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Official Review by Josh Verlin, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The City of Brotherly Love is no slouch when it comes to college basketball, in terms of both the on-court product and the buildings they play in. Most of the attention centers on the Big 5, the decades-long, round-robin tournament between La Salle, Saint Joseph's, Penn, Temple, and Villanova, but the Big 5 leaves out a school. That school is Drexel.
The Dragons, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association for the last 10 years, play their home games in the Daskalakis Athletic Center, more commonly referred to as the DAC. Originally opened in 1975, the DAC sits at 33rd and Market Streets, just blocks away from Penn's famed Palestra.
The DAC is the most unassuming gym in the city, lacking the grand entrances of the Palestra or SJU's Hagan Arena or the modern, professional feel of Temple's Liacouras Center. Seating just over 2,300 on plastic bleacher-style seating that wraps all the way around the court, there is a small and intimate feel that can sometimes lack at the city's other venues. And when you add in one of the livelier student sections in the country, a game at the DAC can be quite the experience indeed.
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".
This is probably the worst part of the arena; there really isn't very much special to eat. There are two concession stands, a main one just off the main court and a secondary stall down a short flight of stairs off an easily-accessible side staircase. The good news is that with just 2,300 fans, that's really all the concession area that's needed; the lines never really get more than a few people at any given time.
The options are the stadium standards: hot dogs ($2.50), pretzels ($3.00), nachos ($5.00), funnel cake ($5.00), pizza ($3.00) and churros ($3.00). Candy, chips, and soda are also available, and $2.50 for a 20-ounce soda isn't really too expensive for stadium prices. With all the dining options available in the area, Drexel knows it really isn't getting the "dinner" crowd to their games, so the prices are good for a snack.
The most noise in the stadium comes from Drexel's student section, the DAC Pack, which sits in a corner of the gym opposite the main entrance, and can get quite loud when they need to. The Dragons like to give credit to their home crowd for creating a legitimate home-court advantage, and with good reason. The alumni aren't as loud as the students, but that's as true at Duke as it is at Drexel.
The gameday atmosphere as a whole is pretty good, though the crowds can fill up during the first five minutes of the game as opposed to the hour beforehand. The pep band, sitting next to the DAC, does a good job, but a lack of video board does hurt in terms of pregame introductions. Still, having Phillies and Eagles PA announcer Dan Baker sitting courtside (he's Drexel's radio announcer) adds a little bit of specialty to the atmosphere, and Drexel's mascot Mario the Magnificent does a good job as well.
I like to call this section of town "DUP," which stands for the Drexel University/University of Pennsylvania. The two schools border each other, and as long as you stay on either campus there are a variety of good eateries, hangouts, and enough police and security around to make you feel safe. Just outside of the area is West Philadelphia, which (if you know your Fresh Prince) isn't exactly the best part of town. Penn has the better dining options overall just a few blocks walk from the DAC, but the Landmark Tap + Grill located inside the DAC is a popular establishment after games and a surprisingly upscale establishment for being located in the same building as a college basketball gymnasium.
The fans rating is fueled mostly by the loud DAC Pack, who do a good job of being both loud and fairly inventive. The Drexel student section does the occasional rollout like their city brethren and also has students dressing up (i.e., like a stormtrooper), as is common practice in the top student sections in the country.
The biggest secret for Drexel games is the existence of free parking in the garage directly across Market Street from the stadium. If one drives down 34th Street past the DAC and crosses over Market, there is a small alleyway between two parking garages on the left-hand side. Entrance into the one on the left is accessible through that alleyway, and though the signs say you need to pay before you leave, the parking lot is actually free on game nights/afternoons. Don't pay. Handicap access is fine, there are no stairs necessary to enter the building or get to the concession stands.
With every seat so close to the action, all the seats are at one set price: $14 in advance or $15 at the door for men's games, and $6 for women's games. If you bring a group of 20 or more, then tickets are $8 for men's games or $3 for women's games. Kids under the age of 12 are free, so this is a great place for a family of four to be able to see a game and pay $28 or $30 in tickets.
The only other real option is the Hazem Maragah suite, named after the Drexel Athletic Club's president, which can be purchased by on-campus groups for $200 or off-campus groups for $500. The suite, which can hold up to 150 people, also has bar and catering options available and sits above the bleachers on the sideline.
One extra point for the Landmark, which is really a great restaurant to have just about 75 feet from the entrance to the DAC and you don't even have to go outdoors to get there! Other points come from getting to see Final Four teams in George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth, the teams that put the CAA on the map and set a trend that Drexel hopes to continue in the coming years.
Member Review by pderrick on Jan 21, 2014
Drexel really gives you your bang for your buck. One of the better smaller venues I have been to. Actually I believe Drexel could use a little bit bigger venue. Ticket prices are great and the neighborhood provides a good variety of eateries and things to do.
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2628 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19146