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Hill Field House

Baltimore, MD

Home of the Morgan State Bears

2.3

N/A

Hill Field House (map it)
1700 E Cold Spring Ln
Baltimore, MD 21251


Morgan State Bears website

Hill Field House website

Year Opened: 1975

Capacity: 4,250

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Morgue-an State

In the big city of Baltimore, Maryland, Morgan State University is the big school. Founded in 1867, Morgan State has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,400 students, fifth-largest in the state of Maryland and first out of the four four-year colleges and universities that are located within the city. Morgan State was originally called the Centenary Biblical Institute and was a Methodist Episcopal seminary before changing into Morgan College in 1890 in honor of Reverend Lyttleton Morgan, the first chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees. The name changed once again in 1939 to Morgan State College before being granted University status in 1975, thus becoming Morgan State University, the name it holds today. A historically black college, Morgan State, or MSU for short, is home to a critically acclaimed choir group that has appeared on such programs as the Late Show with David Letterman, NBC’s Today show and Christmas in Rockefeller Center 2008.

Morgan State basketball is the athletic program on campus with the most recent success. A charter member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) that was founded in 1970, Morgan State has been the conference regular season champion three times (2008-2010) and won the conference tournament thrice as well (1976 over Howard, 2009 over Norfolk State, 2010 over South Carolina State). As a result, they have been to the NCAA Tournament twice as a 15th seed (2009 and 2010) and went to the 2008 NIT as an 8th seed.

The home games for Morgan State basketball are played in Talmadge L. Hill Field House, The venue can hold about 4,500 fans, and is named after the head coach of the Bears’ basketball team from 1948-1960. While the Bears have been able to tap into some conference success in these past few years, the Hill Field House experience leaves a whole lot to be desired.

2.3

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    2

The concession stand is under the bleachers on the south side of the hall. It's easy to find because it stands near a big bear statue that is standing on its two back legs. As with many smaller colleges, the food and drink selection is adequate but hardly special or unique. Hot dogs ($3), nachos ($3), candy ($2) and chips ($1) are on the menu, along with bottled soda ($3) and bottled water ($2). The prices are certainly fair, and everything is listed on a small sign that sits on the front counter, which makes it easier to plan your purchases. The beverages are Pepsi products.

One drawback is that the concession stand is cash-only. Thankfully, lines were not long at all on the night I visited. The selection is similar to what you will find in small venues across the country, with nothing that screams Baltimore or even Maryland. If you're hungry, remember that you're in the city and go out to eat somewhere before or after the game. You will find much more variety than you would just eating at the Bears game.

Atmosphere    1

I checked the MEAC conference standings more than once during and after the game to ensure my eyes were not deceiving me. The Bears were 8-6 in conference play at the time of the game (early 2013), posting a respectable standing and certainly a team that couldn't be overlooked once the conference tournament started a few weeks later. The reason I mention this is while the team that Morgan State was playing was last in the conference, the atmosphere made it feel like it was the other way around. The atmosphere was unfortunately rather mundane.

Structurally, Hill Field House is fairly big on the inside. There are blue and orange fold-down seats with armrests on the top rows and blue bleacher seats on the bottom rows. The student band, consisting of about 20 to 25 students, take up about half of the bottom bleachers that are on the top left portion of the court. There are also about twenty rows of bleacher seats on the right baseline of the Morgan State court, although there aren't any seats on the left baseline. The left baseline is occupied by about fifteen Morgan State cheerleaders.

A large four-sided scoreboard is displayed above center court, which can be seen from anywhere in the stands. It displays the score, time remaining, period and number of team fouls for each side. There are also basic scoreboards on the right and left walls behind the baselines, which show the time, period and score. Plenty of blue and orange banners hang on the walls on either side, noting the accomplishments in several sports that Morgan State teams had reached. These include the 1982 East Regional Wrestling Championship, 2008-2009 MEAC Men's Basketball Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament entry, as well as the 2011-2012 MEAC Cheerleading Championship.

Some sports venue experiences suffer because of the actual architectural structure of the place, the layout or just the overall look in general. This isn't the issue with the Talmadge L. Hill Field House. The problem with the Field House is the actual game day product. Fans are a big part of the atmosphere, and their participation during the game I attended will be explained in more detail later on, but in short, the fans seemed disconnected and disinterested. From the beginning, Hill Field House seemed a bit dark due to some ceiling lights being out. You could see the court perfectly fine but the higher you got in the seating area, the less light you had around you. There was a video board on each of the four sides of the center court scoreboard but it didn't feature any of the action, just basic text graphics like 'Let's Go Bears!' and 'Shut 'em Down!' This is interesting at first, but gets a bit repetitive.

The student band played during a few intermissions on the night I attended and played one song during halftime, and they were certainly a bright spot. There were no fan games or activities during any intermission or dead ball sequence. Instead, most intermissions consisted of the PA announcer trying to get students to vote for the school in an online contest. After the band played one song that was about two or three minutes long at the start of halftime, the last twelve minutes or so of halftime was filled with music from the speakers that was a bit loud.

Neighborhood    4

The city of Baltimore is a place of pride for Marylanders, as it's likely the only city in the state that Americans from elsewhere can name with any regularity. Once a major manufacturing center, Baltimore has turned into a service-oriented economy, but is still known for being a hard-working, blue-collar community. Nationally, Baltimore flies under the radar among the other East Coast poster-cities like New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. With that said, Baltimore still has plenty to offer tourists and visitors across its 92,000-plus square miles that includes a harbor, a national aquarium, two professional sports teams and three universities that play Division I basketball, including Morgan State.

The list of things to do around Baltimore is endless. For the studious, there are museums like The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, American Visionary Art Museum, Maryland Science Center and National Cryptologic Museum. For entertainment, there always seems to be something going on at Power Plant and Fells Point. The animal-enthusiast will love the National Aquarium and the Maryland Zoo and the outdoor-enthusiast will enjoy the Inner Harbor and Sherwood Gardens.

As with any city, some places in Baltimore are prettier -- and safer -- than others. I found in going to both Morgan State and Coppin State that Coppin State is in a bit of a better area in the city than Morgan State. Both schools are about five miles from a hot spot such as the Inner Harbor, with Coppin State being near west Baltimore and Morgan State being close to north Baltimore. Morgan State's campus looks great, however, so as long as you know where you're going, you don't have to worry or take any more precautions than you would seeing a game in any other big city.

Fans    2

For the Morgan State Bears, attendance isn't the problem. Fans came to the game I attended, filled seats and though they were not in the majority, several fans were decked out in orange and black Morgan State basketball gear to support the home team. My concern doesn't come from the fact that the game was not a sellout, though; it is based off of the energy that the fans who were at the game showed. In short, there was very little. The fan demographics were spread out, as alumni, students and families with young kids all came to the game.

There was little to no cheering, however. Fans, young and old alike, yelled out different things during the game at the Morgan State players on the floor, but there was nothing that was in unison and no fan cheers or chants. Rather than the fans cheering something like 'DE- FENSE!' together while the Bears didn't have the ball, a handful of fans would just shout at the players to play defense as if they were having a one-on-one conversation, while the rest of the fans sat and watched. The band and the cheerleaders actually tried to start a few 'DE-FENSE!' chants, but would end up being the only ones participating. There didn't seem to be any traditions within the fan base and even when the visitors shot their free throws in front of the right bleachers, no one made an attempt to distract the visiting shooters. We can certainly debate if fan distractions actually have any effect on free throw shooters, but they certainly couldn't hurt.

Towards the middle of the second half, there was a section of fans that came together on the left side of the south bleachers that started some chants and 'call-and-respond' within their group. They were large enough and loud enough to be heard throughout the venue, but didn't really incorporate anyone else. It seemed as though most fans were just distracted with other things at the game, such as checking their phones, listening to music in their headphones or talking with their friends. Morgan State ended up winning the game convincingly, but it was a one-point contest at halftime, so it wasn't as though the end result was easy to predict early on.

Access    2

Anytime you're going to a venue that's located in a big city, you're bound to run into some issues with traffic on the drive there. If you're coming from Philadelphia or Delaware, follow I-95 South to the Baltimore Beltway, then I-965 towards Towson. Take Exit 30A (Perring Parkway/MD-41S) until it becomes Hillen Road, and Hill Field House will be the first left after the E Cold Spring traffic light. If you're coming from Washington DC, the main route will be the DC-295N ramp, which turns into MD-295N. Morgan State's website has a page with similar directions that may be able to help.

Be sure to follow the signs, as you are often not allowed to turn right on a red light, which is different than the laws in other cities like Annapolis, Frederick or College Park. The address that will get you closest to the Fieldhouse is 1700 E Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21239. Once on campus, the building does not stand out that much. I had a bit of trouble finding the venue, but if you follow the crowd traffic as I did, you will be led to the right place.

Return on Investment    3

It's important to note that the ticket office is in the building across from Hall Field House, called the Soldiers Armory. The tickets are $10 for all general admission, and seating is first-come, first-served. Youth tickets are $5, as are tickets for students from other schools with their student ID. These prices are competitive and similar to the other venues within the MEAC - $10 for general admission is actually the exact same price as a ticket to see Coppin State University at the Physical Education Complex less than six miles away. $30 for a standard family of four is certainly a bargain in an age where ticket prices seem to be going up and up. If you want the most bang for your buck, try scheduling your visit to Hall Field House during the Coppin State Eagles' annual visit. Those games seem to always bring out the most fans because of the close proximity of the two schools, both of which seem to consider the other school their top rival.

Extras    2

One extra point for Hall Field House goes to the Morgan State University Varsity 'M" Club Hall of Fame. It sits above some lockers in the main hall of the field house and displays the names and pictures of distinguished athletes and coaches that helped build the Morgan State athletics program, such as Timothy McCready (Golf 1967), Timothy Baylor (Football 1976) and Leonard Braxton (Track Coach 1976-1992). Morgan State is hardly the only small school with an athletic hall of fame, but it was nice to see pictures of all the athletes and coaches, even for the ones that were part of Morgan State half a century ago.

Another extra point goes to the student band. One of the many special aspects of college basketball is that many colleges and universities have a student pep band that performs on game day. Not all student bands are created equal, though. The Morgan State student band was definitely a highlight of my visit, and included everything from drums to tubas.

Two points are awarded in all, equal to the number of NCAA Tournament appearances by the Bears.

Final Thoughts

If you want to bring in fans, part of the equation is to have a good team. Everyone loves to watch a good, competitive team that has a chance of winning no matter who's coming into town. The other part of bringing in fans, though, is making the event worthwhile. Sports and entertainment go together. In an age where people can check any scores or standings on their iPhones, iPads and iWhatevers, more and more focus needs to be on the entertainment side of the live game. You need to make the fan feel entertained regardless of who wins the basketball game and by what margin. Morgan State games at Hall Field House act as proof that a good competitive team is not enough to make a trip worthwhile. Until more is done to, in essence, thank the fan for coming out and watching the Bears live, the Hall Field House experience is a hard one to support.

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