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Official Review by Brandon Gee, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
15 years in and Cintas Center is finally making its mark as one of college basketball’s toughest places for opposing teams to play. Tucked into the school’s campus in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Evanston, frequent sellout crowds of 10,000+ pack the place to see the Musketeers square off against old rivals like Cincinnati and intense Big East competition. Xavier basketball now possesses an impressive .874 winning percentage at home through the 2015-2016 season, making Cintas Center one of the top five home court advantages in all of college basketball.
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".
The food choices are mostly traditional stadium fare with prices in the $4-$8 range. A recommended find is the "Prime Time Player," a smoked sausage topped with fried onions, pulled pork and barbeque sauce from local favorite Montgomery Inn.
Beer is sold across the main concession areas, with domestics on draft for $7. You can find a wider selection and a great view of the action at D'artagnan's Deck, at the top of the upper bowl behind Section 200. There's a rotating selection here with a number of local brews available.
Even with the usual sellout crowd, concessions don't appear overwhelmed with the lines flowing somewhat smoothly. The arena's wider concourses in these areas definitely help keep the flow of arena traffic moving, even with long lines.
Cintas Center is actually a multipurpose facility, with a conference center butting up against the arena and various athletic and campus functions tucked into the space. With the steep pitch of the seating bowls and the short distance from the floor to the back row, the sightlines are great from nearly every spot. Multipurpose setups like this can easily end up feeling sterile, but Xavier has avoided that with good design and the school's continued investment in the game experience.
Hosting Big East programs at Cintas has brought a new age of competition to campus. During the 2015-2016 season the Musketeers defeated #1 Villanova in front a Cintas-record crowd. They continued their rivalry with Butler and defeated every other Big East member here, except for Georgetown. This is a new era. Led by Coach Chris Mack, Xavier is slowly but surely shedding its mid-major tag and fans are getting the opportunity to see some of the top competition in the country.
As for the rivalry with Cincinnati, after the fight and the off-kilter neutral site games, the tradition has returned with alternating annual games back to the campus venues (Xavier hosted and won in 15-16). The Crosstown Shootout feels whole again.
The University Station development near Cintas Center has finally filled in. The mix of campus housing and street-level retail has brought some life to what was long an empty lot at the gateway to the university area. It does feature a number of food options, but since it is aimed at the college crowd, most are quick service shops like Starbucks and donut bakeries along with a Gold Star Chili.
There are a number of restaurants just off-campus including Betta's Italian Oven, a popular pregame spot near the corner of Cleneay and Montgomery Road. A short drive north on Montgomery will lead you to Gordo's (4328 Montgomery), featuring one of the city's best burgers along with a creative beer list.
Xavier fans are diehard. They are led by the student section, and generate a great amount of noise to help make this a formidable place for foes to have to come into. Being the smaller of the city's two fan bases imbues a die-hard quality for Xavier fans and they turn up and pack Cintas Center.
If you're coming to the area via the Dana Avenue exit off I-71, it's best to give yourself some time as the road toward campus can back up before big games. If coming from the north, you may find an easier path by taking SR-562 (a.k.a. the Norwood Lateral as it runs between the city's two north-south interstates) and exiting at the US22 (Montgomery Road). Then head west and turn left onto Montgomery. Follow this for a mile and you'll encounter signs for the large basketball parking lot.
Xavier's play through the 2015-2016 regular season was unprecedented, with school record-setting rankings in both the AP & USA Today Coaches Poll. In a competitive Big East that sent five teams to the 2016 tournament, the Musketeers posted a 14-4 conference record to finish second. As further evidence of the intimidating atmosphere at home, Xavier went 15-1 at Cintas.
Even after an unexpected ending to this season in the NCAA tourney, the 2016-2017 season should show promise as the program will return most of the previous year's team. A talented, competitive team and a great fan experience make Musketeer basketball worth the expense.
Points for the continued improvement of the Cintas Center. The craft beer bar up top and new courtside seating is already in place, now as part of a seven-year project, renovations will touch all facets of the athletic experience. Initially, the focus will be on improvements for the university's student-athletes, including strength training upgrades and a new academic center. Focus will then move to the fan experience with new seating options.
Planned to open in 2017, there will be expanded and renovated courtside seating, the club above the lower bowl end zone will be turned into a "Living Room" section with all-inclusive food and drinks and the major addition, "The Lookout," a section to be built above the student section where the elevated walkway sits now. This space will bump up the arena's capacity slightly and should improve the aesthetics of the seating bowl as it will fill in the upper bowl's empty space.
Member Review by conradklank
The Cintas center is a 10,250 seat multipurpose arena located just west of I-71 in the heart of the Xavier University campus. This $46 million arena, primarily serves as the home to the Xavier men's and women's basketball teams, as well as the school's volleyball team. In addition to athletics, the complex has seen its fair share of big concerts, speakers, conventions and other corporate events, trade shows, commencements, and even weddings.
The facility can be easily transformed to accommodate any size event. This state-of-the-art venue opened its doors in 2000 and features some of the most innovative and ahead of its time amenities. In addition to the arena itself, the center provides a full size practice gym, training room, and strength and conditioning room available not only for varsity athletes, but students as well. The center is also home to the majority of the athletic offices and a fully functional conference center. Read on to find out what makes this much more than a nice gathering complex.
Member Review by corporatelaw on Feb 04, 2012
I am biased (this is my alma mater), but to see from where this program has grown (Schmidt Fieldhouse) to this on campus facility speaks volumes to the vision of Xavier's leadership, and in particular, Fr. Hoff and Skip Prosser.
Member Review by danton3 on Jan 28, 2013
Very nice arena, and i would recommend any fan of college basketball to visit... great atmostphere
Member Review by cadence80 on Apr 30, 2013
Opened in 2000, the Cintas Center meant Musketeer basketball would return to the urban campus in Cincinnati’s Evanston neighborhood for the first time since 1983. It has been named by EA Sports as one of the toughest college basketball arenas for opponents. Not only do visiting teams have to contend with consistently hostile crowds, but they’re often facing incredibly talented Musketeer teams on their home turf.
Since 1961, the team representing this small Jesuit university has made 23 NCAA tournament appearances (including 11 since playing at Cintas Center), 6 Sweet Sixteens, and 2 Elite Eights. It’s a conundrum as Xavier basketball is an unlikely, and often unnoticed powerhouse in college basketball.
Member Review by cadence80 on Mar 11, 2015
Opened in 2000, Cintas Center is the home of Xavier University basketball. Since the building opened, the small Jesuit university in Cincinnati, Ohio has boasted one of the best home court advantages in college basketball with intense crowds of over 10,000 fans.
On the court, the Musketeers have long out-performed their mid-major counterparts while a member of the Atlantic 10 and now look to gain a foothold on the national stage and build on their 24 NCAA tournament appearances as members of the revamped, basketball-focused, Big East. As of the end of the 2014-15 season, the Musketeers have posted an .870 winning percentage (201-30) at home.
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