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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When most people think SWAC they think of historically black schools, Eddie Robinson and Grambling football. Most people are missing out on everything else that the SWAC has to offer. After visiting Grambling's Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center I will say I was not overly impressed with SWAC basketball, but I do think Texas Southern's Health & PE Center does quite a bit better in providing a great atmosphere for college basketball and showing that SWAC swagger that everyone expects.
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 Health & PE Arena really has a lack of options when it comes to food and beverage with only one concession stand open that only offered funnel cakes, boudin balls and water. Even though these were all cheaply priced, the lack of any kind of variety was truly sad. I think the Tigers could at least offer hot dogs, hamburgers or popcorn. The lack of variety and lack of concession stands is definitely the reason for the low number. On the plus side though they do let you bring food and drinks from outside.
The Tigers do a great job at commemorating great Tiger teams of the past. Texas Southern has pictures of past great teams hanging up throughout the arena as well as all the SWAC championship banners hanging in the rafters. The Texas Southern band also helps provide a great atmosphere for the team at the Health & PE Center.
Texas Southern's band, known as the Ocean of Soul, is known as one of the best bands in all of college sports. I will say though I found the 30 plus member band to be a bit overwhelming at times probably due to the lack of a crowd and crowd noise.
You won't find a whole lot of anything immediately around the arena to do before or after the game. One great little place I did find though was Luigi's Pizzeria which offers some delicious pizza and other items at great prices. I suggest trying the Meats pizza which can be found at a cheap price by the slice. I found it to be super fulfilling and my two sons equally agreed.
If you're looking for anything else to do I would suggest making the 10-15 minute drive north to downtown Houston where you will find plenty of options for food, drink and entertainment.
The fans that are in attendance are just what you would expect from a SWAC school, highly energetic and very supportive of their team. The only problem is that there just aren't enough fans to warrant a bigger score. The arena holds 8,100 people and when you only have anywhere from 200-300 show up at most you just can't produce that great fan experience that college basketball is known for. I may have caught them at a bad time since they were playing an out of conference opponent and the SWAC is usually known for great fans and games when playing fellow SWAC rivals. I do feel however that no matter what the fanbase should be more than 200-300 people.
Getting to the arena was pretty easy and for a cheap $3 you can park in an adjacent parking garage from the arena. This makes getting to and leaving the arena an absolute breeze. The restrooms are up to date and there are two in the arena - one on each end of the court. I found them to be nice and clean and always available probably due to the lack of a crowd. The concourses are wide and make moving throughout the arena very easy.
If you are looking to watch some good college basketball and are in the Houston area I would recommend a stop at the Health & PE Arena. Yes the arena may not have the sexiest name but Texas Southern University basketball provides some great entertainment for all. Tickets are generally cheap (under ten bucks), but I suggest hitting a game on two dollar Tuesday though when tickets are $2 each. Texas Southern may not be the division one type basketball that most people come to expect but for two dollars a ticket it's pretty hard to beat.
One point I have to give for the beauty of the Health & PE arena. When I read it was called the Health & PE arena, I was pretty worried about what I was going to see but I was pleasantly surprised.
My second point goes to the TSU band and cheerleaders, they did an awesome job at keeping what fans that were there on their feet throughout the game. They also helped keep the team motivated and helped them to win a pretty big out of conference game.
My third and last point goes to the Dancing Tiger mascots. They not only have moves but they interact with the crowd greatly and my boys loved them.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Feb 19, 2013
It can be tough to find this place at night as it is in a dark neighborhood with little around it. Once inside, the few fans make a good amount helped out by the band on occasion. The highlight is when an opposing player fouls out and fans rush to the floor area near their bench to sing a song at the poor guy. The Tigers are a SWAC leader, but the general quality of basketball in this conference is fairly weak. Worth a visit if you are in town but not if you are traveling.
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