If you find yourself in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and are looking for a fun night out for the family, chances are there is an event at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk that will fit the bill. Opened in 2002 at a cost of $47 million, the Constant Center plays host to the men and women’s basketball teams at Old Dominion University, as well as the wrestling program. That’s not all, however; on any given night, you could find a concert by contemporary bands or solo artists, the Harlem Globetrotters or a variety of Disney programs.
2013 was the first season the Monarchs played in Conference USA. Most recently a member of the CAA, they have made 14 trips to the NCAA tournament - the last one in 2011, where they lost to eventual national runner-up Butler. Notable alumni that played in the NBA include Mark West, Kenny Gattison and Chris Gatling, a 1997 All-Star as a Dallas Maverick.
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The home of the Monarchs has quite a few great food options. There are four different concession stands, each located in a corner of the arena. Take some time to take a spin around the concourse before making your choice, as you will find something for everyone. There are two stands that are similar, as they offer pizza for $4-$5 a slice, hot dogs and chicken tenders. I tried the pizza; however, I was not a big fan of it, even though the vendor is a local small chain and many fans seemed to be enjoying it. You will find another stand that has a good variety of hamburgers (beef and veggie), chicken sandwiches and Philly cheesesteak for $5-$7. They also offer combo options to include fries and a drink for about $7 more, saving you a little bit of cash. My favorite stand is behind section 115, and they have the best deal in the building - barbecue nachos that come with a generous helping of chips topped with pulled pork, cheese sauce, sour cream, lettuce and jalapenos. This is a meal in itself for $6! They also serve nacho waffle fries and barbecue sandwiches, among other things, so if you are looking for something a little different, don't miss this stand.
Pepsi products are served fountain-style at $5 for a large and $4 for a regular. If you have room for dessert, there are some options here. Funnel cake fries are $5 ($3 as an add-on if the rest of your food comes to $8 or more), and you will find a cotton candy vendor in the hallways of the concourse. All of the main concession stands take credit cards, but if you find yourself short on cash, there is a bank of ATMs located behind section 102.
The outside architecture of the Convocation Center is eye-catching. It definitely brightens up the area and is a complement to the surrounding campus. Once inside, the interior continues to impress, with a well lit main level that showcases the history of athletics at ODU. You will find an open concourse with section numbers clearly marked so you can find your seat easily. If you need assistance, there are ushers in Monarch blue shirts that will help out. All seats are padded fold-down style and are pretty comfortable. The arena holds a little less than 9,000 fans, so anywhere you sit, you are going to have a good view of the action on the court. Section 111 will get you behind the home team bench, and the team enters and leaves the court between 109 and 110. Section 104 will give you a good look at the center-court logo with the benches on the opposite side. Above the lower seating bowl, you will find the club level and suites. Club level tickets are available for purchase and the suites can be rented out for individual games.
There is a four-sided scoreboard that hangs from center court and it provides all of the pertinent game information. There is also a live/replay video screen on each side that is helpful, but it is surprisingly not a high-definition display. As nice as the rest of the arena is, it takes a little bit away from the atmosphere. You will also find a smaller scoreboard in each end of the arena with the game basics displayed.
Looking to be entertained during time-outs? You will see a lot of the cheerleaders and dance team, along with a ton of t-shirts being thrown out in the stands. There are a few promotions during the game, but I enjoyed the fact that not every time-out was being sponsored by a local business. The PA system in the arena is good, and the announcer does a good job of keeping the crowd informed. The pep band sits in the student section and plays at appropriate times during the game, but they are barely audible on the other end of the arena. Big Blue, the Monarch's mascot, can be seen throughout the arena during the game interacting with the kids and posing multiple times for photo opportunities.
ODU is located in the northern part of Norfolk, Virginia, and other than attending the basketball game and taking a walk around campus, I did not find anything really interesting to do within walking distance. If you are coming from out of town, there is a SpringHill Suites by Marriott on Hampton Boulevard right next to the Convocation Center, and would be a perfect place to stay if that is all you are in town to do.
While there is not much in the immediate area, there is plenty of history in the Hampton Roads area to visit, including Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown, about an hour away. If you're on an extended visit to the area, these are great places to visit for the entire family.
The fans who were at the game I most recently attended are passionate about their team. However, the Monarchs were playing to a half full arena, which was not what I was expecting, based on the support I witnessed for their football program. It appears with the entrance into Conference USA, the Monarchs' attendance has dropped to 5,500-6,500 a game, which could be the result of lack of familiar competition and in-state games. Also absent is a vocal student cheering section. Sections 101 and 115-16 are set aside for students, and those sections were half-full and quiet when I visited.
Fans at the game I attended were there from beginning to end and were very vocal, as they cheered the home team to a hard earned victory. I just don't get the feel that the support and the home crowd advantage is the same here as it is for other programs.
The Convocation Center is located on the southeast side of campus in Norfolk. There are two large parking garages that serve the arena, one on 43rd Street and the other at 45th right off of Hampton Boulevard. Parking is free, but beware that the lower levels of the garage are for permit holders, so plan on being directed by one of the many attendants to keep going up if you don't have a permit. Your tickets are scanned in as you enter the arena and the lines move quickly. Once inside, you will find yourself on the lower level of the arena. The ODU Athletic Hall of Fame is located here, which contains a lot of great information and mementos of the history of the school. On the far right side, you will find the three women's basketball NCAA championship trophies proudly displayed.
You will need to take the elevator or stairs to the upper level to get to your seats. The majority of the seats (except for club level) are located below the concourse area, and you can see the action on the court when you are in line at the snack bar. The concourse is wide and never seems overcrowded, and you will find restrooms located in each corner of the main concourse that are sufficient for the typical crowd size. Diaper changing stations are located in each restroom for those with little ones.
A typical seat to a Monarchs home game will cost $15, if you buy it at the box office. You can purchase them online, but an array of fees will bring a single ticket to almost $25. Unless there is a specific section or seat you want to sit in, you are pretty safe waiting until game day to purchase your ticket. Club seats are available for a higher price, but if you are on a budget, you won't be disappointed with any of the seats in the arena.
Potential fees aside, combine the ticket price with an overall good value and variety in food and the free parking and a night at the Convocation Center is a great value.
Get to the arena a little early and spend some time in the Hall of Fame. If you're a lifelong ODU fan, it will bring back some memories.
If you have a chance to catch the Monarchs at home, don't pass it up. The Ted Constant Convocation Center is a quality arena in which to see a game, and you will definitely get your money's worth.
For better and worse, Norfolk is a middle-tier sports mecca.
Having struck out in efforts to lure professional franchises to the area, local fans are still entertained year-round by their minor league baseball and hockey teams "" the Triple-A Norfolk Tides and the AHL's Norfolk Admirals, respectively. In the ever-shuffling world of semi-pro sports, those two teams have been rooted in the area for decades, enjoying top billing (and good crowds) as the biggest fish in a smallish pond.
But would that support extend to the local small-conference college basketball team, two days before Christmas, against a smaller-conference opponent?
Believe it. The Ted Constant Convocation Center, which opened in 2002 as a multi-purpose facility for everything from local high school graduations to concerts, seems a bit overdone for small-school basketball at first glance.
Then, as with the Tides and Admirals, the fans start filing in.
No bad seats, but the food is average and overpriced. The video board is a bit outdated as well but still above average. Otherwise, the arena is beautiful and well maintained, and is one of the best for basketball.
It's a nice clean spot to watch a Monarch's Game for sure.
4306 Monarch Way
Norfolk, VA 23508
4416 Monarch Way
Norfolk, VA 23508
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