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Official Review by Jason Bullock, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Hampton Convocation Center is located on the university campus and is home to the Pirates basketball team. Opening in 1993 and replacing Holland Hall, which the volleyball team still calls home, the Convocation Center seats about 7,200 fans.
Since joining the MEAC in 1995, Hampton has captured two regular season conference championships and four conference tourney titles, the most recent in 2011. The program’s biggest success came in 2001, when as a #15 seed, they upset Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Banners representing their past accomplishments hang with pride in the Convocation Center in the school colors of blue & white.
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 prices at the Hampton Convocation Center are rather inexpensive. With that said, variety and selection vary at the two concession stands located in the arena. I started at the one behind section B4 and down the stairs. The menu board offers wings ($6) and a hot dog ($3) as the main proteins. However, cheeseburgers and Chick-fil-A sandwiches are also offered for $4 (neither listed), so I purchased one of each. The most popular item appears to be popcorn, and for $1 a serving, I can see why this is the case. Bottled Pepsi products are available for $3 and chips/candy are $1.50.
I visited the second stand located behind section A4 (again, down the stairs) at halftime and only found nachos and popcorn. I'm assuming the first stand is the main one, as this one almost appeared out of business. Concessions stay open throughout the game, but if you're looking for a burger or chicken sandwich, I would recommend getting them early as they were out late in the game when I visited.
Interesting note here - the first concession stand did accept credit; however, it was through the cashier's iPhone. I'm all about technology and I was OK (surprised, but OK) with the process, but if you don't have a high level of faith or trust in the security of this type of transaction, bring cash. Another thought that crossed my mind after leaving - what if she is on break or the only cashier that had the phone/app? You may want to play it safe and bring some green.
As you approach the Convocation Center, you notice a nice water fountain in the foreground of a modern building. Entering the front doors behind the fountain, you find a well lit lobby-type area. This area gave me a good first impression of the arena. I then saw the metal detectors, and my mental state slightly changed. Being safe and secure is great, but I haven't typically seen this at other college venues I have visited in the past. Getting through wasn't too much of a chore, though, and it was off to find a good seat. I was told seating is general admission. Stairs to take you up to the main seating bowl are located right behind the concession stands.
There are a few seats marked 'Reserved', but for the most part, you have your pick. Of course, most of the lower level seats were already claimed, so I made my way up to the upper level. One thing that is notable here is the amount of railing inside the building. If you are going to be in the upper level, your best bet is to sit at least 10 rows up, or you will more than likely have a railing partially obstructing your view. All seats are plastic and your comfort may vary. The floors are all concrete and are in need of maintenance, as many areas are well-worn. This isn't a major deal, but it does take a little bit away from the overall atmosphere.
The pep band and dance team are located in the stands behind the basket adjacent to the visitors' bench, and you will find cheerleaders on both ends of the floor throughout the game. Their effort and work does not go unnoticed, and really keeps what atmosphere there is in the arena going.
The Convocation Center is located right on campus, so there are not a lot of things to do in the immediate area. Located in the Hampton Roads area, you have so many options for before or after the game, I couldn't possibly list them all here - Williamsburg, Jamestown, Norfolk and Virginia Beach are all reasonable drives from Hampton and a web search will provide you with must-see opportunities.
If you're into water, there's plenty of it around. If you're in the area for a few days, take a drive out to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It's over 20 miles long and connects the Virginia Beach area with the peninsula across the bay. There's even a rest stop along the bridge where you can get a bite to eat or even go fishing!
Looking for something to eat before or after the game? Head over to the Coliseum area (about a five-minute drive) and head to the Greene Turtle, a great sports bar with plenty of TVs. Cinebistro, located in the same shopping center, has first-run movies, along with in-theater dining and beverages. It also has a full bar and bowling alley and is a great place to spend an evening with friends.
The Hampton fan experience is nothing out of the ordinary. A great number of fans appeared to be bored or into conversations with others and not really into the game. The most recent game I attended was a late 2012-2013 season contest, but if you are going to go to the game, at least pay attention and support your team. The energy level in the stands was very low, and if I felt it, I'm sure the players did too.
Getting to the Convocation Center is simple - it is located right off I-64 and right on the Hampton campus. Parking is located right across from the arena, and there is plenty of it available. Getting inside and through security can be a little bit of a hassle, depending on crowd size, so be aware of that if you are tight on time and being in your seat at tip-off is a must for you.
Once inside, you won't find the typical round concourse. The concourse is really inside the seating bowl, and most utilize that to get from one side of the arena to the other. Outside of the seating area, you will find two sets of restrooms, one of each by the two concession stands. It's a little confusing at first, but I found the orange-clad ushers helpful and they were able to guide me where I wanted to go.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids - you really can't go wrong here. Parking is free, and even if you do partake in the concession stand, you are still getting a decent value for your money here.
If you're looking for a competitive college basketball game, that is what you will find. Otherwise, there is not much in terms of extras.
If you're a fan of Hampton basketball, some of things that I mentioned above may seem unimportant to you. If you're a fan of arenas and planning a trip of those that you must get to, the Convocation Center is missing that special something that would put it at or near the top of your list.
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