found on a portable table on the south concourse of the Ivor Wynne Centre gymnasium. Soda is also available ($1.50) in plastic bottles. If these options are really not working for you, an alternate consideration may be the Tim Hortons and Booster Juice, which can be found in the attached David Braley Athletics Centre.
The Burridge Gymnasium is a solid OUA venue for basketball that just lacks that something more to make it really elite in the conference. The way to get to the Ivor Wynne Centre is essentially through the David Braley Athletics Centre. Named after former Canadian Senator, McMaster Alum and former owner of multiple CFL teams, the Braley Centre is the newest member of the McMaster athletics facility family. The Braley Centre is definitely worth walking through. On the way to the Ivor Wynne Centre and Ron Joyce Stadium, the Braley Centre is the place where all athletic teams are honoured. The McMaster Athletics Hall of Fame can be found here which members include Arthur Burridge, Ivor Wynne, David Braley and legendary hockey icon Syl Apps among others. Recent championship banners and murals for championship teams are found in the halls of the Braley Centre on the way to the Ivor Wynne Centre.
The Ivor Wynne Centre is a little more non-descript. Attached to the north of the Ivor Wynne Centre is Burridge Gymnasium. Open windows adjoining the Ivor Wynne Centre to the Burridge Gymnasium gives the gym a more open feeling and gives basketball the opportunity to catch the eye of those passing by. Ticketing, merchandise and concession tables are found in the Ivor Wynne Centre also. A dedication plaque greets fans as they enter the gym. The basketball court in the Burridge Gymnasium is in a north-south configuration and fans that want the perfect picture with the centre court logo need to ensure they are sitting on the east side of the court. Twin east and west bleachers are where fans will find themselves sitting on contoured, plastic benches. Bleachers are divided into upper and lower sections, which is fairly common. The centre court sections on both the east and west grandstands feature full, plastic stadium seats, which are more comfortable than the benches. The east side of the court also houses the press boxes above the seating area. The vaulted ceilings of the Burridge Gymnasium create a feeling of a venue that is much larger than it really is. The south side of the gym has a large scoreboard which includes player stats for those on the courts, which is standard in this league. There are also small, simple scoreboards on the east and west side of the gym.
The game day production at a Marauders game is about what you would expect for a team in this conference. Most of the production is student run. In one of the south windows, fans can find DJ Jukebox, who provides music and sound effects for the game, including the eagle screech every time Mac scores a basket. What the Burridge Gymnasium is lacking is a real sense of history. Built in the sixties, the venue has held up well and does not look its age, but inside the gym there is a number of permanent advertisements visible, but not one banner for one of the seven Wilson Cups that the Marauders have won. The Marauders history is over 100 years strong and there is not much for fans to see or experience in that sense.
McMaster is located in the Cootes Paradise neighbourhood of Central Hamilton, west of downtown. There are a couple of restaurant options in the immediate walking distance from Ron Joyce Stadium, but for the most part, you are going to have to hop in your car and head elsewhere. On campus you will find the TwelvEighty Bar & Grill which is owned and run by the McMaster Student Union. If you head just east of the university, to the Westdale neighbourhood, you will find a couple of interesting spots. Along King St W, you may want to try Basilique, The Snooty Fox or Grapes & Hops.
If you are looking for other entertainment options in Hamilton, you will have to head closer to downtown. The Lincoln Alexander Centre and Hamilton Place offer a variety of concerts and shows. For something more family oriented, head just out of town to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, near the Hamilton Airport, just south of the city. There are also other sporting options available. McMaster fields a number of other athletic teams, including a strong football program that plays at Les Prince Field at Ron Joyce Stadium. CFL football is king in Hamilton, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats play east of downtown at Tim Hortons Field. You can also catch some OHL junior hockey at the FirstOntario Centre, home of the Hamilton Bulldogs.
If you are looking for a place to stay in the Hammer, then the Visitors Inn or Admiral Inn are options that are close to the McMaster campus.
It is very difficult to assess fans in USports basketball as many teams do not do a great job reporting attendance numbers for games. That being said, all games in the conference draw fans in the hundreds rather than the thousands. McMaster has decent support from the students and community as compared to other programs in Ontario. McMaster averages between 200 and 350 per game. The fans in attendance are supportive of the Marauders but not over the top excitable or vocal.
Getting in and around Burridge Gymnasium is not too difficult. McMaster is located west of highway 403 and north of Main St W. It is close to the highway for those who are coming out of town. The best way to get into Burridge Gymnasium is through the David Braley Athletic Centre. From there street-like signs will lead to the Ivor Wynne Stadium and Burridge Gymnasium.
If you are looking for public transit to the stadium, HSR buses travel right into the campus at McMaster. Check out the HSR website for maps, fares and schedules.
There are a number of surface lots on campus that fans may park. There is a cost and most lots require a ticket exit. However, the price is not way over the top and parking can be paid for at the ticketing desk for a reduced price of $3.
Getting around the Ivor Wynne Centre is no problem as there is plenty of room for the number of fans in attendance. Washroom facilities are also adequate.
Like most USports experiences, McMaster Marauders basketball does not require a large investment and offers a pretty solid return. Marauders tickets run $10 for adults with McMaster students getting in free and non-McMaster students costing only $5. Parking will run you $3 if you pay inside the Ivor Wynne Centre and concession prices are not terrible. OUA basketball is exciting and much better than you may expect.
An extra mark for the strong teams that the Marauders have put on the court over the last 30 years.
An extra mark for naming the athletic facilities after important McMaster athletic figures like Arthur Burridge and Ivor Wynne.
The McMaster Way has brought great success to the Marauders on the court. The Burridge Gym is a solid spot to catch some university basketball. If you are in Hamilton, take some time and check out the McMaster Marauders and you won't be disappointed.
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