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Official Review by Joshua Guiher, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Saint Francis University, often shown on the ESPN ticker as St. Francis (PA), is located in Loretta, PA. The school only has approximately 1,700 undergraduate students making it one of the smaller Division I basketball programs in the country. The Red Flash play their home games in the DeGol Arena, which is part of the Maurice Stokes Athletics Center (named for the 1955 alumnus in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame). The Center was originally built in 1971 and last renovated in 1994. The basketball arena holds 3,500 fans with access coming in at floor level.
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There is one concession stand at the end of the main hallway with a small selection of standard foods. A slice of Pizza was $2 and a hot dog was $1.50. A soda was $2 and they also offered popcorn, pretzels and candy. That was basically the entire selection. Based on the number of fans, there was not a need for much else and the prices were good. I had a hot dog, which was average, some popcorn and a soda.
There were moments when the crowd was into the game, but overall the general atmosphere was passive. A large percentage of the crowd was made up of student athletes from other sports that were there to be recognized at halftime for academic achievement and did not watch the game from the stands. They gathered at the end of the court and most left after their ceremony. The only team I saw stay was the Men's Volleyball team, who had an important match the following night versus EIVA conference and division foe, Penn State.
The student section had less than a hundred people and was really the only section that cheered outside of the obvious big play moments. All of the seating was along the two sides, leaving large empty areas on either end of the court. I think this made it hard to keep any sound in the arena when the fans were making noise.
The town of Loretto is a small town with few options for entertainment outside of athletics at the school. The closest large town is Altoona, a good 25 minute drive away.
The Sports Information Director for the basketball team did provide me with a few dining options. One was Amici's which is an Italian Restaurant and is located in Ebensburg, a medium-sized town about 10 minutes outside of Loretto toward Altoona. The other was PJ's Bar and Grille in Cresson and was more along my travels. Since we had 3 inches of snow I decided to play it safe and went to PJ's. It was a typical small town tavern with sit down service. I went with some wings which were really good. They allowed me to try a few different flavors and much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the honey mustard flavor the best.
As I stated above, the fans just really didn't seem into the game. The first few rows seemed to be occupied by older alums and local boosters while the top section was where the families chose to sit. There were lots of general conversations going on and kids running around. It actually felt at times that I was the only one in the upper seats watching the game.
Parking was right in front of the Maurice Stokes Center and was readily available. Since the arena only holds 3,500, finding your seating section was easy and sections were only 30 rows high at the most. Seats were plenty wide and well numbered.
The hallway was large enough to contain game day ticket sales, the concession stand, a small merchandise stand and the bathrooms. The bathrooms were fairly large and were really clean.
Ticket prices were just $8 for adults and since there wasn't a bad seat, the price is very reasonable. The arena is a little older and the team is not likely to qualify for the NCAA tournament anytime soon so that is a drawback.
One star is for the politeness of their staff in letting me walk around and take pictures and helping me with the local eateries. One for the nice banner they had students signing to send to Monmouth College in memory of a softball player who had passed away unexpectedly.
I had a good time at St. Francis and the surrounding area really reminded me of where I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. I think the school does very well with the size of their enrollment but with over 350 Division I basketball programs, I can't say that a visit to a Red Flash game at DeGol Arena is a must-do.
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7874 Admiral Peary Hwy
Cresson, PA 16630
102 S Center St
Ebensburg, PA 15931
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