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Official Review by Nathan Deal, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
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.
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".
I might say this in every review I do, but in reality, it's stadium food. It's not bad, but it's not really great either. It's enough to fill you up, but that's about it.
The stadium itself is an eyesore. It is a very old stadium, so this isn't criticism. But it's easy to see from the very first glimpse of the coliseum why a new arena is going to be built.
The fans also were very fair-weather. By tipoff, the arena was half fans, half seats. It eventually filled up slightly more, but not much. The students were into the game, but the student section was not full and the rest of the crowd left much to be desired, both in attendance and enthusiasm.
I can say this about Oxford, Mississippi: it is a very good college town. The campus is beautiful, especially at the area surrounding the Grove. The only down-side to campus, if it could even be considered a down-side, is that the speed limit all over campus is 18 mph. This is actually a unique characteristic of Ole Miss, as the 18 mph speed limit is based off the number worn by football legend Archie Manning.
Oxford is also excellent away from campus. The downtown area is designed like the French Quarter in New Orleans. There are many great places to eat in this area and all over town, like Proud Larry's, Pizza Den, Boure, Oby's, Rib Cage and more.
As I mentioned before, the arena was half-empty (or half-full, if you're an optimist) at tip-off. Even worse, half of the fans in attendance didn't really get into the game until there was about five minutes left. This was a big disappointment considering the fact that, even when the football team's down, Vaught-Hemingway is usually full on Fall Saturdays.
Getting to Oxford is pretty easy. It's just off the main highway. Parking is easy, too, as there is plenty of room to park your car outside the arena. You may want to arrive about 30 minutes or so before tip-off to guarantee yourself a spot, just in case.
You get what you pay for with this arena. You pay an average ticket price to see an average college basketball game with nothing really extraordinary going on. The history of the arena is something to add to the experience, I suppose.
I'm just going to prepare you - the bathrooms in the venue are strange. When you open the bathroom door, there is a staircase going down into the bathroom. It surely caught me by surprise.
This arena is very dim. The lighting is not very good. If you're sitting in the top row of the stadium, your eyes will have to adjust to the darkness.
Yes, the stadium could be in better shape, but it's an elderly stadium full of nostalgia and history. Despite the fact that it's in bad shape, the old girl is in her final season. If you're an Ole Miss fan who hasn't seen a game in this arena yet, I recommend visiting before it's too late.
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