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Official Review by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Prior to calling the Galen Center home, the University of Southern California Trojans basketball team played its home games at the nearby L.A. Sports Arena. As far back as the early 1970s, it was said that Paul Wesphal was shown the blueprints for an on-campus arena to be opened by his senior season in 1972.
It would take 34 years for that promise of a new arena to come full circle. Galen Center would open on November 16, 2006. It seemed with the opening of a new athletic facility that the basketball program could finally call its own, in addition to its downtown LA location in the process of resurgence, this would be the beginning of a new era of USC basketball. However, since OJ Mayo’s one and done season in 2008, attendance has continued to decline.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
For such a new venue, it really is a surprise that they would have such a limited selection. There is your standard fare such as the jumbo hot dog ($5.50), nachos ($5.75), chicken Caesar salad ($7.50), and turkey wrap ($6.50), as well as your usual snacks, popcorn ($5.00 for a large, $3.50 for a small), peanuts ($4.00), and candy ($3.75).
The drinks, ranging from Coke products to bottled water are available from $4.50 for a large soda to $3.50 for a small, Vitamin Water and Powerade costing $4.00.
Trojan Tacos, a mobile cart behind the student section on the north concourse, has burrito bowls and nacho grande for $8.00. Bottled water and Coke products are also on sale there for $4.00. There are other mobile food carts as well, but with the evening's crowd at the game I attended being at less than capacity, they were non-operational.
It is no secret here that the basketball team does not have the following as its storied football program. In a city with its vast variety of entertainment options, despite playing in one of the Pac 12's and LA's newer venues, USC basketball has a hard time trying to lure in a solid fan base, which can be tough here in Los Angeles if a team is not consistently winning.
The Trojans have an in-house DJ to keep the fans involved. If his voice sounds familiar to those in Southern California, that's because the Resident DJ, DJ Malski has his spot on LA's 102.3 KJLH. In addition to sharing the stage with well renowned acts such as Kanye West and Stevie Wonder, to name a few, he is also the in-house DJ for Cal State Northridge basketball and the WNBA's LA Sparks. As with the Sparks, DJ Malski has the fans on their feet after the opening tip-off until the home team scores their first basket.
Also, during one of the breaks in action, a parachute drop takes place where mini parachutes drop from the rafters into the stands for lucky fans to win various gift cards.
Over the years, the surrounding neighborhood around campus has not been the safest. The scene along what is known as The Figueroa Corridor has brought new life along that particular stretch of Figueroa Street, lined with townhouses and various eateries, including The Lab Gastropub, located next door to the Galen Center. The area around USC continues its resurgence as more mixed-use development continues in what will be known as USC Village.
Two of the more popular choices among the USC students are Chano's and La Taquiza. Chano's offers your typical Mexican fare, burritos, nachos, tacos as well as some American favorites like burgers and hot dogs. La Taquiza is another favorite as well with their claim to fame being the mulita, two handmade tortillas with cheese, meat and guacamole. Otherwise, the corridor is also lined with your standard fast food chains as well, including McDonalds, Jack In The Box, Popeye's and Carls Jr.
Not far from the arena is Exposition Park, home to The Coliseum, where the football team plays their home games, and The L.A. Sports Arena, former home to USC Basketball as well as the Clippers and first home of the Lakers. In addition, the Natural History Museum, The California African American Museum, as well as The Natural History Museum and The California ScienCenter, are also located inside the park. To be able to visit all the museum and fully take in the experience, you would probably need two days to enjoy them. If you're limited on time, you may want to visit the California ScienCenter, home to The Space Shuttle Endeavour.
No one will ever compare the fan experience here to that of Duke's Cameron Crazies. Trojan fans do not deny the fact that football is the featured sport on campus. While there is plenty of truth to that, I would have to think that type of thinking would be a deterrent to future recruits. With UCLA as this evening's opponent, attendance was bigger than usual. However with both schools not in the Top 25, much of the upper level seats remained unoccupied.
The student section did do their best to rally around their Men of Troy keeping the energy alive only to be put to silence in the 2nd half as their rivals from Westwood pulled away.
Located on the corner of Figueroa and Jefferson Streets, with easy access to the 110 or 10 freeways, Galen Center is easily accessible. Depending which day of the week and what time the game is, chances are you will be dealing with the usual LA traffic.
Should you decide to use public transit rather than drive, the MTA's Metro Expo Line has a station conveniently located across the street from The Galen Center, perhaps saving you $25 for the valet parking that is also offered.
When entering the arena, for those not seated along the lower baseline seats, fans walk up a flight of stairs to get to their seating locations. Elevators are conveniently located as well. Should you have seats up in the second level, it is advised that you locate your aisle next to the stairs you will be walking up due to the fact those stairs lead you directly to your section with no upper level concourse to walk around.
With tickets ranging from $22-$35 on most nights, more than likely you will be able to search third party sites and pay below face value. Advanced planning is not really necessary should you decide to catch a game here on a whim. Should you decide to bring three of your closest hoops buddies, Friends and Family Packs, which include 4 hot dogs and 4 sodas are also available for $80.
Perhaps its most signature feature has to be the large windows located on the north end of the arena. Depending on what time of day the game is played, the windows are covered with a large curtain to avoid creating glare during games, particularly afternoon games. On this evening, the windows were left uncovered and those fortunate enough to arrive early before sunset were treated to a glimpse of not only the downtown LA skyline, but the distant San Gabriel Mountains as well.
In the lower concourse, the school's numerous national title awards, as well as a red wall displaying "Trojan Greats on Sports Illustrated" are exhibited. Also on the street level concourse is a bust of Louis Galen, who the arena is named after. Next to the bust on the wall is a portrait of Louis and Helene Galen. Louis Galen was more than generous in helping provide his alma mater over $50 million for the new arena.
The only reason I deducted the one star is the fact that the main concourse, while wide and pedestrian friendly, is void of any of the athletic displays that can be viewed on the street level concourse, with the sight of concrete walls giving a somewhat cold outdoor stadium feel. Now should they decide to add more athletic displays along these walls, not only would the concourse look more attractive but perhaps intimate as well, while not sacrificing pedestrian flow.
In spite of the fact that a USC basketball game can be a tough draw here in Los Angeles, a city with a plethora of entertainment options, it really is too bad that The Men of Troy don't draw respectable attendance figures. With top notch facilities and a top notch venue in a city with plenty of high school basketball talent to recruit, there really is no reason why USC should be struggling on the hardwood year in and year out. I would imagine that it would also help the psyche of future potential recruits if the school, as well as its fan base, would show some kind of extended interest in the basketball program as they do for the gridiron. The Galen Center is now in its 9th season of operation. USC has made it to the NCAA Tournament 4 times during that span, 2011 being its last appearance. With former Trojans OJ Mayo, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Nick Young in the NBA, USC has proved it does have the potential to recruit good talent. If USC can figure out a way to attract top notch players to its program, Galen Center could start drawing some respectable attendance figures. For now, attending a USC basketball game requires little to no advance planning, a fact even the most devout Trojan hoops follower would admit.
Member Review by DrewCieszynski
For years, it seemed that the University of Southern California basketball program would be subject to the same fate as the football program. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has played the home of the football team for nearly 100 years now, and it appeared that the basketball program would be playing at the Los Angeles Sports Arena for years as well.
Luckily for Trojan fans, Louis Galen came forward in 2002 and donated roughly $50 million for the construction of a new basketball arena, practice facility, and naming rights.
The construction cost of the facility came to approximately $147 million and would have a listed capacity of 10,258. It would first open its doors for basketball on November 16, 2006, against another "USC," the University of South Carolina. Strangely enough, the venue would not experience its first sell-out until nearly two months later, when local rival UCLA arrived for the first time.
What may come as a surprise to many fans is the name of the court. As fans see Jim Sterkel Court, they may struggle to remember his contributions to USC basketball. Sterkel only played two seasons for the program, averaging 10 points per game during that span. He also never made a donation for his likeness to appear on the court. Sterkel's wife and children were not even aware that their family name was there until after the facility opened. Bill Plaschke wrote a touching piece for the LA Times that explains how this relatively obscure alumnus came to have his name on the court.
Member Review by tdombrow on Nov 27, 2012
arena was nice but fans were soft
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