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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Georgia State University is one of the largest urban universities in the southeast, with more than 33,000 students. It has grown from being an evening school for businessmen to a thriving coed University, offering more than 250 different degree programs. The school has expanded both academically and in athletics, as the first GSU football team began play less than a decade ago. It has also gone from being a commuter college to a traditional campus setting, as a number of dorms have been built in just the last few years.
The GSU Panthers basketball program is housed in the only on-campus athletics building, the GSU Sports Arena. The arena was built in 1972, with the first games taking place in 1973. In the early years, basketball was a tough sell, as it was difficult to recruit players to a college with no on-campus housing, and also difficult to persuade students to come back downtown once their classes ended. That all changed with the arrival of legendary coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell. Coach Driesell was a master salesman as well as a great tactician, and GSU has been on the upswing ever since. When Coach Driesell retired in 2003, the basketball court was named in his honor. The team now competes in the Sun Belt Conference, and often appears in either the NCAA or NIT tournament at the end of the season.
Georgia State is in the midst of a Master Plan to upgrade its athletic facilities. Amongst the improvements planned for the 40-plus-year-old Sports Arena are increasing the seating capacity from 3,400 to 5,000; the addition of premium suites for major supporters of the university; renovations to the exterior of the building, including a fan plaza and additional escalators to access the third floor court; and moving the scoreboard/video board to hang over mid-court, rather than the end of the court. This will greatly enhance the fan experience of Panthers basketball.
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".
It is pretty easy to sum up the food and beverage offerings at the GSU Sports Arena...few offerings, but cheap. There are only two concession stands serving the arena, but there are no long lines because they have little to choose from. What is offered is called a snack menu, which includes chips, peanuts, crackers, popcorn and pretzels. Drink selections are Coca-Cola products and bottled water. That's it. If that is complicated, the pricing for everything is $1 each...no matter which item you buy. To sum up, you won't leave with a full stomach or empty pockets if you visit the concession stand. However, there are some great dining choices available nearby for a before or after-game meal. You'll find them listed in the Neighborhood section of this review.
Georgia State plays some major national contenders, as well as its conference foes, and has had great success against both its in-state rivals, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. However, it does not have the electric atmosphere of an ACC game in the newly-renovated McCamish Pavilion at Georgia Tech or the thrill of an NBA game taking place a few blocks away at Phillips Arena. The product on the court is very good; however, the facility it plays in is dated and lacks many of the bells and whistles found in other arenas. The planned renovations will definitely amp up the atmosphere in a few seasons.
Georgia State is decidedly an urban university and is surrounded by skyscrapers and the city's main public hospital, with the State Capitol/government complex is a block away. The student housing area is located 4-5 blocks from the arena. A majority of the restaurants located near the university close at the end of the business day. However, there are some excellent restaurants located in the Sweet Auburn Market just two blocks from the arena at 209 Edgewood Avenue. Amongst the better choices at the market are the Sweet Auburn BBQ, and Grindhouse Killer Burgers, both of which have been featured on the Food Network. The best lodging choices are in Peachtree Center about seven blocks from the arena, but easily accessible by MARTA rail. Hotel brands include Westin, Hyatt and Marriott.
The student body at GSU is definitely basketball-friendly. It has the longest tenure on the campus and, for a majority of the school's existence, was the only major sport the school took part in. The metro Atlanta area is a high school basketball hotbed, and GSU is able to attract many local athletes. As a result, many of the basketball team's members are playing in front of family and friends. The crowd is on its feet and cheering for the whole game. The GSU pep band does a great job of keeping the fans in the game, and the school's mascot, Pounce the Panther, always is entertaining.
When your school is located in the downtown area of a major metropolitan city, parking is going to be expensive. Fortunately, GSU owns several parking decks that offer much more reasonable rates ($5) than the private lots ($10-$15). Lot G is the closest to the arena. However, the best deal access-wise is the MARTA rapid transit station located directly across the street from the arena (Georgia State Station) The fare is $2.50, regardless of how far you ride on the system. In this way, you can beat the traffic and not worry about finding parking.
Tickets ($10) and concession prices are very reasonable. Where the costs go up are in the lodging area. Think an average of $215 for a downtown hotel, and if you do pay to park in a private lot, you are looking at $10-$15. A night on the town in downtown Atlanta for a visitor can be an expensive proposition. For locals, the cost can be much more manageable. MARTA is by far the best travel option for getting to the game.
Over the years, the GSU Sports Arena has played host to a wide variety of sports events. These include the badminton competition during the 1996 Olympic Games, the ESPN College Slam Dunk and Three Point Championships the years the Final Four was in Atlanta, and performances by the Harlem Globetrotters.
Member Review by jmccurdy
Amidst the sometimes-smoggy and often-hazy downtown Atlanta scene, there is a sort of bubble of clarity. Providentially - at least, in the mind of roundball addicts like myself - the purpose of this realm is to host exciting basketball games.
Georgia State University Sports Arena holds within Charles "Lefty" Driesell Court, and if you know not who this hardwood's namesake is, please stop reading this and go look him up. There may be just 4,500 seats privy to the action, but from my experience, any one of them is worth filling with your rear end for an evening at this price.
Member Review by alee1227 on Nov 08, 2014
A different arena than most. The layout was kind of confusing. I went on their first sell out since 1985(?...could be wrong). The general admission bleachers were uncomfortable and jammed pack tight. The team is great, the fans are LOUD, there was even a halftime baby race.
50 Upper Alabama St
Atlanta, GA 30303
209 Edgewood Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30303
209 Edgewood Ave
Atlanta, GA 30303
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