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Official Review by Joe Rogers, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Just a long jump shot's distance from breathtaking Niagara Falls and the Canadian border sits the quaint little village of Lewiston, New York, home to Niagara University. Centrally located on the campus of this Catholic school of 4,000 students sits the 2,400-seat John J. “Taps” Gallagher Center, a multi-sport arena named after the long-time men’s basketball coach who led the Purple Eagles for 31 seasons before retiring as the then 12th winningest coach in college basketball history. A well-lit, sharp looking floor is named “Layden Court,” an honor to another former head coach Frank Layden, who spent eight seasons commanding the sidelines here prior to a very long and successful career in the NBA. It is where the Purple Eagles have had considerable success winning a few Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season and conference titles on their way to three NCAA Tournament appearances and another 13 trips to the NIT.
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Below the Layden Court playing surface is the Student Center of Niagara University, a popular hub commonly referred to as the "Gally." The Gallagher Center is quite diminutive in stature, but food and beverage options abound after investigating a bit. Here you will find a mall-style food court with quite a variety including a Poblano's (Mexican), Pizza Express, J. Clark's Grill (known for their burgers and sandwiches), Subway and the internationally known Tim Horton's Café. Options are plenty, and the prices are quite reasonable with the student's budget in mind.
For the well traveled basketball fan, the Gallagher Center is not going to blow you away at first glance. However, for the true basketball fan, and in particular a Purple Eagle fan, it has to be appreciated for what it is, which is a small arena that packs a big punch.
There is not a bad seat in the house (and reserve seats come with chair backs), and although the Niagara program has struggled a bit as of late, the fans continue to show up and support as was the case during our visit in which 2,500 vocal fans showed up on a snowy Sunday afternoon to cheer their beloved Purple Eagles on. The N-Zone is Niagara's official spirit/cheering organization, a sea of purple located behind the basket that can elevate the home team and its fans with the energy that they generate. The "Gally" is a great place to get in from out of the snow and enjoy a warm cup of coffee and a snack prior to tip-off, or venture down at halftime and check on other scores at one of their comfortable TV lounge areas.
Niagara University seems to be a small world unto its own as there is absolutely nothing of mention within walking distance to the university. The Griffon Pub (any one of three locations), is a short drive from campus and is a must stop prior to, or following the game with an extensive food menu, and over 60 beers on tap and a few televisions to enjoy other games.
Purple Eagle fans are a very vocal group and seem to be very knowledgeable and in tune with the action on the floor. The students inhabiting the N-Zone are electric at times, creating a great atmosphere to take in a game.
Navigating your way to Niagara University and the Gallagher Center in particular is easy. It is conveniently located off of Interstate 90 and Robert Moses Parkway. Once on campus, just follow the signs that will steer you towards the arena. Once inside, real estate is limited, especially just minutes before a tip-off, so I'd immediately head for the "Gally" to grab a drink and relax for a minute to let the crowd filter in before making the move to your seat.
The Gallagher Center's ROI is rated as moderate to high. With very good General Reserved seats priced at $12 ($17 for a chair back) and children's tickets starting at $7 this is a great bargain. Parking is within a convenient walking distance and is free. The MAAC offers up some high quality of play with a few NCAA Tournament wins over the years including Manhattan's upset of #5 seed Florida in 2004 and Siena's demolishing of #4 seed Vanderbilt in 2008 and their victory the following year over Ohio State. A match-up with nearby rival Canisius College would elevate this ROI to high as the atmosphere inside gets pretty intense.
The Purple Eagle Hall of Fame upon the Gallagher's Center entrance is a nice look into their storied history with a display of memorabilia from past athletic accomplishments, as well as plaques of those who were inducted into the Hall of Fame including NBA great Calvin Murphy, Larry Costello, Hubie Brown and Frank Layden.
Monte the Purple Eagle, who recently underwent a make-over is a handsome bird, complete with streamlined wings, taloned feet, his very own basketball uniform and was there greeting fans as they entered the arena.
Niagara University staff are friendly and very helpfu,l and made our visit to this tiny campus a memorable one.
At the mere mention of free parking, one naturally begins to think they are in for a great experience and that was certainly the case here.
These are the types of arenas that I personally love to visit. The mid-major schools that fly under the radar until March Madness happens upon us and one of the Power 5 schools receives an immediate punch to the gut following the opening tip. These fans, although small in numbers, are genuine, passionate and infectious, and although we realize it or not, they are one of the reasons we root for that MAAC school, or any other small school when matched up with a Goliath. I'd make a return trip to the Gallagher Center any day.
Follow my stadium journeys on Twitter @JoeRogersCFBR.
Member Review by profan9 on Feb 18, 2013
Spitting distance from the Canadian border, just north of Buffalo, lies the quiet town of Lewiston, New York. In Lewiston, sits a tiny, Catholic university with fewer than 5,000 students. Niagara University was founded in 1856 by the Congregation of the Mission as a seminary. Over time, Niagara has evolved and the Purple Eagles take the court as a Division I basketball team.
For such a small university, the Purple Eagles have had some decent success, winning MAAC conference tournaments in 2005 and 2007, and winning the MAAC regular season championship in 1999 and 2005. The Eagles have made the NCAA tournament 3 years, with their best results coming in 1970 when they made the Sweet Sixteen. The Purple Eagles have also made 13 NIT appearances.
The Eagles play in their on-campus gym, the Gallagher Center; an intimate experience which will surprise the first time traveler, and leave you satisfied.
Named after legendary Niagara coach John J. “Taps” Gallagher, the Gallagher Center is a key point at the Niagara campus and a destination for students not only during athletic events, but anytime.
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