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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
There is plenty of excitement at the University of Guelph. A new addition to the football facility is being prepped for the 2017 season. The Gryphon Centre Arena has completed a facelift. The most excitement athletically might be coming from the brand-spanking-new basketball facility.
After a huge fundraising campaign, the 2016-2017 OUA basketball season saw the christening of the new Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre. Essentially a massive addition to the existing W.F. Mitchell Athletic Centre, the new Gryphons Athletic Centre offers students a ton of new athletic and recreational space. This is all highlighted with the new Event Centre which is home to Guelph Gryphons basketball. The Mitchell Centre was home for Gryphons basketball since gaining varsity status in 1964. Not the most beautiful facility in the conference, the Mitchell Centre was one of the more feared facilities in the OUA and the Gryphons definitely enjoyed a home court advantage there. The admin at the University of Guelph are definitely hoping that some of that atmosphere translates to the shiney new facility. Stuck in an era where the Carleton Ravens have won just about everything possible, the Gryphons have seen a modest amount of success at the Mitchell Centre. A Wilson Cup in 1990 as Ontario Champions and a W.P. McGee Trophy as National Champions in 1974 are the main pieces of hardware the Gryphons have brought home. The Gryphons have also enjoyed miracle like runs to end up as National Champion Runners-Up on three separate occasions. With the new Athletic Centre, however, the Gryphons are upping the ante with regards to recruiting and they’re hoping that the shiny new Gryphons’ nest will help bring home some more hardware.
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".
The concession menu at the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is not huge. Upon entry to the Athletic Centre, fans will find a concession stand on the northwest side of the building, near the ticketing window. The menu is very small, including chips, popcorn ($2), and Domino's Pizza. Soda and water are also available ($2) with Coca-Cola products on offer. On the northeast side of the building, in the student lounge area there is a coffee shop/cafeteria that is on site. However, the hours of operation may not coincide with a Gryphons event. Alcohol is not sold in Gryphons Athletic Centre with the exception of the VIP seating area which may be rented.
Upon first glance, the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is breathtaking. It incorporates aspects that are not seen in other OUA basketball venues. The main entrance to the Gryphons Athletic Centre is found on East Ring Road, which runs northwest to southeast. The exterior is unique, brazened with Gryphons red along with silver siding. The unique shape of the building is noticed immediately and adds a curiousness to the building. Upon closer inspection, it is surprising to find glass all along the northwest and northeast sides of the building which can actually allow people to see the gym floor from the street.
Inside the Athletic Centre, fans are immediately greeted with a bright and clean facility, what anyone would expect from a brand new facility. To the right, fans will find the concession stand and permanent ticket window and to the left is the entrance to the gym. The concourses are decked out in Gryphons red, gold and black. Straight ahead fans will find the Gryphons Athletic Hall of Fame. Headlining the Hall of Fame is W.F. Mitchell, former Athletic Director and Gryphons Athletics Pioneer. The former home of Gryphons basketball was named in his honour, and still stands as part of the University of Guelph recreation facilities. Other interesting inductees include former Toronto Argonaut and Hamilton Tiger-Cat linebacker and Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea and Canadian International hockey legend Cassie Campbell.
Inside the Athletic Centre Events Centre the bright and clean feeling remains. The entire events centre is encircled in glass giving fans multiple points of viewing, even from outside the building. Two of the four sides look to the exterior of the building offering lots of natural light inside the events centre. Student lounges also are found just outside the events centre. The gym floor is below ground level. Fans enter the events centre behind the grandstand seating on what is a functional two-lane track. The court runs from southwest to northeast. There are four main seating options. Behind each basket, contoured plastic benches offer fans the opportunity to sit as close as courtside on the southwest or northeast. The southwest and northeast grandstands are close to the action, practically on top of the court, but end much higher than the end seats. The northwest grandstand is the most comfortable by far with full, plastic, stadium seating. Fans who wish to stand and watch the game have the opportunity to stand on the track, behind the seating. VIP seating is available for university events or rental above the running track in a feature that will, no doubt, help with recruiting and is unique for an OUA venue. The press box is second to none in the conference as well
Above centre court is a brand new, four sided video board which offers the Gryphons the opportunity to display their top notch video and broadcast production. The score is displayed on the video board however, player names and accumulated points and fouls are not displayed for fans to see. LED lighting throughout the gym make a huge difference and add to that bright and clean feeling. A spot where the Gryphons need to step up is displaying some of their basketball acclamations. Nowhere in the seating area can fans see championship banners for Gryphons basketball. This is especially disappointing for a team that has won a National Championship. Hopefully, with age, the Gryphons Athletic Centre will make this change.
The game day experience is about what you would expect for an OUA basketball game. The Gryphons Dance Pack perform during breaks on the court. Some games will find the Gryphons mascot perusing the stands and interacting with fans. The Gryphons also have a minor basketball team play during halftime.
The Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is located right on campus of the University of Guelph on East Ring Road. There are a few options that are within walking distance of the gym, but not a ton. A quick venture in the car will take you to Gordon Street where you will find Fifty West, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Manhattans. A quick turn onto Stone Road will bring patrons to Stone Road Mall and a variety of chain restaurants including Montana's, Milestones and Fionn MacCool's. If you are wanting to stay on campus, then try P.J.'s Restaurant in the Atrium or even Gryph's in the Gryphon Centre Arena.
Other entertainment options in Guelph would include heading north to downtown Guelph. The River Run Centre has a number of shows that may interest fans on the right day. The Sleeman Centre, home of the OHL's Guelph Storm is also nearby. Other sporting options in Guelph include the Gryphons football team, which plays at Alumni Stadium and the Gryphons hockey team at the Gryphon Centre Arena.
For fans that need to stay over in Guelph, the Delta is very close to campus as is the Days Inn.
Assessing fans at OUA basketball is very difficult as many programs do not adequately publish attendance figures per game. That being said, the Gryphons are coming from one of the great fan experiences at the W.F. Mitchell Athletic Centre. The old gym was small, but the fans would fill all the seats and there were no programs that had a louder, more engaged fan base. It is fair to say that the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre has not yet been fully endeared to the Guelph fan base and it seems that there is still a bit of a feeling out process going on.
The new Athletic Centre is much larger and more spacious and there is more space for sound to get lost. The game that was reviewed found the fans to be pretty laid back and relaxed. The stands were far from full also. That being said, the 2017 season has not been the best for the Gryphons and a lack of success on the court could have kept the fans at bay. In this case, Gryphons fans' history will give them the benefit of the doubt and keep them at a score a little higher than may be expected.
Getting to the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is not terribly difficult. The University of Guelph campus is located east of highway 6 and south of highway 7 for those fans that are coming from out of town. There will be a bit of a drive through Guelph to get to campus, but traffic moves well along the major roads.
Public transit is available in Guelph, right onto the university campus and along Stone Rd and College Avenue. Fans interested in public transit should see the Guelph Transit website for maps, schedules and fares.
Parking is available to the south at the Gryphon Centre Arena. There is no charge for parking during game times, especially on weekends, however a quick check of the facility page just to be safe might be in order.
The ticketing desk is inside and to the right of the main entry to the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre.
Getting around the Athletics Centre is no problem at all. As expected, the washroom facilities are ample, new and clean.
Tickets to see the Guelph Gryphons are very affordable. At $10 per ticket for adults with University of Guelph students at no cost and non-university students at $5, the investment in Gryphons basketball is not a large one. Combine that with concession prices that are not over the top and free parking and affordability is a key word for Gryphons basketball. The on-court product is great and the Gryphons usually have a competitive team. The enjoyment of the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre is not to be underestimated either.
An extra mark for the solid investment that the University of Guelph has made in athletics.
An extra mark for the student run broadcast team. Guelph features a strong broadcast production, and the Gryphons Athletic Centre has facilities second to none in the conference.
An extra mark for changing the feeling of basketball facilities, welcoming in the light and making the gym an open experience.
The excitement on the campus of the University of Guelph is well founded. A facelift to the hockey facility and the new football facility are all a part of Guelph taking the OUA by storm and in many cases pushing the envelope. At the top of that excitement must be the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre. It has a great balance of event centre and recreation facility for students and might just be the blueprint for other schools to follow. The shiny, new Gryphons' nest looks to push Gryphons basketball to a great place in the future.
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149 Reynolds Walk
Guelph, ON N1C 1B1
50 Stone Rd. W
Guelph, ON N1G 1P4
50 Stone Rd. W
Guelph, ON N1G 1P4