There are many well-known college basketball venues around the nation, with a lot of them residing in North Carolina. You have the Cameron Crazies at Duke, the blue heaven of North Carolina and many others. These facilities are loaded with storied atmospheres and unrivaled basketball history.
For as great as those places are, if you consider yourself a true basketball fan, there is nothing like a basketball game on an HBCU campus. One such campus resides in Greensboro, North Carolina at North Carolina A&T. There are so many things of which to take note in this place. The Blue and Gold Marching Machine. The Greensboro Four. The Lock. The Dawg Pound. Ten-plus NCAA appearances. A visit to the Corbett Sports Center -- as with many Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) schools -- is not just a visit to see a game. It's a party, a history lesson and so much more.
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There is not an abundance of food and drink at the Corbett Sports Center, but what is around will more than suffice. The vending signs at the three stands (two by the staircases that lead downstairs to the reserved seating, and another near the women's restroom on the reserved level) are divided into three categories. The entrees consist of barbecue sandwiches, nachos and jumbo beef hot dogs. Each entry on this portion of the menu is priced at $4.
There are also three snack-related items listed on the menu board. Popcorn ($3), candy ($2) and king-size candy ($3) are all listed. Chips hang from a rack behind the counter at some of the stands, though no price was listed on the board when I visited.
Bottled Pepsi products ($3) and water ($2) are available to wash down your food purchases. There is also a soda machine available in the lobby, with drinks priced at $1.50. However, you will need to get your drink and go through it as fast as humanly possible before entering the arena, or wait until the game is over.
There is a distinct difference between a conference game at A&T and a non-conference game. There are a number of great rivalries across the MEAC for the Aggies, including North Carolina Central, South Carolina State and Howard, among others. The magic of these rivalries may be enough to convince you to attend a game with one of these schools in Greensboro.
Two separate gates will allow you to gain entry into the gym area. The gates enter on the concourse level, with bleacher seating above the concourse and reserved seating downstairs. The staircases to access the reserved level are opposite the entry doors. The concourse completely rings the seating area, allowing an open view of the game from almost anywhere within the gym itself.
Also opposite the entry doors is a bleacher section that almost entirely contains the Blue & Gold Marching Machine. The A&T band is the highlight of the game for many, and it is easy to understand why when listening to them. The band plays an extended set as the teams are warming up before the game, as well as during the halftime break. If anything, though, the band could actually be featured even more. Some of the breaks in the action are a bit more calm than some of A&T's conference brethren, and the extremely loud (and fun) band or the musical selection over the PA could stand to be amped up all the more to keep the crowd involved during stoppages in play.
The school features an Aggie mascot that wanders through the crowd and occasionally performs dance routines on the floor. He also participates in the musical chairs competition that is held at halftime, usually involving several A&T students. The cheerleading team performs the standard routines, but with a slight twist. The cheerleaders travel to the different seating sections to perform their routines for each individual section. This is an unusual touch that helps keep the fans involved from the floor to the ceiling.
There are no extravagant video boards to be found in the facility. A simple center-hung scoreboard can be seen above the floor from every angle of the gym. There are also wall-hung scoreboards above the floor in two corners. These scoreboards are easy to read, but do not offer more than just the basic statistical information.
It is also impossible to write this piece without mentioning public address announcer John Allen. Allen's booming voice can be heard throughout the game, and his frequent calls to "Aggie Nation" to make noise or honor their team are a standard at any A&T event.
North Carolina A&T's location along US 29 away from downtown means that pre and post-game activities within a walking distance of the university are extremely limited. As mentioned in the reviews of the other Aggie athletic facilities, most of the opportunities for nightlife and dining are in the downtown district of the city.
Should you want a quick meal near the university, there are several fast food choices available nearby on the Cone Boulevard exits, along with other surrounding areas.
North Carolina A&T does not have bandwagon fans. Keep this in mind for any visit you may ever make to Corbett Sports Center. Fans of all ages make their way to Aggie contests, and they are loud from beginning to end. The night I attended featured an attendance that was nowhere near capacity, but it was tough to know that fact without looking around.
Whether the team is winning or losing, Aggie fans will show up in their blue and gold and yell from the opening tip to the final buzzer. I also have to commend the Aggie fans on their knowledge of their team and those of the conference. I was approached by a fan as I left the arena, and he and I carried on a 15-minute conversation about A&T basketball and their chances in the conference schedule. That rarely -- if ever -- happens, even at the larger basketball schools.
Travel to an A&T game is rather easy by air, car or mass transit. If you are flying to Greensboro, the Piedmont Triad International Airport is within 15-20 minutes of the university. There are two major interstates (85 and 40) within a few minutes of the university, with Interstates 73 and 74 just miles away. US 29, 70 and 220 are also within five minutes of your parking space.
There are a number of free parking spaces available in university run lots off Benbow Drive near the facility. Be careful when parking for weeknight games, as some of the lots are restricted by permit. The available parking spaces are within a short walk of the arena, so there is no need to pack your hiking gear before leaving your car.
The concourse around the gym is suitably wide and offers plenty of room to maneuver. The restrooms are in somewhat unusual locations, as they can be found under the bleacher seats at the bottom of the staircases. The facilities are clean and suitable for the crowds that attend Aggie games.
Ticket prices at A&T vary based upon where you choose to sit. The reserved chairback seats at the floor level are nice, though it is up to the purchaser whether they are worth the investment. The reserved seats are $25 per game, with the general admission bleacher seats priced at $15. Children (ages 12 and under) are $10. Should you choose the bleacher seats, be advised that even the highest-pitched seats at this price point still provide a reasonable view of the game.
With small game programs provided free at the entry gates, the cost for a general admission seat, parking, hot dog and bottled soda totals $22. This is a reasonable investment for basketball at this level, but the reserved seat pricing cannot enjoy the same claim.
One of the more interesting extras about the Corbett Sports Center is immediately apparent when walking into the building. There are three trophy cases to the left of the ticket booth that illustrate much of the history of A&T sports. All three cases are full, and they provide for a fun and educational few minutes of review on your way into or out of the arena.
Along with the previously mentioned free programs, there is also a table of free Aggie promotional items between the ticket booth and the gates. Posters, schedules and other A&T paraphernalia are stacked on the table and are ready for the taking.
The history component of the trophy cases has already been mentioned, but there is one more inside the arena. If you look above the gym floor, the banners honoring the numerous championships and NCAA tournament appearances for the men and women ring the rafters. It is always a joy to see a school that honors its history, and A&T certainly has more than its share to put on display.
Though the Corbett Sports Center will never feature groups of students waiting in tents in a camping area named after their coach or anything of the sort, there is much value to be found in a trip to Greensboro. From the interlocking "AT" logo on the floor (known as "The Lock") to the occasional "Aggie Pride" call-and-response, your location -- and level of enjoyment -- will never be in doubt.
The North Carolina A & T Aggies play in the MEAC. What's a MEAC you may ask? It stands for the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference. It is a conference of historical black schools. They are only the 31st ranked in the RPI, but don't tell the fans of North Carolina A&T University, to them the home team Aggies are the NBA Champion 1993 Chicago Bulls. This isn't just a basketball game held in the Corbett Sports Center, it is an event.
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