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Official Review by Jack Harver, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
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.
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 options for grub inside "The Ted" are pretty standard stadium fare, shilling burgers and barbeque at movie theater concession prices. (The Mexican food stands are a neat non-standard alternative).
If they seem a little neglected, though, it's because the pre-game scene outside in University Village offers so many more enticing choices. There's Mojo Bones II, a barbeque franchise that touches all the Southern bases from Cajun-seasoned alligator meat to Carolina-style pulled pork at a price point just below Applebee's. Pretty soon, there'll be a Raising Cane's"" home of the greasiest and best chicken fingers known to man.
Past the restaurants, the Norfolk Ice Cream Company is a neat (and independently-owned) local stop for dessert. The Borjo Coffehouse bills its beans as "locally-roasted," but faces stiff competition from a nearby Starbucks. Between the two, pick the big name for the java and the little guy for a sandwich.
Mixing local "indie" appeal and sheer variety, this area merits full marks.
Now, back to those fans. Old Dominion University has a sizeable base of local alumni, but the Monarchs' games are a big draw for families and "basketball people" in general. Over three-fourths of the 8,639 seats at "The Ted" were filled when little Presbyterian College (SC) came to town.
Capacity-wise, it's a bit bigger than the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, which houses the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams and their .8462 home winning percentage"" the best in the Colonial Athletic Association. But where the Siegel Center looks and feels like an overgrown high school gym, "The Ted" has all the polish of a collegiate arena. From the state-of-the-art scoreboard that hangs at midcourt to the pre-game lights show, the production values set an impressive stage.
If those lights didn't have a nasty habit of flashing in fans' eyes, they might score higher.
As an urban commuter school "" albeit one in transition, with parking lots increasingly giving way to residential buildings in an attempt at culture change "" Old Dominion lacks the scenic "campus tour" that adds value to most college basketball experiences.
Outside of the University Village development area, the venue's midtown setting near Norfolk's ports offers little within walking distance to see or do. Best to stick close to "The Ted," for the lower chance of petty crime as much as the eats and treats.
Plain and simple, these folks get loud. When Kent Bazemore threw down a thunderous dunk to give the Monarchs an early lead, the place erupted, even against a schedule-filler opponent and with most of the student section emptied by the holiday break.
Impressively, the luxury suites were almost full, too. Between the suit-and-tie crowd and a few kids' parties, it's always a good sign for a venue when the premium seats are in business for every game.
"The Ted" scores a notch below the decades of fan tradition at arenas such as Duke's Cameron Indoor, Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse, or Kentucky's Rupp Arena, but not for lack of effort.
Getting to the game is as simple as hopping off Norfolk's makeshift I-64 "beltway" and hitting Hampton Boulevard"" a route which, depending on more factors than the time and day, can be free and clear or hopelessly gridlocked. If the lack of a campus feel is the biggest downside of the venue's urban location, traffic is a close second.
There's free parking in the garage next door, though, which is nice.
This one's on you. Would you rather see a movie or watch a basketball game? With tickets at $15 and concession prices close to the theaters' for drinks, snacks, and heavier fare, it's a toss-up as far as your wallet is concerned.
That's more than can be said value-wise about most sports experiences.
One extra point for the fans who voted "Big Blue" (the Monarchs' mascot) into the lead in the Capital One National Mascot of the Year contest"" in case more proof of this second-tier city's first-class dedication was needed.
Another for the student band, for playing Dragonforce's "Through the Fire and the Flames." Epic.
Member Review by roundpizza on Jul 30, 2012
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.
4502 Monarch Way
Norfolk, VA 23508
4306 Monarch Way
Norfolk, VA 23508
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