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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
Opened in 1981, the Dedmon Center is the home of Radford University basketball, as well as the school’s volleyball team. The arena was originally constructed as an air-supported roof dome, but in 2008 the structure was reinforced with a steel truss roof. The white roof still lets in plenty of light during games.
The Radford Highlanders may not have a rich basketball tradition, but they have made two appearances in the big dance (1998 and 2009), with both appearances coming as a result of winning the Big South Conference tournament. The school has been a member of the Big South Conference ever since moving to the ranks of Division I in 1983.
The Dedmon Center may not be spectacular in any way, but it is a unique venue. If you’ll be in the western part of Virginia, then you should consider stopping in for a game. College basketball junkies may also look at the schedules and see where they could line-up a doubleheader with a Virginia Tech home game at Cassell Coliseum in nearby Blacksburg, VA.
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Inside the main entrance you will find two concessions offering typical food and drink. The complete menu consists of hot dogs ($3), nachos with cheese and jalapenos ($3.50), popcorn ($3), and candy ($1.50). Drinks include fountain Coke products ($3, $4), and bottled water ($2). Tropical Sno-cones are the one somewhat unique option if you're craving something cold and sweet on a winter's day or evening.
There's an interesting set up when you go to a Radford game as the two scoreboards are above the seating sections along each sideline. They are nice scoreboards, with video screens showing live game play and occasional replays as well as player information for the teams on the floor. It makes some sense to locate the scoreboards here as you check the score as the play moves back up the court.
Seating is mostly bleachers stretching behind each basket as well as the two benches (sections 6-18). There is a small portion reserved in section 11 for fans of the visiting team, located just behind their bench. If you want chairback seating, then aim for sections 1-5, with section 3 being ideal right at center court. There are no cupholders and legroom is average in these seats. If you want a seat that's comfortable, then you can try to snag one of the few floor seats, which are padded and include cupholders.
The pep band is small, but very effective, and given the opportunity to play during many of the media timeouts. During other timeouts, you're likely to hear current pop music over the good sound system.
When the team makes a 3-point shot, you can expect to hear the PA announcer shout out, "T-Shirt Time!" at which point cheerleaders or the mascot will throw a couple of shirts into the crowd. It's a good way to keep the crowd involved throughout the contest.
When in doubt, head for Main Street. That is a tried and true rule when visiting a new town, and is the case as you roll into Radford, Virginia. I stopped by Sharkey's Wing & Rib Joint, which is a good place for a sports fan to spend some time. They have 19 different kinds of sauces to go with their wings as well as several beers on tap. There's a pool table, and plenty of TVs to keep on top of any of the other Saturday games that may be happening. There's also a small movie theatre on Main Street if you need to kill a couple of hours during your visit.
Further down the road, if you want to try some more refined food and locally made beers, then you would be wise to take a trip to The River Company Restaurant & Brewery. I had a beer steamed shrimp appetizer and one of their craft beers while in town, and both were delicious. The restaurant resides at about a 5-10 minute drive to the Dedmon Center.
Anytime the cheerleaders outnumber the student section, you know you either have too many cheerleaders or not enough fans. In this case, it's actually both. With no less than 48 cheerleaders lined up along either baseline, it seems like overkill. The students take up residence behind the basket nearest the Radford bench. The location is wrong as they should be behind the other basket so they can wreak havoc on their opposing teams, near the opposing team bench and the Radford Pep Band. Of course, to wreak havoc you actually have to show up in greater numbers.
The remainder of the crowd is pretty tame, watching nonchalantly and cheering at all of the obvious times. If you are the fan of the opposition, this may be a good venue to try and invade and take over the home court feeling.
Parking is free, always something that contributes to a good fan experience and should be encouraging to families who are thinking about going to a Radford basketball game. Restrooms are large and clean, with interesting wood doors on the stalls. There's plenty of space to move about the concourse. You won't feel cramped when you go to a game at Dedmon Center.
Pricing is pretty straightforward with chairback seats going for $10, and all other seats in the bleachers costing $8. Kids can get a bleacher seat for just $6, and kids two and under are free. Radford students also gain entry for no charge with their student ID, making the lack of attendance pretty infuriating for a school with an enrollment greater than 9,000.
Concessions seem just a bit higher than what the quality would suggest, but free parking and reasonable ticket costs keep this experience priced just right overall.
There's a small bounce house that even has a basketball hoop inside over by the concession stand. If you have a young one who gets restless, this may be a good place for a visit. I'll also reward an extra point for the sheer number of cheerleaders. I've never seen a school with so many, and while I think it is probably too many, the sheer ridiculousness of having 48 cheerleaders is unique if nothing else.
Seeing a game at Radford's Dedmon Center seems like a miniature version of what seeing a basketball contest inside the Metrodome would be like. Overall, it is a fairly average game day presentation, but at the very least it is an interesting place to spend a couple of hours watching Big South hoops.
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1202 E Main St
Radford, VA 24141
1065 E Main St
Radford, VA 24141
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