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Official Review by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Tennessee Technological University is a wonderful college campus nestled right into the small historical downtown Cookeville, Tennessee. With a current enrollment of just under 12,000 students, this makes for a great college town for this mid-major program to reside. It is very apparent that athletics is something that the school takes a lot of pride in. This is noticed immediately upon arrival of the campus, one will see banners and signs everywhere promoting sports. Most importantly, the athletic facilities are exceptional examples of this pride in athletics at Tennessee Tech.
The Hooper Eblen Center is a multi purpose indoor arena that is the home of the Tennessee Tech Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams as well as the Volleyball team. The arena comfortably seats 9,280, which makes it the second largest arena in the Ohio Valley Conference right behind Tennessee State. The Eblen Center was built in the seventies and apart from some nice upgrades; it stands in its original state, which gives it a lot of character.
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".
Upon entering the arena, one will have no problem finding one of the five concessions stands on the concourse level of the arena. Uniquely, The Eblen Center features one concession stand inside the actual arena between the two seating bowls, which makes for a very convenient stop on breaks of play.
While these concessions are easy to find and access, they don’t offer anything out of the ordinary. Typical stadium food is what one will find with the addition of Dominos Pizza. The arena does not serve alcohol.
Whether the team is playing a top 25 program or just a regular season conference match-up, the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles’ fans will show up to make the environment as tough as possible for the visiting team. In addition to what the fans bring to the atmosphere, the on-court entertainment compliments the play. Each break in play provides opportunities for the program to hold an on-court contest or game. A prime example is the "Meal Or No Meal" game show where contestants compete for a number of meal coupons from Wendy’s. "Tech" provides some of the most creative in-game entertainment creating a wonderful family welcoming atmosphere.
Even though the city of Cookeville isn’t a large city full of great local favorites, there are some good local spots to be sure to visit during a trip to the arena. A nice local sports bar called The Bilmar Station’s 19th Hole is a perfect pre-game bar and restaurant to get a bite to eat and catch the other games. Recommended dishes include their half-pound burger, the buffalo chicken tenders, and most famously, the Cookeville Cuban sandwich.
Another place that comes highly recommended for its post-game festivities is Spankies. This is a great place to catch up with other attendees and listen to some good local live music acts.
As mentioned before, Tennessee Tech basketball puts fans in the stands each game who really know how to get loud for the home team. Typically, the Saturday night games are doubleheaders with the women playing before the men; this creates a great way to encourage fans to come support the women’s team as well. That being said, this motivates fans to arrive early to grab up the better seats of the general admission level that are in high demand.
While the students do show up in very creative and unique outfits, there seems to be little unity among them when it comes to cheers and chants. This does not mean that they aren’t involved or get loud, but it just doesn’t appear that cheers are planned like some other strong student sections that you will find around the country.
The access in and out of the arena parking areas is a breeze and a nice change of pace. Parking is free and ample with a short walk to the arena. Once inside the arena, it is easy to find one’s way around. The concourse halls get somewhat congested during halftime due to the lack of space for the lines which form from concessions, however, this does not create a real issue. Restrooms are clean and plentiful, but as expected, get overcrowded during halftime and directly after the game. All in all, the access is great for an older venue which hosts up to 10,000 fans.
Overall, prices are very fair and reasonable for the experience one will receive. Tickets are well priced for the locations, and concessions offer a good product for the value. One will not be disappointed by what they receive for the minimal cost of the game experience in Cookeville.
The ticket windows and queues are inside the concourse area providing a warm wait in line for tickets.
There is a public autograph table that hosts four or five players each game for kids and avid fans to collect the autographs of their favorites.
The in-game entertainment deserves some extra credit due to the creativity and family friendliness. The staff at the Hooper Eblen Center clearly goes out of their way to make this a very enjoyable experience for fans of all ages.
Bottom line-A game experience at The Eblen Center is a unique, one of a kind experience, which can be very special. There are no frills or fireworks, rather, a passionate and raw basketball experience. This has to be considered in the top echelon of the Ohio Valley Conference if not all of the mid-major basketball program arenas.
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1068 E 10th St
Cookeville, TN 38501
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