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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Right down the street from the University of Pennsylvania’s amazing Palestra is another Division I basketball arena that gets much less fanfare. The Daskalakis Athletic Center that the Drexel Dragons play in is literally in walking distance from basketball greatness, and although a nice arena, it seems far from the Palestra on the basketball royalty scale.
Drexel is the “other” Division I school in the Philadelphia area. It is not a part of the Big 5 that consists of the University of Pennsylvania, La Salle University, Saint Joseph's University, Temple University, and Villanova University. It is instead part of the “City 6,” which is all of the Philadelphia Big 5 schools along with Drexel, that plays informally, as well as being an inter-city intramural competition.
Drexel University is a private research university founded in 1891. Its founder is its namesake, financier and philanthropist Anthony J. Drexel. Its original name was the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry.
The Dragon has been the mascot of the school since around the mid-1920s. Before becoming known as the Dragons, the athletic teams had been known by such names as the Blue & Gold, the Engineers, and the Drexelites. Their mascot, "Mario the Magnificent," is named in honor of alumnus and Board of Trustees member Mario V. Mascioli.
The Dragons have been a member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) since 2001. Overall, Drexel has played in eight postseason tournaments.
The Daskalakis Athletic Center, opened in 1975, is home to multiple Drexel University Dragons sports teams including basketball and wrestling. The overall building houses gyms, a natatorium, a rock climbing wall, and a squash canter although the "DAC" generally refers solely to the basketball arena. Since 2012 there have been many renovations and changes to the seating sections of the arena.
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".
The food options at the DAC are pretty basic. A concession stand sits outside the entrance to the arena. Do not expect anything besides the usual simple offerings. Hot dogs ($2.50) and pretzels ($3.00) are the best bet. There are also nachos ($5.00), funnel cake ($5.00), pizza ($3.00) and churros ($3.00).
There are four sets of stands that surround the basketball court. Each stand section is made up a little bit differently from each other. All of the seats are close to the action. It is also one of the rare arenas that has the basketball hoops hanging from the ceiling instead of being a freestanding base. That does give a little better view of the action if you are seated behind the baskets.
The student section on the south stands is called "The DAC Pack." They tend to stand the whole game and provide a pretty good and loud atmosphere for games. Depending on the game, the stands in this area may be full or fairly empty. I get a sense it is not very consistent.
There is also very good pep band, as well cheerleaders and a dance squad to enhance the surroundings.
Drexel's mascot Mario the Magnificent is also around to delight kids.
The Daskalakis Athletic Center is located in a unique section of Philadelphia called University City. It is not just the Drexel University located here, but University of Pennsylvania actually is right next door. It is quite a sight to see two Division I schools separated by just a street. Penn has a massive campus and the Ivy League school is worth a walk around to see the many historical buildings (check out Locust Walk for the best tour). If you want to touch upon your inner Ivy, stop by the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, which is right near both The Palestra and Franklin Field on the east side of campus.
University City also provides a decent mix of bars and restaurants and the best ones are found along a trendy row of brick buildings on Sansom Street. The New Deck Tavern is a fun, Irish-style pub, while the White Dog Café is a little more upscale with incredibly delicious food using a menu featuring only local ingredients. If you're in the mood for Asian, University City has plenty of options with many different countries represented.
Just a mile or two down Walnut Street is the center of Philadelphia, where there is plenty to check out. Independence National Park includes the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall. Other great museums surround the Park, while in the heart of the city; it is worth seeing City Hall and JFK Plaza, where the famous "LOVE" sign is located. For a cheesesteak, Steve's Prince of Steaks on 16th and Chestnut is a fine choice for an authentic Philly specialty.
The DAC Pack, even when not filling their section is still pretty loud.
The arena is pretty small so the sound fills it up pretty nicely. The arena does not fill often, but it is small enough that you might want to plan ahead for some big games, especially if it is a CAA rival or Big 5/City 6 team matchup.
University City is not difficult to get to, however, parking can be an issue in the area. The best option is the parking garage at Chestnut and 34th Street. Finding a spot on the nearby streets is a possibility too, depending on game time and day. The Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) is the best way to arrive to campus and for reaching the garage get off I-76 at Exit 345. This brings drivers onto Drexel's adjoining campus, and it is fairly easy to get to the garage from there. The other option to arrive at Penn is by using SEPTA, the mass transit system around Philly. There is a subway line (MFL) that stops right at 34th Street, which is within walking distance to the arena.
Generally tickets are $20 each. That is slightly pricey, except the arena is located in a large metropolitan city. If you have to pay for parking expect your outlay to be a bit more.
The CAA is a very good basketball conference with some very good basketball rivals. So expect to see a high caliber of play consistently throughout the schedule.
Also make sure to visit the Drexel Dragon Hall Of Fame in the lobby entrance that runs from Market Street towards the back of the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
The Daskalakis Athletic Center is a nice arena, but being so close to the Palestra makes the facility seem a bit of a letdown. Even though Drexel is not part of the Big 5, fans will still see some great action in this small, loud arena.
Member Review by JVerlin
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.
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.
41 S. 16th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
3408 Sansom St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
3420 Sansom St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
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Philadelphia, PA 19146