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Francis S. Levien Gymnasium

New York, NY

Home of the Columbia Lions

2.0

3.1

Francis S. Levien Gymnasium (map it)
2960 Broadway
New York, NY 10027


Columbia Lions website

Francis S. Levien Gymnasium website

Year Opened: 1974

Capacity: 3,408

There are no tickets available at this time.

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The Lions' Den

Columbia University, located in the Upper West Side of New York City, is one of the most prestigious schools in the country. United States Presidents, Generals, world leaders and famous authors and actors have all walked through the beautiful quad located in the center of the campus on their way to class. The architecture of the buildings and the history of the university make it very obvious that you are on the campus of an Ivy League school.

Then, you go to Levien Gymnasium for a Columbia Lions basketball game and see how much the University cares about sports. The basketball arena is literally in the basement of the physical education center. In a nutshell.... not a lot.

This isn’t to say that the gym wasn’t packed for the game I attended where the Lions played their arch-rival, the Princeton Tigers. There was barely a seat available,(in fact, I think it was a sellout). What was stunning to me was that Levien Gymnasium is an absolutely terrible facility. It’s an atrocious place to watch a game. It’s about as aesthetically pleasing as a train station located in the middle of nowhere. If you show up even a minute late to the game, you have to wait behind double doors until a stoppage in play before you get to take your seats. The walls are grey and the lighting is aquarium-like. The box office lines are long, and even after you get your ticket, you’re herded like cattle into a security line that takes an extremely long time to get through. In general, Levien Gymnasium is a very unpleasant place to watch a basketball game.

The gym is named for Francis Levien, a deceased lawyer from New York.

As for our FANFARE scale, don’t expect eye-popping numbers. Levien Gym doesn’t deserve them.

2.0

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    1

Soda and candy make up the menu at Columbia games. I may have spied a soft pretzel, but with the concession table located on end of the gym, and the line for it being aggravatingly long, I didn't want to run the risk of being shut out of the second half by security. Yes, as soon as the second half begins, the doors close and you're not seeing any of the game until there's a stoppage of play. Come hungry, leave hungry at Levien Gym.

Atmosphere    2

There was a pretty good student body presence at the game I attended in early 2013. A loud and proud group of students was standing in the mid-court area of the gym, bellowing at Princeton players.(some remarks were rated PG, some XXX). Unfortunately for the group, Princeton took a commanding lead almost from the opening tip, and by halftime, the group cleared out. Alumni mostly composed the other side of the gym. They didn't make much noise at all. The in-game music sounded as though it was coming out of a blown speaker, and the PA announcer would actually ask trivia questions during stoppage in play (for instance, "Who invented the radio?"). Columbia had cheerleaders and a dance squad, but they did little to ramp up the atmosphere in the morgue like setting after halftime. The gym does have a video board, but if you're sitting on one side of the stands, it's obscured by the basket support hanging down from the ceiling.

Neighborhood    4

And now, the positive. Columbia's neighborhood is the best of both worlds, in that it's a university-type neighborhood smack in the middle of Manhattan. I'd be remiss as an old "Seinfeld" fan to not point you in the direction of Tom's Diner, located a few blocks from campus. The exterior of Tom's served as the fictional "Monk's", where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer would dine on big salads and tuna fish sandwiches. Tom's Diner was also the inspiration for Suzanne Vega's hit song (also called "Tom's Diner") in the 1990s. There are so many good restaurants and bars right around the campus, it would be a disservice to pick out one or two. Just do what New Yorkers do, look at the menu outside, peek your head in the door, and try a dish that you've never tried before.

Fans    2

The fans that show up at Columbia are split down the middle. One side of the gym is alums and families. The other side is reserved for students. The pulse of the arena from the alumni side flatlined from the opening tip, while the other side was somewhat rowdy and lewd. The cheers were very creative and made me laugh several times, but the section cleared out quickly as the Lions were getting pummeled by Princeton.

Access    3

The University and Levien Gym are located right off the #1 subway line on 116th Street. The #1 train runs straight up the Upper West Side of Manhattan and is easy to locate. By car, take the FDR Parkway to 116th and look for signs for Columbia University. Parking is always an issue in New York, but you could luck out and get some prime off-street parking if you keep your eyes peeled. The neighborhood is very safe, but as always, exercise caution.

Return on Investment    1

Columbia charges way too much for very little. For chairback seats that are located in the first six rows behind the bench, the per-game cost is $25. The rest of the gym is bleacher seating, and the price runs $10 for non-conference games and $15 for Ivy League matchups. There is much better basketball to watch in New York City for comparable prices in much nicer arenas like Manhattan College or LIU.

Extras    1

One star for the beautiful surroundings in and around Columbia. It's truly the epitome of what an urban campus should look like. You can imagine a young Dwight D. Eisenhower or Barack Obama studying in the gothic library that dominates the view from the quad.

Final Thoughts

Dear Columbia,

You are one of the finest universities in the world. You are located in the most exciting city in the nation. Your endowment is huge. Do your students and alumni a favor and tear down this 1970's eyesore. Take a look at Cornell's gym for ideas. It's time to move out of the basement, Columbia. You're better than this.

Sincerely,

Stadium Journey

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Crowd Reviews

Lions in Winter

Total Score: 3.14

  • Food & Beverage: 0
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 1

I think a lot of the problems that are described in the official review were absent in the game I attended, an afternoon affair with Ivy League co-leaders Yale in attendance. I booked my ticket in advance ($10) and had no trouble picking it up at will call and being in my seat well before tip off. The arena was packed, with many visiting fans as well. The Lions won the game handily and the fans and students were into it from the start. Broadway is a great area and of course Times Square is just 15 minutes away by the 1 train. I did not see any food for sale here, and agree that the access needs to be improved. Very tight seating and the top rows have a slightly obstructed view. The basement location is not such a negative during the day as sunlight comes in through the windows on one side. Well worth the time and money on this day.

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