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Official Review by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Texas Southern Tigers have enjoyed an almost unprecedented level of success as a basketball program in the SWAC. Since 1990, the squad from Houston has won six conference titles, and made six appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
The squad has done so from the comfort of their home court, the Health and Physical Education Arena. Built in the late 1980s, this arena is the perfect fit for a small-sized school that plays big-time basketball.
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".
This ranking might be a bit unfair. The HPE (as it is known on the P.A. system at the arena) has four separate food kiosks, one at each corner. As this was the last game of the season, only three were open, and they only take cash at Tigers games, so be forewarned.
Two of the stands (or three if you include the stand that was closed) offer traditional fare like popcorn, chips, candy, and nachos (which you can also add chili to). The stand that was closed appears to also offer hot dogs, turkey legs, and beer.
At Health and Physical Education Arena, the star attraction in the concessions department is the chicken wings. You get a basket full for $8, and the wings are easily the most popular item, as fans queue up in deep lines to get them. Another non-traditional concessions selection is the Cajun favorite boudin; for $6 you get an order of the sausage treat (still in its casing) plus bread.
Also, be sure to make a stop at Mam's Sno Balls for some sweet treats; these made-to-order sno cones are very popular among the home crowd.
The atmosphere, as would be expected for a program that has enjoyed as much success as Texas Southern, is electric at Health and Physical Education Arena. The P.A. announcer does a tremendous job of getting the crowd fired up from the opening tip off, and the game starts with the tradition of no one on the home team side being allowed to sit down until the Tigers score a bucket.
The rafters surrounding Coach Moreland Court are adorned with banners commemorating past successes, as well as the retired numbers of former greats; this adds an air of importance befitting a program that has attained the success that Texas Southern has.
As always, college athletics are greatly aided by the pageantry that goes into the games. Here at Health and Physical Education Arena, the Ocean of Soul TSU Band and Tigress Sensations Dance Team add even more fun and excitement to the atmosphere.
Health and Physical Education Arena is located right on the Texas Southern campus, and the campus itself is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. As such, there is not much in the way of attractions nearby; a few small restaurants can be found in the area, but that is about it in terms of things to see or do.
On the plus side, Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. Within 15-30 minutes of campus in any direction, you can find a wealth of restaurants, hotels, and entertainment options (you will just need to do a bit of research beforehand).
Texas Southern fans are flat out fantastic; they are vocal, passionate, and tuned into the game for its entirety. When you watch the crowd, the most exciting thing to see is the vast age range of Tigers fans in attendance. The stands are packed with a great mix of young and old fans alike, and you can literally see multiple generations of TSU fans at every home game.
While Health and Physical Education Arena is designed to hold over 8,000 fans, do not expect to get that type of capacity crowd. However, thanks to the fans that do attend, you won't be able to help getting caught up in their frenzied passion for their team.
You can get to Health and Physical Education Arena fairly easily off of either I-69 or I-45, depending on which direction you are coming from.
Once you get off the highway, however, you will need to make sure your GPS is working! You will have to navigate through a neighborhood to find the arena; the great public transportation system that Houston has in its downtown area - aside from public buses - does not extend to Texas Southern's part of the city.
Once you get to the venue, there is ample parking in the garage right behind it, and parking is often free for home games.
General admission tickets for Tigers home games start at $10 per person. This is a great bargain, as there really aren't any bad sightlines in the building. If you couple this with the relatively low cost for concessions (the $8 chicken wings are the highest priced item on the menu) and the opportunity to pay $0 for parking, this makes for a great evening of NCAA basketball.
Playing in the SWAC, and playing many non-conference games each year against a horde of some of the country's biggest programs, affords fans at Health and Physical Education Arena the chance to see some really great college basketball, for a price that is easy on the old pocket book.
While there aren't many frills at Health and Physical Education Arena, there are a couple of standout extras to highlight. In addition to the dance team, the Tigers cheerleaders are also great; they add the right amount of emphasis at the right moments during the game to keep the crowd energized, but also keep fans focused on the action on the court.
Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention the school mascot, Tommy the Tiger - this guy is high energy personified. When he isn't behind the basket heckling opposing players during free throw attempts, he is on the baselines seeking out small children and other fans to hug. Furthermore, when he isn't doing either of those two things, he spends his time - no joke - hurdling trashcans at full speed sprints; Tommy definitely exemplifies what a great college mascot should be.
I didn't really have any preconceptions when I first came to Health and Physical Education Arena for a Tigers basketball game. After visiting, however, I came away impressed with both the building (despite its obvious age) and the Texas Southern fan base. This campus is full of legacy, history, and culture, and the basketball team has a glorious winning tradition. If you are in Houston and looking for some big-time hoops action, head over to the HPE.
Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter @EricMoreno6477.
Member Review by pderrick
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.
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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