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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Georgia Southern University is the largest Georgia state university south of Atlanta, with more than 20,000 students. It is located in southeastern Georgia, about 80 miles inland from Savannah and the Georgia coast. The three major colleges within Georgia Southern are Liberal Arts, Business and Health and Human Services.
Georgia Southern has a storied athletic heritage, as its football team won the Division II National Championship six times. A few years ago, the school moved up to the FBS level of competition, where it is a part of the Sun Belt Conference. The school’s mascot is an eagle named GUS, and he has a real-life assistant named Freedom. The Georgia Southern basketball program is located in the Hanner Fieldhouse, which is part of the Hanner Sports Complex. It opened in 1969, but has gone through frequent renovations since then. The arena seats 4,358 in its basketball configuration.
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 stands for Hanner Fieldhouse are located underneath the lobby of the fieldhouse and downstairs from any seating areas. This makes it very awkward, as you have to negotiate stairs in order to return with your food to your seat. There are two stands with multiple service lines, so you will not have to wait long for your order. The items on the menu include hot dogs ($4), pizza ($5), pretzels ($5), large popcorn ($6), cotton candy ($3), peanuts ($4), candy ($2), sodas ($4) and coffee ($3). The low score reflects the poor location of concessions for fan convenience, not the quality of the food or the service.
Upon entering the arena portion of Hanner Fieldhouse, you will have a sense of deja vu, as it will remind you of the bandbox gymnasium from your old high school. The lower level of seating consists of plastic bucket-style seating, while the upper level consists of wooden seats that are usually found in an old baseball stadium. The seating at the ends of the court consists of wooden benches. The basketball goals are of the wench-up/wench-down style, and the court is also marked out for volleyball. The scoreboards are found as wall-attached units on each end of the court, rather than above the court, and there are no video or message boards.
While Hanner Fieldhouse will never be confused with Cameron Indoor Stadium or Phog Allen Fieldhouse, it still can be an intimidating place to play. The architecture of the building includes a low, flat roof, which results in trapping the noise down to the seating and playing surface level. The noise level at an Eagles game can be deafening. In addition to roof design, other factors in creating the loud environment are the students, who get to attend games free of charge, and the school's pep band, known as the Hoop Troop. Due to the relatively small capacity of the facility, and the fact that the school is relatively isolated from its Sun Belt neighbors, you will have a huge home-court advantage with a packed house filled with Georgia Southern supporters.
Even though the gym itself is antiquated, the cheerleaders, the band, the students and the very up-tempo style of basketball played by the Eagles do go a long way towards redeeming the atmosphere at a Georgia Southern game.
The immediate neighborhood around Hanner Fieldhouse is the campus of Georgia Southern University. Even though the university was founded in 1906, the present campus is very modern, as most buildings are less than 20 years old. The 910-acre campus is quite scenic, with Spanish moss hanging off the trees, two lakes and plenty of shade trees to give some relief from the hot South Georgia sun.
The city of Statesboro really owes existence to Georgia Southern University. It is a true college town. As the university has expanded, Statesboro's population has grown to more than 31,000 residents. It literally surrounds the Georgia Southern campus on all sides.
Your restaurant choices are rather limited in Statesboro. Most of the restaurants closest to the campus are of the fast-food variety; however, Vandy's Bar-B-Q and The Millhouse Steak House are local favorites. When it comes to adult beverages, the answer is Dingus McGee's. It is not the only bar in town, but it simply is an institution in Statesboro. Its walls are covered with Georgia Southern memorabilia.
There are plenty of lodging options within walking distance of the campus. They include the Quality Inn, Holiday Inn and Suites and the Baymont Inn.
Georgia Southern has one of the most loyal fan bases in the Sun Belt Conference. The components of this fan base are students and faculty of the university, the residents of Statesboro, and usually a contingent of soldiers from nearby Fort Stewart. They proudly wear the blue and white colors of the school, and follow the lead of both GUS and the Hoop Troop in disrupting the communications of the opposition as much as possible.
The school does an excellent job of promoting the basketball program to the student body and the community at large. Free posters featuring team members are given away at each game. Every time a Georgia Southern player makes a three-point basket, the Tees for Threes promotion launches T-shirts into the crowd.
Two games that are guaranteed sellouts and bring out the loudest fans are the Savannah State game and the Georgia State University contest. The Savannah State game is a virtual backyard rumble, due to the two schools' close geographic proximity. The Georgia State University game is huge, as 1) It is a meeting of two Sun Belt Conference foes and 2) It is for bragging rights to which school can claim the "GSU" moniker for another year.
Getting to Statesboro and Georgia Southern University requires a long drive from any major city. The university is 80 miles from Savannah and 170 miles from Atlanta. The nearest interstate (I-16) is more than 11 miles from Statesboro. The most direct route from I-16 is to take exit 116 and head east on Highway 301, which will bring you into Statesboro. Once in town, you will continue on 301 past the main entrance to the university and turn right onto Tillman Road, then right on Fair Street. You will then turn into the campus at Herty Drive. Unfortunately, the parking lot immediately in front of Hanner Fieldhouse only has enough spaces for persons with disabilities, major donors and season ticket holders. Anyone else attending the game must park in a general lot a considerable distance away. The parking is free, however.
Once inside the Fieldhouse, the access is below average. In addition to the concessions being located downstairs away from the seating area, the bathrooms are similarly placed on the lower level. To comply with the ADA, single-stall bathrooms are provided at the seating level of the arena.
By planning ahead, attending a game at Georgia Southern can be very economical. This is because tickets purchased before the day of the game come at a discount of $3-$5 on each ticket purchased. The tickets in the upper tier of seats are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the game. Lower section seats are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the game. General admission seats are at the ends of the court, and are priced at $8 in advance and $12 on game day (bring a seat cushion if you are sitting in this section). Parking at Hanner Fieldhouse is free, and there are several reasonably priced hotels ringing the perimeter of the campus.
Georgia Southern has two nature-related facilities that are worth a visit when in town. The first is the Center for Wildlife Education, which includes a Raptor Research Center. This is also home to Freedom, Georgia Southern's real bald eagle mascot. The Georgia Southern Botanical Center always has something in bloom, due to the temperate climate of the area.
Statesboro resident and musician Blind Willie McTell wrote "Statesboro Blues," which went on to become one of the Allman Brothers' greatest hits.
Member Review by Matt Yogus on Mar 18, 2013
Hanner Fieldhouse has been home to the Georgia Southern University Eagles since it opened in 1969. The multi-use facility is home to men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball. It also holds spring graduation each year, and has even hosted a sitting President, George W. Bush.
Hanner Fieldhouse seats 4,358, and has undergone few facelifts throughout its existence.
Hanner shows its age, but when a packed house is there to take in a basketball game, the noise created by the fans has been described as sounding like, “a tornado.”
The facility is named after W.S. “Shep” Hanner, the school’s faculty athletic chairman from 1935-1959.
Member Review by ianmccor on Apr 19, 2014
Like Appalachian State, a remote school joining the Sun Belt from the SoCon that cares about football more, hurting the hoops atmosphere.
3 Georgia Ave
Statesboro, GA 30458
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