When you notice that the name of the arena is something very generic like “Events Center” you fear the worst, a non-descript building with little charm. Fortunately, that feeling largely disappears when you step foot into Binghamton’s Events Center for a Bearcats basketball game. Get over the name and you actually have a pretty good facility to see college basketball.
Opened in 2004, the Binghamton University Events Center hosts the basketball program which has only been a Division I program since 2001. The program played in its lone NCAA basketball tournament in 2009.
It’s an attractive facility both inside and out, and despite being a multi-use facility, in really pulls off the basketball game experience well.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food and beverage selections are pretty standard, with one notable exception. First, the basics include hot dogs ($2.25), candy ($2.50), popcorn ($2.75-$3.50), nachos ($3.50), and soft pretzels ($3). Drinks include bottled water ($2.75), coffee and hot chocolate ($2). Soft drinks are provided by Coke.
The one unique and locally-inspired item is a "spiedie". A spiedie is a sandwich of marinated cubes of meat (in this case chicken, but it could be pork, beef, venison, or lamb). The sandwich is served on a garlic roll, and topped with ranch sauce. It's very good, and well worth the $4.50 price tag. It's always nice to have something local when you go to a game.
The amount of cheerleaders and dance teams is rather overwhelming. I counted 52 during my visit. When the cheerleaders outnumber the players and pep band combined, then you may have too many. They do a good job and stay involved at all junctures, but how many cheerleaders do you really need? There's also a Bearcat mascot, named Baxter. Baxter makes his rounds both in the stands and under the opponent basket where he'll try to distract the opponents during their free throws.
All of the seating within the Events Center is retractable. Sideline seats are all green plastic chairbacks, which are somewhat flimsy, but comfortable and provide better than average legroom. There are no cupholders in these seats. Each baseline features green plastic bleacher seats. The student section and pep band are on the end of the floor nearest the opponent bench. Speaking of the pep band, it is a small, but talented ensemble. The 12 members belt out current hits whenever they have the opportunity.
There is one lone scoreboard, which is four-sided and center-hung. The scoreboard has no video capabilities, instead cycling three ads throughout the entire game. The score, time, time outs left, team fouls, and period are on display.
During my visit, one fan had an opportunity to win a car by sinking a half-court shot, and he failed dismally, but it was still fun to see the high stakes contest.
Binghamton's athletic facilities, including the Events Center, are located just off of Vestal Parkway, and there are plenty of chain restaurants that line this busy thoroughfare. Just name your favorite chain, and you'll likely find it here.
If you are a beer lover, then the Ale House is probably the place that you'll want to visit before or after the game. The good news is that they have 36 beers on tap, and all of them are interesting. They also have excellent pizza. The bad news is that the service, at least during my visit, leaves a lot to be desired. I was ignored before finally receiving service, mostly because the bartender and another staff member were busy flirting with each other. It's too bad, because this is a nice little bar. Don't let the hole in the wall look fool you. If you are more patient than I am, then you'll likely enjoy this spot.
My visit coincided with senior night, which is always a special event, regardless of what school or sport you visit. The fans gave standing ovations to the four seniors who were honored, most notably for Jimmy Gray, the team's leading scorer and a local product from Binghamton.
The student section, located behind the basket nearest the opponent bench, was as lifeless as a corpse unfortunately. The school has an enrollment of about 12,000 undergrads, so the student turnout was really disappointing. What's worse is that at halftime, the students banded together to do a little dance number, showing that they clearly have the energy to be a force during the game, but simply choose not to.
To their credit, the fans came alive in the last portion of the second half, which helped the overall atmosphere, but once again made their inability to make their presence known earlier in the game that much more frustrating.
Other fans are in the game, but unfortunately it's not enough to make up for the lackluster students, an essential element of truly great college basketball.
Parking is free and the campus can be found just off of Route 17 which is just a couple of miles from I-81. When you enter the campus, there is a sign asking visitors to stop by the information booth. I did, and the person working there seemed perplexed why I would stop, so my advice is to skip this and just proceed into the campus, keeping to the right for the Events Center.
The main concourse in the arena is above the seating sections with only one concession stand open during my visit. Restrooms are clean and modern, although not too large. You may expect lines if it is a full house. Also, be careful when washing your hands as the sinks spray excessively hard. Depending on your height, you may be left with a wet middle section.
Chairback seats will cost you $12, and all other seats are only $8. This is a fantastic bargain, but when you factor in free parking along with a spiedie and drink, you're under $20 per person. This is well worth it to get to see some Division I basketball, even if the America East Conference is not the highest level of competition. If the students would turn out in greater numbers, then the return would be even greater.
One extra point for the pep band, which has a greater presence than their numbers would indicate. I have seen plenty of other programs with small pep bands that are nowhere close to the talent of this group.
Also, an extra point for making this multi-purpose arena feel like a basketball arena. This is not always an easy feat, but Binghamton is successful in this endeavor, making for a much better fan experience than I originally expected.
The dance team is also very good, and does a good job of performing synchronized dance routines during the breaks.
I understand that not everyone is as big of a college basketball junkie as I am, so Binghamton is not going to be a sought after destination for many travelers. However, if you love the game and are anywhere in central New York, it is well worth your time to check the Bearcats schedule and see if you can't go see a basketball game at the Events Center.
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