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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
For the most part, college sports are not the huge deal in New England that they are in other parts of the country. Of course, to every rule there is an exception, and one such exception occurs in the small town of Storrs, Connecticut, home of the University of Connecticut and their incredibly successful basketball teams.
The on-campus Harry A. Gampel Pavilion was built in 1990 to replace the Hugh S. Greer Field House, which held only 4,604 fans. The venue was named after UConn class of ’43 alumnus and industrialist Harry Gampel, who donated one million dollars towards the arena’s completion.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams share this basketball-only facility, and have a combined 14 national championships, 21 final four appearances and 59 NCAA tournament appearances on their resumes. 18 Husky players have been named as All-Americans. 33 UConn alumni have made it to the NBA, and 25 have played in the WNBA.
Originally built with a capacity of 8,241, Gampel Pavilion has undergone several expansions to achieve its current capacity of 10,167. It is now the largest on-campus arena in New England. UConn’s basketball teams have enjoyed great success here, as the men’s team has a record of 163-29 and the women’s team a record of 305-19 since Gampel’s opening.
While the team splits their home schedules between Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center, located 27 miles away in downtown Hartford, it is the on-campus arena that the team and fan base identifies as the home of the Huskies.
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The concession stands at Gampel Pavilion don't stray far from standard stadium fare.
There are stands located in the corners of the arena, each of which offer slightly different items. The two permanent stands offer burgers, dogs, and pizza, with nachos and French fries also available. Fans looking for snack choices will find popcorn, pretzels, cotton candy, cracker jacks and assorted candy sold here. Assorted ice cream treats are sold here as well. Fans looking to save a few dollars can combine items into a combo meal.
Also scattered around Gampel Pavilion are portable stands which offer some variety by selling cheesesteaks and sausage and pepper sandwiches. There is also a portable stand selling a variety of snacks and candy for Husky fans with a sweet tooth. Coke products are featured here. Given Gampel Pavilion's location on-campus, alcohol is not sold here.
Prices for concessions at Gampel Pavilion are in line with other venues in the area, and quality is decent.
The first thing you will notice upon entering Gampel Pavilion are the banners. They cover virtually every empty inch of the place. Any program that has experienced the level of success that UConn has will have plenty to brag about, and UConn displays its success proudly. The arena is split in half, with banners honoring the men's program on one side, and banners honoring the women's side on the other. Not only are there multiple NCAA championship banners on both sides, but there are banners commemorating NCAA tournament appearances, All-Americans, and hall of fame coaches Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma. Also scattered around the walkway are photos of legendary players and championship teams. It's easy to get distracted by all the history on the walls and hanging from the rafters here.
Led by a packed and vocal student section, the atmosphere at Gampel Pavilion takes a back seat to no venue in the country. UConn basketball rules the sports scene here in Connecticut, and Gampel's location on campus ensures maximum attendance by the student body, which has developed a vast repertoire of chants, cheers, and routines designed to distract the opposition.
The cozy, intimate setup of Gampel Pavilion ensures that the fans are directly on top of the action, and that the place gets loud when the Huskies start to roll. During play stoppages, the Husky game day staff keep things moving with contests, t-shirt tosses, and performances by the pep band, cheerleaders and dance squad.
The tiny town of Storrs, Connecticut is dominated by the university. Storrs' population of 10,000 is overshadowed by UConn's undergraduate enrollment of 16,000, with an additional 5,000 enrolled in graduate programs. The university is located over a sprawling 4,000 acres, and is largely self-contained, which is a necessity given Storrs' rural location.
Fans looking to stay in Storrs will find their choices limited. Most fans who come to the area will do so as a day trip, moving on after the game to the larger cities of Hartford, 45 minutes away or Boston, located 90 minutes from the UConn campus. The twin casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are located a short 45 minute drive from Storrs.
Fans looking for places to dine before or after a Husky game will find a growing number of eateries on either Storrs Rd. or North Eagleville Rd. Geno's Grille, named for UConn's legendary women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, and Randy's Wooster Street Pizza Shop, known for its appearance on Man vs. Food, are popular spots.
Basketball is the most popular sport at UConn by a large margin, and fans turn out in droves to see the Huskies play. Sellout crowds are not unusual at Gampel Pavilion, especially once the meat of the schedule begins. UConn splits their home games evenly between Gampel on campus and the XL Center, located in downtown Hartford.
The students at UConn highlight the loud and knowledgeable crowd here at Gampel Pavilion. Their antics begin before opening tipoff, as they refuse to even acknowledge the opposition, either turning their backs during introductions, or holding up newspapers to "read" as they are introduced. Fans come armed with a variety of props and costumes to entertain and intimidate, and the noise coming from the student section can distract even the most focused opponent. The remainder of the crowd, consisting of alumni and local fans, just add to the overall fun atmosphere here.
The University of Connecticut is located in rural Storrs, Connecticut, a village in the town of Mansfield. The campus is a 45 minute drive from Hartford, the capital of the state. Fans wishing to drive to the UConn campus will be well served in knowing that no highway serves Storrs directly, and a drive through the scenic eastern Connecticut countryside is necessary no matter what direction one is coming from. The closest interstate is route 84, which runs in a north-south direction connecting Hartford with the Massachusetts Turnpike. From I-84, fans will have to navigate local highways for about seven miles to the UConn campus.
For fans traveling by train or bus to UConn, be aware that there are no stations in the town of Storrs. However, the Union Station Shuttle transports round trip from the Storrs campus to Union Station in Hartford. The closest airport to the UConn campus is Bradley International Airport just north of Hartford. Shuttles are available to the airport from the university.
Most fans who attend UConn basketball games arrive by car, and there is plenty of parking near Gampel Pavilion, either directly across the street in the South Parking Garage, or in several lots or the North Parking Garage, all located within a five minute walk of the arena.
Fans will enter Gampel Pavilion via any of four entrances that surround the venue. There is a single, small walkway that circles the court, separating the upper and lower seating levels. The lower seating bowl consists of individual seats, and the upper bowl consists of bleachers with backs. With Gampel Pavilion's small size, all seats are right on top of the court, and have terrific views of the action.
Getting around Gampel Pavilion can be difficult, particularly at halftime. Likewise, lines form at both the concession stands and restrooms during the intermission.
UConn utilizes variable pricing for their games at Gampel Pavilion, with prices ranging from $36 to $65, depending on the opponent. All tickets in the arena are the same price, no matter whether you are sitting courtside or up near the top of the seating bowl. Tickets go fast for bigger name opponents, but there is an active secondary market for tickets.
Parking in the garage directly across the street from Gampel Pavilion costs $12. Parking in the north garage, a little further from the venue, costs $8.
UConn Co-op- Located directly across the street from Gampel Pavilion, the university's store offers 20 percent discount on all items in the store on game days.
UConn Dairy Bar-No trip to Storrs is complete without a visit to the campus dairy bar, which is open year round. Harking back to UConn's early days as an agricultural school, all materials used in the making of the ice cream here are produced by students. The milk cows can often be seen grazing out in the fields behind the shop, and customers can watch the ice cream being made on site.
Equal billing for men's & women's programs-Gampel Pavilion is split evenly in half, with each side of the facility dedicated to either team. It's refreshing to see the tremendous women's program receiving its due here.
History/banners-The success of the basketball programs are on full display at Gampel Pavilion, as virtually every open inch of wall space seems to be taken by banners honoring players or teams. Take a walk around the arena to see the plaques lining the walkway.
J. Robert Donnelly Husky Heritage Sports Museum-located just a few minutes from Gampel Pavilion, the museum features displays honoring the many national champions in all sports from UConn, as well as the largest collection of Husky memorabilia anywhere.
Thanks to the success of both the men's and women's basketball teams at UConn, Gampel Arena has had its share of exposure on the national stage. In an area of the country where college sports are normally far from the spotlight, Gampel Pavilion gives New Englanders a taste of the atmosphere that is the norm elsewhere. It is a must-visit for any true college basketball fan.
Follow Paul Baker's Stadium Journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
Member Review by Dan Van Wie on Mar 07, 2013
Gampel Pavilion is one of two homes for the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams. The gym is located on campus in Storrs, CT. The other home for the UConn basketball teams is the XL Center in Hartford, CT.
In the 2012-2013 season, the men’s team played 18 home games, with eight games being played at Gampel Pavilion and 10 games held at the XL Center. Gampel Pavilion was constructed in 1990 and the seating capacity is 10,167. It is the largest on-campus arena in New England, and it is known as an iconic building on campus. The only sport played at Gampel Pavilion is basketball.
855 Bolton Rd
Storrs, CT 06268
3636 Horsebarn Hill Rd.
Storrs, CT 06269
9 Dog Lane
Storrs, CT 06269
350 Trolley Line Boulevard
Mashantucket, CT 06338
855 Bolton Rd
Storrs, CT 06268
123 Storrs Rd.
Mansfield Center, CT 06250