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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
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.
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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 ($3.25 a slice or $15 for a whole pie), Johnsonville brats ($3.75), and hot dogs ($3). Snacks include popcorn ($2.50), nachos ($3.25), or a pretzel ($2.50). 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 cocoa are available as well on a cold winter Saturday ($1.75). Once again, the prices are a little less 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. They also have a pep band, with 25 or so members, which was utilized throughout the game.
Outside of those niceties, the atmosphere is pretty stale. It's a new facility, built in 1998. It 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 out of place when there isn't much of a crowd.
There wasn't anything that I found within walking distance of the arena, but there are several options within a short driving distance from the Convocation Center. My first stop was the Tower Inn, a comfortable restaurant with Greek cuisine and pizza at the forefront. I tried one of their 7-inch nenas, which are essentially pizzas served on a piece of pita bread ($6.50-$9 each). I thought it was fairly good, but not mind-bending. The TVs in the place are tuned to CNN rather than sports, but they'll happily change them. It does tell you that this may not be the place to hang out if you're a sports enthusiast.
In the neighborhood known as Depot Town, you'll find Aubree's Pizzeria & Tavern, a bar that I liked quite a bit. They have 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 the place to go though if you are looking for some fun either before or after the game.
There is virtually no clear student section. About five fans stand in a front row opposite the opponent's basket, but have virtually no impact on the game. Otherwise, the crowd seems pretty ambivalent except for the occasional threat of catching a t-shirt thrown by a member of the cheerleading squad. I was glad to see a pep band and an active mascot, but otherwise, there is no redeeming component of the fan experience here.
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 you 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, there really isn't anything negative to say for this part of the visit.
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 $9 each, with youth (12 and under) only $3. During the week, youth tickets are free and popcorn is only 50 cents. It really is a great opportunity, especially for families to take in a game.
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.
There isn't a lot to write home about, but sitting under the retired number of George "The Iceman" Gervin is worth an extra point in my book.
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.
39 East Cross Street
Ypsilanti, MI 48198
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