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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Just a small town in western Virginia, Radford consists mostly of Main Street and campus. Set between the New River and I-81, it's a small school college town through and through. With a population of around 17,000 and an enrollment of under 10,000 at the university, the environment at the Dedmon Center is less robust than it is unique.
The Dedmon Center is a unique dome or tent-like multi-purpose facility that can seat up to 3,200. Originally an air-supported dome, steel trusses were put in place in 2008, adding stability to the roof. While the Highlanders don't have rich history or a massive fan base, the experience is at least a unique one.
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Inside the main gate and behind the student section and curtain, you'll find two concession stands that offer a typical helping of food and drink items.
You can grab a hot dog with or without chili ($3/$3.50), barbecue pork ($4), a selection of nachos ($4-$5), a burger ($3.25), popcorn ($3.50) or a pretzel ($3). Nothing is particularly special, but all will meet your basic food needs.
Coke products are available ($3-$4), as well as bottled water ($2.50). There is no alcohol served in the Dedmon Center.
With nothing particularly striking on the menu, it comes down to taste. So buy a dog or some nachos and enjoy the game.
The Dedmon Center may lack for overall enthusiastic environment, but it will satisfy for unique aesthetics.
Right off the bat, you'll notice the domed structure on the river as you drive up. Domes aren't necessarily uncommon in sports, but the miniature version that is the home of the Highlanders is definitely interesting. Reminiscent of somewhere between the Carrier Dome and a circus tent, it will at the very least pique your curiosity. Once inside, you'll find a concourse ringing most of the facility (both with views of the court and behind the curtains on either end). Wooden bleachers extend down to the court from either sideline and behind both baselines. Uniquely, the video scoreboards are located on each sideline behind the bleachers.
There is a small pep band in the student section which adds to the college feel, and cheerleaders often launch T-shirts into the crowd. But overall, it's a pretty average, if not low-key, experience.
Mid-court seats aren't particularly hard to come by, with chairbacks on one side for a little bit more of a price. Unless the crowd really shows up, though, your best bet is to pay $10 for general admission and stretch out wherever there's room. You won't be particularly far from the action anywhere here.
Radford is what they had in mind when they coined the term "small town." There's the campus, and there's a pretty bare bones Main Street. The setting is picturesque enough, with rolling foothills and the New River in the background, but if you're looking for eventful nightlife, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Main Street is the place to go before a game and is only a short drive from the campus. Options, however, are limited. The absolute best option for a sports fan seems to be Sharkey's for some delicious wings, barbecue, burgers, craft beer and more. The River City Grill is another popular downtown option. Across the New River is the River Company Restaurant and Brewery for the local beer lover.
While Radford may not be known for attractions, there's plenty of scenery for the lover of the outdoors. Claytor Lake State Park is about a 10-minute drive south across 81, and makes a good starting point.
There aren't many upscale hotels right in town, but a few miles west in Dublin or a few miles east in the Christiansburg/Blacksburg area, you can find a whole lot more of a variety. If you're feeling like doing local, the Nesselrod Bed and Breakfast is just across the river from campus. In town, you can find a La Quinta, Best Western or Super 8.
From the size of the sleepy town and the relatively unheralded history of Radford athletics, low expectations will tend to be met at a Highlanders game.
A Radford game draws in the average range of about 1,500 for attendance, but even that can be insistent. The small town and student body, coupled with a much bigger program in Virginia Tech up the road, means the fan base is relatively small.
Despite the pep band, the students don't draw well. Their setup is behind one basket, but the section tends to be pretty sparsely populated. The rest of the crowd is made up of what appears to be locals and alumni who take a pretty casual approach to the event. Overall, there's not a lot of energy in the Dedmon Center.
If you can get to rural Virginia, you won't have any problems getting to the game.
Large airports aren't particularly close. Roanoke has a decent-sized regional airport about 45 minutes up I-81, but everything else (Charlotte or Greensboro) will be a couple of hours.
Parking is free and spaces are abundant in the loop around the stadium.
You can enter from multiple gates, but the gate on the river side provides the easiest access to seating and concessions. Everything else will enter through the top of the concourse, so you'll have to walk a bit to reach restrooms and food.
Once inside, you'll have no problems navigating. The open layout makes it simple to get to any seat, and there is a lot of room in general to explore. Aside from getting to Radford from your starting destination, a Highlanders game couldn't be easier.
While not a top of the line experience, pricing couldn't be much better.
Bleacher seats are $8 and chairback seats will run you $10. Kids can get $6 bleacher seats (free for under 2) and students get in free. Parking is free and concessions are cheap. If you're a lover of college basketball, you won't find it much cheaper and easier than a trip to the Dedmon Center. Just don't expect to be blown away with the experience.
There's definitely a level of uniqueness to a Radford game. The easiest place to start is the venue. Small-school college basketball tends to have more of a fieldhouse/gym feel to it, but not Radford. The large space that makes up the Dedmon Center feels comfortable and is anything but cramped. There's also a large concourse at the main entrance with a gift shop and inflatable basketball game. Kids seem to congregate in this area to play, offering some potential relief to parents that want to focus on the game.
Overall, the Dedmon Center won't (and shouldn't) be high on anyone's "must-see" list. Only the most serious of college hoops fans will make the trek to western Virginia to check it out. But under those lowered expectations, it at least qualifies as an easy, comfortable day.
Member Review by paul on Feb 12, 2013
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.
1202 E Main St
Radford, VA 24141
1065 E Main St
Radford, VA 24141
6620 Ben H. Bolen Dr
Dublin, VA 24084