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Official Review by Justin Sutton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Though the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils have experienced some recent struggles, fans of the program turn out to see the team in action at the Harrison HPER Complex in Itta Bena, Mississippi.
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The food and drink at a Mississippi Valley State game do not leap off the page, but they are substantial enough to keep the average sports fan happy. Go to the game expecting items such as popcorn, hot dogs and soda, and you will go home happy. If you are expecting exciting local foods that can be found at other arenas, it will not be such an exciting trip.
While the menu is not eye-popping, the prices are not, either. Fans going to the game should be able to stay well satisfied for under 15 dollars.
The atmosphere at a Delta Devils game depends largely on the visiting team. For in-state battles, the arena sees more fans pack the Harrison HPER Complex, but for some visiting teams from out of state, the arena may only run at 20% capacity. If you are a fan wanting to get close to the action, a mostly empty arena may give you that opportunity.
Seating is much more comfortable on the floor of the arena, where fans can sit in chairs. Anything above this section puts a fan in wooden bleachers.
It is important to note that the team reached NCAA play in 2011, but received a post-season ban in 2012-13 for low APR scores. With some of their fellow SWAC teams receiving the same ban, some of the fire was taken out of the season.
As far as the city of Itta Bena itself, your options on where to eat are going to be pretty limited. Larry's Fish House looks to be a good spot to dine, but it is only open during dinner hours. If you need to eat right by campus, swing into the Capricorn Internet Café, a place where you can pick up sandwiches.
A better bet for grabbing a pre or post-game meal will be to head about 15-20 minutes east to Greenwood or west to Indianola.
While the Harrison HPER Complex holds about 5,000 fans, the arena rarely comes near that capacity unless the Delta Devils face an in-state opponent. The Delta Devils saw a bit over 1,000 fans attending their 2012-13 home opener against Alabama A&M, and fewer than 1,000 came to the game against Alabama State.
The fans that are there can get excited, and if it is an in-state rival, expect even more out of the fans. The die-hard, every game fans are fun to watch, and brief chats with them show their love and following of the team. They gladly tell you about characters of the past, such as Lafayette Stribling, who coached at Valley for over 20 years, and nearly led the Delta Devils to a No. 16 over No. 1 upset against Duke in the 1986 NCAA tournament.
For such a remote setting as Itta Bena, traveling to Mississippi Valley State is not too difficult. Fans traveling from Jackson can take Interstate 55 to US 82 to reach the campus, and the same can be done driving south from Memphis.
If travelers want more of a back-road trip, that can be done on the way to Itta Bena, as well.
The simple fact is that most schools in the SWAC struggle to stay profitable with their athletic programs. Most of the people who make game day magic happen are overworked and underpaid. Many of the coaches use the job as a final resting place or a stepping-stone. Most of the players on the court will not advance to the NBA.
If a fan can get those expectations settled, the price of the game is not too outrageous, and fans have a chance to sit closer to the action than normal. The two sides balance a bit to make a fair return on investment for a Mississippi Valley State basketball game.
Something is charming about going to a college game in a smaller arena. Maybe it is the intimate feel of being in a smaller setting close to the court. It might be the fact that you can feel certain that refs and players can hear what you say. Whatever it is, it is worth it to die-hard basketball fans to visit these type of venues to enjoy the game at all levels of play.
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4238 Highway 7 S
Sidon, MS 38954
42500 County Rd 507
Itta Bena, MS 38941
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