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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center opened in time for the 1998-1999 season, tipping off with a 23 point loss against the nearby Michigan Wolverines. The venue has a capacity of 8,824 and is a comfortable spot to watch Division I college basketball.
The Convocation Center is the home of Eastern Michigan men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the volleyball team. The venue has also hosted numerous concerts from artists such as The Killers, Jay-Z, and Jason Mraz.
Prior to the 2012-2013 season, EMU installed a new center hung video scoreboard. The screen is 15.7x11.5 feet and adds to the overall experience of an Eagles game.
Eastern Michigan has been a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) since 1972. The team has made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament (1988, 1991, 1996, and 1998) with their best finish coming in 1991 when they advanced to the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed under the leadership of coach Ben Braun.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There's not much of a selection, but enough to provide for a snack or a drink if needed. The small concession stands offer pizza ($3.50 a slice or $15 for a whole pie), Johnsonville brats ($4), and hot dogs ($3.25). Snacks include popcorn ($2.50), nachos ($3.25), or a pretzel ($2.75). The prices are below what you would normally see at an arena, but the selection is certainly disappointing. I'd recommend saving your money and having a bite before or after the contest.
Pepsi is the soda provider of choice here. A small will cost you $2.50 and a large 32-ounce goes for $3. Hot chocolate or coffee are available as well on a cold winter Saturday ($2). Once again, the prices are a little lower than expected, but not very interesting.
There are some positives about seeing a game at the Convocation Center. Almost all of the seats in the arena have chairbacks, with the exception of the upper sections behind each basket, which are bleacher seating. The first seven rows are folding seats, and are a little less comfortable, so try to sit in the eighth row or higher.
Tickets for the upper deck seats are not sold until the lower bowl is sold out, but you can move into the upper section if you prefer a better view of the flow of the game. Seats provide average leg room, but no cup holders.
They also have a pep band, the "EMU Basketball Band" with 30 or so members, which is utilized throughout the game.
Outside of those niceties, the atmosphere is pretty stale. The arena seems about the right size for the university and their conference affiliation (the MAC), but the reality is that emptiness is a hard thing to overcome. Specifically, the student section is severely lacking.
They do the turn off the lights thing during pregame for the home team introductions, something that feels a little out of place when there isn't much of a crowd.
There are several options within a short driving distance from the Convocation Center. For really good food and a terrific beer selection, then make the trip to the Wurst Bar before or after the game.
In the neighborhood known as Depot Town, you'll find Aubree's Pizzeria & Tavern, a bar that has an outstanding selection of draft beers, including several local options. They have plenty of activities to keep you entertained including a pool table and trivia game. The food is decent, but nothing special. I tried their pizza as well, it has a buttery crust and a comforting greasy quality. This is a good place to go if you are looking for some fun either before or after the game.
Across the street is Sidetrack Bar & Grill. This place is known for its outstanding burgers, and was once named as one of the top 20 burgers by GQ Magazine. The burgers are very good, as well as their deep-fried pickles, a huge basket of beer-battered spears. The beer selection offers 16 interesting beers on tap, including some good local options. This place is a little less sports-focused than Aubree's, but the food is better.
You may also want to check out the Hudson Automobile Museum or the Michigan Firehouse Museum, both located in Depot Town.
The student section has gotten better in recent years, and works well with the pep band to provide some atmosphere. Otherwise, the crowd seems pretty ambivalent except for the occasional threat of catching a t-shirt thrown by a member of the cheerleading squad after a three point basket.
The issue at Eastern Michigan comes down to a lack of attendance. The low point occurred when the team hosted a game for the College Insiders Tournament in 2014, and only 373 fans showed up. This was for a postseason home basketball game! The Eagles drew fewer than 1,000 fans for the 2013-2014 season, and similar unspectacular numbers in 2015.
Parking is free, and there is plenty of it. Concourses are wide and easily handicap accessible. Bathrooms are small, but there are plenty of them so you shouldn't expect a line, even if they do get a crowd (which they probably won't).
Traffic shouldn't be a problem, and you are within a couple of miles of both I-94 and M-23. Overall, this is a very accessible venue.
Eastern Michigan University is doing a good job of doing everything possible to attract fans to the Convocation Center. Parking is free, concession prices are very reasonable, and tickets are cost effective. Tickets are only $12 each, with youth (12 and under) only $7.
The fact remains that the Eastern Michigan Eagles have not been in the NCAA Tournament since 1998, and have been consistently bad. However, while the experience is by no means memorable, it is worth the price you will pay.
One extra point for the efforts that the school is making to attract fans, including a beautiful new scoreboard, free parking, and other reasonable price points.
An additional point for the retired numbers for George "The Iceman" Gervin, Earl Boykins, and Grant Long. All had significant college and pro careers.
It's a shame that more people don't see games at Eastern Michigan's Convocation Center. It is a fine, but empty facility. A winning team usually cures all. Hopefully the Eagles can find their way back to postseason success and fans can enjoy their basketball arena.
Member Review by paul
What do you think of when you think about Eastern Michigan basketball? Perhaps little man, Earl Boykins? Or maybe their run to the Sweet Sixteen in 1991? More than likely, unless you are a serious basketball connoisseur or an alumnus of EMU, you probably have nothing come to mind.
In fact, you're not that far off. The experience is rather empty, but can be an affordable trip to see some mid-level Division I basketball should the opportunity arise.
Member Review by EMUEagle17 on Jan 05, 2013
The Convocation Center at Eastern Michigan University is a great facility. It is very well kept, and is beautiful on the inside. The lobby is very big and has a great view of Rynearson Stadium.
Inside the arena is very nice witch chair back seats, brand new scoreboard, and nice looking floor.
EMU has some die hard fans that come to games, to make it a little more interesting to watch. EMU with a fairly new Student section that does a good job at getting some noise in the arena. This arena can get LOUD if it is close to full.
Member Review by tommyboy181 on Sep 08, 2015
The EMU Convocation Center built in the late 90s is actually a really good arena structurally with a modern feel. With a capacity of just over 8000 for basketball it is comparable with other Mid-American Conference facilities. It also doubles as a concert and special event facility.
The large lobby as you enter with the view of the football stadium is nice. Plenty of space to queue up at the box office. The EMU athletics hall of fame just off the lobby is a nice touch that is publicly accessible.
There is plenty of parking and it is free. The location is easy to access from the local area and I-94.
Food choices are adequate but nothing special. Pretzels, nachos and cheese, hot dogs, and Pepsi are the standard fare. Prices are reasonable.
The game atmosphere itself depends on how many fans there are. I have been to games where there are over 3000 fans and games where only a couple hundred show up and it makes a big difference.
With 3500 at a game I attended against rival Central Michigan the arena was louder and the experience was a lot better. The student section has improved but is small. The pep band provides some life. There are also a few die hard fans that show up which adds a little.
There are not many extras to cite though the banners honoring past NBA players and accomplishments are nice. They have now added VIP floor seating for donors who give the program extra money.
Overall, the Convocation Center is a nice arena. The amount of fans has a direct impact on the atmosphere. Its hard to understand why a few more people don't come out especially after back to back 20+ win seasons, even though they didn't make the NCAA tourney.
Its a pretty inexpensive way to see some D1 basketball.
Member Review by paul on Nov 13, 2015
Attended the 11am weekday opener for the 2015-2016 season, which was loaded with kids from local elementary schools. It actually made the atmosphere a lot more fun, until all the schools began to leave with 10 minutes left in the game. Overall, this is an enjoyable arena, with great leg room between rows, although no cup holders. Scoreboard is beautiful, and overall it is a very comfortable place to watch college basketball. They ran out of pizza at halftime to the chagrin of some fans, but I had a brat and thought it was reasonably tasty.
39 East Cross Street
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