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Official Review by John Luke McCord, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The doors of Tad Smith Coliseum, also commonly called the “Tad Pad,” opened on the 21st of February all the way back in 1966. In the building’s 47+ years of existence it has been home to various concerts, but mostly the home of Ole Miss Rebel and Lady Rebel basketball. With plans in place to break ground on a new arena in the coming months, Tad Smith has seen better days.
The outdated arena features an appearance that resembles a spaceship (in fact, the comparison has been made by the school newspaper), a leaky roof, and very little luxury seating. While in the past the court has been very colorful, even having red and blue hardwood inside the three point lines for a few seasons, the court is now simply outlined in navy with navy markings on the court with, “Ole Miss” in red, cursive print in the center.
Ground was broken on the arena in 1964 and when it originally opened listed a capacity of 8,500. However, today Tad Smith holds just over 9,000. The largest crowd ever at Tad Smith is 9,452, coming in 2007 in a win over conference rival Alabama. The arena is named for C.M. “Tad” Smith, who was a three-sport letterman, coach and athletics director at Ole Miss.
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".
Concessions in the arena are standard. You can get your pick of hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, sodas, candy and just about any sort of arena food that you might want. While TSC does not feature any concession food that is unique, they do serve barbecue nachos that will make your mouth water. Prices, like many venues, can get a little on the expensive side, but are in line with other athletic venues at the University of Mississippi. BBQ nachos are near the top of the price range at $8, while a bottle of water or candy bar is among the cheapest of food or beverage items inside the arena at $2. The arena serves Coca-Cola products.
The concourse stretches around the arena in a full circle and there is a concession stand outside of each section. There are plenty of concessions and while the concession area can get crowded, it appears to operate in the most efficient manner possible given the size of the arena.
Rebel gear is sold all around the concourse and you can usually find an apparel vendor close to a concession stand or entrance to your section. There is a good number of vendors and no one who wants to purchase Rebel gear should be left in the dark. However, the selection is not very large amongst any of the vendors you will find.
Atmosphere is the area where Tad Smith struggles the most. The arena is not very spacious and seats are very close together. Mix that with the poor lighting and plain, dark navy blue seats that fill the arena and you have a bad start. However, the cube-shaped scoreboard that hangs directly over center court features a bright LED screen that gives the arena some life. The video entertainment leading up to and during the game provides the fans with substantial entertainment, and while Rebel fans would disagree with me on a night they win, the scoreboard is likely the best part of the game. Videos feature players, games, and even sometimes the crowd, and are entertaining throughout your time in the arena.
When the arena is packed its size causes it to become very loud and difficult to play in. At these times all of the arena's flaws are forgotten and the atmosphere takes a step up. However, the arena is not often packed. In fact, smaller crowds, especially at Lady Rebel basketball games, have become the norm over the last few seasons for TSC.
The student section has been known to be small as Ole Miss is not exactly a basketball school, but certain rivalries break that mold as the section is guaranteed to be packed once or twice a season for select games. Another enhancement to the arena's atmosphere in recent years is the promotional giveaways. Star player's t-shirt jerseys, t-shirts to make the crowd match, and even replica 2013 SEC Tournament championship rings have been given away to fans for free in recent seasons.
As with most things on the campus of Ole Miss, Tad Smith Coliseum is located just minutes from the picturesque Oxford Square. Restaurants, shops and more are just minutes away. As far as proximal landmarks on campus, you can see Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and fraternity row from inside TSC.
While the arena is on campus, it still just takes a few minutes to walk from the famous Oxford Square. Numerous bars, restaurants, and hangouts are just down the road from the stadium such as The Library, Bouré, The Rib Cage, and of course a chain that originated in Oxford, Abner's.
While Ole Miss Rebel basketball has no real tradition that would draw large attendance numbers, Lady Rebel basketball has had a fair amount of success on a national level, either way crowds are not consistently big at TSC. Conference rivals, big name out of conference opponents, and the occasional Rebel winning streaks seem to be the only thing that draw the fans to the seats.
With that being said, when Tad Smith is packed, it is a very lively venue. Also, with noise and congestion, TSC becomes a very hostile environment and extremely difficult on any visiting opponent as the seats are very close to the court and the student section is adjacent to the opposing team's bench.
The concourse inside Tad Smith is very easy to navigate and restrooms and concessions are very clearly marked. It is easy and simple to locate and reach your seats once inside the arena. The concourse just makes a circle around the seating area and the court and is connected and navigable all the way around.
Parking is easy and simple around TSC. There is ample parking around the arena for most home games. This is not the case with football on the campus of Ole Miss, but with basketball things usually fit comfortably in the precious few parking spots available on the campus.
Getting through the campus to arrive at the arena is the only area you might find to be a bit of a challenge to navigate as students are usually out and about during the time of a basketball game.
You will be watching a Southeastern conference team play and it is always nice to get out and take the family to a sporting event, or attend with friends or by yourself. Tad Smith is not a basketball location I would encourage you to travel from far and wide to pursue. However, for the local fan and the fan of Ole Miss, Tad Smith provides for an entertaining time to see their Rebels play. Tad Smith is on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to basketball venues in their conference and at the top Division I level, hence the reason they will be breaking ground on a new arena beginning in the spring of 2014.
While not brilliant, there is a certain promotion that the marketing staff at Ole Miss has come up with that they do at basketball games that I thought I would single out. It is announced over the PA system the ticket numbers of two fans on the very top row of the arena and they are relocated to two recliners court side. They go from the worst seats in the house to the two best seats not on either team's bench. It is announced just after tip off of the game. Pretty neat.
Member Review by Nathan on Apr 21, 2012
Ole Miss Rebels basketball is full of history, even if it has lived under the shadow of the football team in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the entirety of its existence.
Tad Smith Coliseum, affectionately referred to as “The Tad Pad” by Ole Miss supporters, is the oldest coliseum in the SEC, opening in 1965. That, along with the fact that most SEC teams play in newer, more-advanced arenas, led to the University’s decision to begin work on a brand-new, high dollar arena. If you want to visit the Tad Pad, this is your last chance. The arena shuts its doors forever following the 2012-2013 season.
211 S Lamar Blvd
Oxford, MS 38655
311 S Lamar Blvd
Oxford, MS 38655
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