The Saint Louis Billikens men's basketball team has called many great facilities home. It all began at West Pine Gymnasium (now known as the Bauman-Eberhardt Center) in 1920. The 2,220 seat gymnasium was among the oldest facilities used in the NCAA prior to the women's basketball team’s departure in 2008. After fourteen short seasons on the SLU camps the Billikens moved downtown to Municipal Auditorium, which was later named after Saint Louis Mayor Henry Kiel (Kiel Auditorium). The iconic facilty served as the home of Saint Louis basketball for both the Billikens and the Saint Louis Hawks of the NBA for the next 57 years. It was demolished in 1992.
For the next two seasons the Saint Louis Arena, which was also known as the Checkerdome, was the home to all indoor events held in the River City until the completion of the Scottrade Center in 1994. SLU joined the Saint Louis Blues of the NHL at the new arena which was built on the site of Kiel Auditorium. Unfortunately the new 22,000 seat arena was just too large for the Billikens’ purposes. The decision was made for Saint Louis men's basketball to return to campus after six decades, and to begin a new era in the newly constructed Chaifetz Arena. The beautiful facility known as the “Jewel of Midtown” opened in 2008.
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Inside the Chaifetz Arena there are six very large and well-staffed fixed concession stands so you shouldn't encounter a long line even at high points during marquee games. Each of the concession stands have different offerings so if you don't see what you are desiring at one, just take a walk around the spacious concourse to the next stand. I ordered the hamburger basket which came with fries for $7.75. The hamburger was warm and flavorful but the fries were cool and hard. Even though the arena is located on the SLU campus alcohol is available. Pepsi is the soft drink provider at Chaifetz, and they are available in two sizes: a regular for $3.50 or a souvenir cup for $5.
I love the city of Saint Louis. It has some of the most enjoyable sports experiences in the nation and some of the nation's top facilities. I had very high expectations heading into this game and I was certainly not disappointed.
The student section is smaller than what I was expecting but they stood and cheered the entire game, even when the Bils had a 25 point lead. The sea of blue is very intimidating for visiting teams.
The mascot had surprisingly little contact with the fans. I only saw him on five or six occasions during the game.
The arena itself is very visually appealing and an overall great place to see a game. Seats in the middle sections are padded cloth, all others are blue plastic, except for the student section which is composed of bleachers.
The band is great and very loud. The arena's acoustics are fantastic. My seat was behind the student/band section and it got so loud I had to pack up and find a seat in the upper level. There are four very large HD video boards in each corner of the arena instead of a center hung scoreboard. This gives the arena a very open feel which I liked although if you are in the top five rows in the upper level the scoreboard will obstruct your view and make it difficult to check the score.
Besides the beautiful campus of Saint Louis University there are several places for postgame activity. A pair of students recommended that I try Syberg's on Market Street, and it was full of SLU fans after the game. The award-winning Pappy's Smoke House is just down the street. It is one of my favorite restaurants in the Saint Louis area. Prices run a little high but it is definitely worth it in flavor.
Chaifetz Arena can get very loud. It never got to the point of that special roar but it is a very intimidating place to play. One thing I noticed is that the fans never seemed to do much cheering, but after a bucket or rebound there would be a thunderous roar of applause that resounded through the building.
SLU has one of the highest average attendances in the Atlantic 10 Conference and since the Billikens are the only D-I option in the Saint Louis area they are almost unanimously supported. A vast majority of the fans were wearing SLU apparel and everyone was very welcoming and friendly.
The gentleman I sat next to had been a season ticket holder for 15 years and showed great knowledge of the game. This seemed common throughout the arena.
One special thing that took place during my visit was the tribute to Rick Majerus, the former Head Coach of the Billikens. Coach Majerus was not on the sideline at all during the 2012-13 campaign due to health concerns. The game I attended was the first home game following his passing and the university paid a fitting tribute to one of the most successful and colorful coaches in the history of college basketball.
The six concessions stands and twelve bathrooms inside the arena are adequate for a venue of this size. The only problem you may encounter is parking as Chaifetz Arena is located in an urban area on a college campus. If you are an enterprising fan there is some free street parking located about four blocks away from the arena. Pay careful attention to street signs and signs on private parking lots as I was informed it is relatively easy to be ticketed or towed away.
My recommendation would be the parking garage which is roughly two blocks away. The short walk and safe spot is worth the $5 fee. There are some lots immediately surrounding the venue although they run between $15 and $25. I parked in the Harris-Stowe University lot directly across from Gate D and it cost $15.
The only ticket office is located inside Gate B which is on the far side of the arena. I went the wrong direction to the will call and had to walk all the way around the large arena and the three story athletic office building attached to it to get there. The immediate area surrounding the arena is very safe and I would feel comfortable leaving my car on the street.
Tickets run between $14 and $30 dollars which is about average for Division I basketball. Concessions are reasonable. Assuming you go for the cheap seats two tickets will cost you $38, add that to $20 for a sandwich and drink, and $5 parking the damage will come to $63 for two people, which is just about right for the A-10 action you'll find inside. It's a great arena and you will have a good time.
There is a very nice hall of fame that is worth a visit in the hallway leading from the concourse to the office building. It also has some memorabilia from the nearly 200 year history of the university and one trophy case is dedicated to explaining just what is a "Billiken." During the intermission I would recommend checking it out.
Chaifetz Arena is complete with a very nice team store filled with SLU merchandise. It is one of the largest I have seen and they offer a wide variety of cost effective souvenirs. Free programs are also available on the table outside the store.
I like the open feel you get from the lack of the center hung scoreboard. It makes the arena seem larger and adds to the overall visual appeal.
I really enjoyed myself. It is a great arena inside and out. The team is performing at a very high level right now and it is just a first class experience from top to bottom.
Chaifetz Arena is located on campus and the campus is located in a nice area of St. Louis with lots of things to do within walking distance of the arena.
For a mere $12 million alumnus Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, a neuropsychologist and the founder, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based ComPsych Corporation (the largest provider of employee assistance programs) has a nice arena named for him.
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