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Official Review by Josh Oakes, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Tucked away in the gently rolling hills of southwest Virginia is the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, more commonly known as Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ basketball teams have called Cassell Coliseum home since 1962, but have only been a member of the ACC since 1 July 2004. Construction for Cassell Coliseum began in 1961; it first saw game action on 3 January 1962 when Tech beat Alabama 91-67, and was completed in December of 1964.
The portals open up in the middle of each section, as opposed to either end, like most stadiums. Even-numbered seats are on the right and odd-numbered seats are on the left. One more thing to note is that the sections are not in numerical order. Instead, the even numbered sections (2,4,6, etc.) are on one side, and the odd sections (1,3,5, and so on) are on the other.
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".
For such a small arena, there is a surprising variety of food available. Behind sections 4-14 is the standard fare, consisting of hot dogs, popcorn, soft pretzels, and the like. The west concourse also features a few Italian shaved ice stands. The stands behind sections 3-13 have the same standard fare, with the addition of pizza from PK's Bar & Grille. In place of the shaved ice, there is a milkshake stand that is run by the Virginia Tech Dairy Club and is definitely worth checking out. The north concourse, behind section 18, features a stand with fruit, cheese steaks, and a myriad of baked goods including, but not limited to, a variety of homemade pies and massive cinnamon rolls.
Nearly all the stands have Pepsi products for $4, but most fans take the $5 upgrade and get a large, plastic VT basketball cup for just $1 more.
The age, size, and architecture of Cassell Coliseum all add to the intimate feel of the arena. There is only one seating level, so no matter where you sit, you will be right on top of the action, and instead of having the scoreboard above center court, there is a large video board above the stands at either end of the court. Another unique feature is the wooden support beams that hold up the ceiling. All the seats are wooden, and if they seem somewhat narrow, it's because they were designed to be more narrow than the average stadium seat in order to fit more of them in the seating bowl.
The student section (sections 1-5) is almost always full and rowdy, the band shows up well before the game and stays well after the final buzzer, and the cheerleaders do a decent job of keeping the crowd's attention. Virginia Tech hasn't had much success on the court of late -- their last NCAA Tournament appearance being 1996 -- and the overall intensity of the crowd has suffered because of this. The place does rock out during matches against Duke and in-state rival Virginia, but that's about it. Even for a conference matchup against an opponent in the top 10 in the nation, don't expect to see much more than 7,000 total fans.
Virginia Tech is located in Blacksburg, Virginia. The town is the college and the college is the town. The surrounding area amounts to gently rolling hills and farm fields, which does make for some nice scenery. The campus itself is beautiful. Every building incorporates the use of Hokie stone in some manner. Hokie stone, for those of you who don't know, is limestone mined from one of Virginia Tech's quarries. The neo-gothic architecture is more reminiscent of a medieval town somewhere in France or Italy than a polytechnic institute and state university in southwest Virginia. At the center of the campus is the drill field; a large, oval field lined with castle-like structures on both sides and the War Memorial Monument and Chapel at the far end. The monument and chapel are a tribute to all the students and faculty of Virginia Tech who have died defending the nation. Just down the road from the drill field is a quaint park called Solitude. It consists of a couple ponds, a stream and a trail or two.
Less than a mile from the Cassell is College Ave. and N. Main St. where you can find everything from Jimmy John's and Moe's to Hokie House and Boudreaux's. Hokie House is a local bar and burger joint, and Boudreaux's serves up a sizzling selection of Cajun classics. If you're on a budget, as most college students are, look no further than Mike's Grille. I was able to purchase a giant cheeseburger and large side of onion rings for under $10. The incredibly friendly service here is an added bonus. Just up from Mike's is the always popular PK's Bar & Grille, where you will find a wide assortment of drinks, plenty of high-definition TVs and some pretty good pizza, to boot.
With their lack of success on the court in recent years, you really do have to tip your cap to the fans that do show up. They are friendly and will strike up a conversation with just about anyone. Inevitably, they will steer the conversation away from the hardwood to the gridiron, where most of their hearts lie. This is not to say that they don't care about basketball, but most of them would much rather talk about football, and you can't really blame them. This being said, the student section is almost always full and rocking. Outside sections 1-5, you will see various students in colorful costumes of maroon and orange welcoming their fellow students and handing out various bits of Tech gear.
Getting to the stadium is easy enough, as it is located right off 460. However, parking can be a bit of a mess. Passes are required until 5 pm in most lots on campus, and until 8 pm in the spots and lots around the drill field. Passes are free and can be picked up at the visitors center on the opposite side of campus from Cassell Coliseum. Even if you arrive after 5 pm, I would still advise going to the visitors center. Not only do they have a pretty cool display detailing the school's history, but the attendants will also give you a map of the campus and mark out where and when you can and cannot park.
Gates open one-and-one-half hours before tip off, and lines are practically non-existent, due to the fact that one can enter all but one side of the stadium. Once inside, you will find plenty of restrooms and water fountains around the concourse.
Several of the lots immediately surrounding the coliseum require a special basketball parking pass, so your best bet is to park behind the south end of Lane Stadium. Postgame traffic is usually manageable.
A beautiful campus, good food during the game and after, and friendly fans make Cassell Coliseum a fun place to see a game. Hokie basketball tickets are also some of the cheapest via re-sale marketplace in the country. I was able to purchase a ticket to see eighth-ranked Notre Dame for only $4. Even tickets for the marquee matchups against UVA and Duke can be purchased for $25 from the team's website.
Game programs are free and include rosters, fun facts, and a player bio or two. This place sells pie! Not cheap, store-bought pie, but legitimate, homemade with fresh, local ingredients pie! Finally, there are no obstructed view/limited view seats.
Member Review by bullock0404 on Mar 23, 2013
Named the ‘Best College Town in the South’ in 2011, Blacksburg is the home of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State College, or as it is more well-known, Virginia Tech. It has called Blacksburg home since 1872, and the Hokies have played basketball in Cassell Coliseum since it was opened in 1961.
Currently a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Hokies program has had modest success over the years. They have been to eight NCAA tournaments, but only two in the last 20 years, exiting in the second round both times. They were NIT champs twice (1973 and 1995), and have some notable alumni that have gone on to productive pro careers. They include Dell Curry, Bimbo Coles and Allan Bristow, who, along with Ace Custis, have had their jerseys retired and have banners hanging in Cassell.
Member Review by WolfBenz on Jan 09, 2016
Looks old, feels old, typically lacks attendance, and is the polar opposite of the VT football experience. I honestly can't describe anything that I particularly liked about the arena other than the ability to find good seats at reasonable cost.
418 N Main St
Blacksburg, VA 24060
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