Deep in the heart of the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY is the home of the St. Francis Terriers basketball team - The Lynch Gym at Generoso Pope Physical Education Center (often called "The Pope"). The motto for St. Francis College is “Small college, big dreams”. The same could be said about the basketball arena. The Lynch Gym only seats about 1,200 people, and it’s about the most intimate atmosphere you can ask for in Division 1 basketball. While the Terriers have struggled in the Northeastern Conference, they do have a loyal fan base in the Brooklyn area. St. Francis' main rival's gym is about a 10 minute walk from the Lynch Gym. When St. Francis and Long Island University play each other in the “Battle of Brooklyn”, it’s a must-see event that brings out fans from all over the borough.
The Pope Center was opened in 1971 and holds the basketball court, an art gallery, a cafeteria and classrooms. The facility is a bit antiquated in today’s college basketball world, but there’s really not a lot of space available for expansion. The building is located within a city block in downtown Brooklyn and is surrounded by gorgeous brownstones and great places to eat and drink. Let’s take a closer look at the home of the Terriers.
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The selections are inexpensive and the students that run the food booth are friendly, which is the good news. The not-so-good news, however, is that the selection is somewhat small. Popcorn and sodas are your best bet, and you could get away with spending no more than $6 for both. With the amount of good restaurants in the neighborhood, the best bet is to eat before or after the game and use the snack bar at the Pope to hold you over. I will give credit that at the game I attended (The Battle of Brooklyn) everyone was offered a free pizza slice on the way into the game. I certainly won't turn down a good slice of NYC pie.
The Pope is small, and it can be loud, but the atmosphere is somewhat lacking. There were plenty of students at the game that I attended, but that's more the exception than the norm. The sound system is not to the levels of other similar schools, and the dance team and cheerleaders are not utilized as much as they may be at other schools. The Terrier mascot really does look like a terrier dog, so they didn't skimp on the mascot costume. The scoreboards are standard high school gymnasium scoreboards with no replay or matrix feature. The pep band who played at the game was actually a high school pep band brought in specifically for the "Battle of Brooklyn" matchup with the Long Island Blackbirds. If you are a basketball purist who just wants to concentrate on the game, this is the place for you. If you expect anything else, you'll likely be disappointed with the St. Francis (NY) experience.
Long before Brooklyn became the destination that it is now, the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood was known as one of the more beautiful neighborhoods in the entire city of New York. It is filled with beautiful brownstones, old churches and fine restaurants. If you travel west on Remsen Street, where the Pope is located, you'll encounter a park that overlooks the lower side of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Lena Dunham have moved here in the past few years. If you're looking for a place to have a pre or post-game drink, you can't go wrong with Henry Street Ale House, or if you want to grab a bite, check out Henry's End, which is right down the street from the Ale House. Try the Lemonese Chicken served in a lemon cream sauce and wash it down with a Brooklyn Brown Ale. You just might find yourself becoming an honorary Brooklynite.
The athletic department at St. Francis really tries to get a good showing of students and alumni at their games. Again, the game I attended was the marquee home game on St. Francis' schedule against their neighborhood rival. The students were loud, they wore school colors and showed pride in their team. Were this my only experience at a St. Francis game, the score would be higher. Unfortunately, I have been to quite a few games at Lynch Gym, and this is far more the exception than the rule. The one thing you can do most of the time at St. Francis is give the referee an earful, and the ref will hear you loud and clear. There are plenty of families that attend games, and a fair amount of clergy are in the stands, so watch what you yell at the ref.
St. Francis is located almost on top of the NYC Borough Hall subway station, which serves the 2, 3, 4 and 5 lines of the subway. It's about a 20 minute trip by subway from Penn Station in Manhattan. If you're driving, the college is located just off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Parking may be a little bit of an issue, but you could luck out and find off-street parking. The school is in a safe neighborhood, so there should be nothing to fear in parking on the street. If not, find a garage and it will cost you $15-$25 to park.
Attending a game at St. Francis (NY) is an inexpensive evening of entertainment. $7 will get you into the game. This is a pretty good price for Division I basketball, but there are few frills to go along with the game. Yes, you'll be seeing great athletes, and if you're a basketball fan, this will make for a perfectly enjoyable time. There is one caveat, though. If you have kids with you or someone who is indifferent about basketball, they might not enjoy themselves as much.
The staff who works at the Pope are extremely friendly. They are very respectful, and calling everyone "sir" and "madam" goes a long way.
St. Francis' coach, Glenn Braica, is one of the most entertaining coaches to watch on the sidelines. The way he works the referees during the game is almost laugh-out-loud funny. In watching Coach Braica, it quickly becomes obvious that he never approves of any call that goes against his team.
Most college basketball fanatics would have no problem with the lack of pyrotechnics and a jumbotron at a college basketball game. However, in this day and age, St. Francis could really stand to make some upgrades to their facility. With the Barclays Center just a 20-minute walk away from campus, the school could either play there, or build a new gym. The Pope may be functional, but it lacks a lot of the modern amenities enjoyed in other arenas.
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Brooklyn, NY 11201
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