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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Nestled up in New Rochelle, New York sits the quaint campus of Iona College, which features the Hynes Athletics Center, the home of the Iona Gaels. The 2,611-seat, $15 million arena was built in 1974 and was originally called the John A. Mulcahy Campus Events Center until 2006 when a recreational center was attached and the name was changed. The arena may be considered small for a Division I institution, but there’s an intimate feel in the building unmatched by many of the college basketball stadiums in the Northeast.
Iona is an original member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), which formed during the 1981–82 season. The Gaels have the most total victories of any MAAC team and have won a record eight conference titles. In its history, Iona has played in 10 NCAA tournaments, but the school only holds a 1-10 record in those years. The Gaels’ only tournament win came in 1980 when they were coached by Jim Valvano, who moved to NC State and sports immortality after that season.
New Rochelle is easily accessible on the Metro-North Railroad out of Grand Central, or a short drive from the Bronx. Any hoops fan visiting New York should consider a trip to Hynes.
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The Hynes Athletics Center has a small concession stand located downstairs from the arena proper with very few offerings, mostly laid out on a table. However, no food or beverages are allowed inside the arena. The concession stand tends to fill up at halftime, so if you are hungry, pick something up before the game.
Since it's one of the smaller college basketball arenas, Hynes Athletics Center puts fans very close to the action. You can hear the players and coaches communicating with each other quite clearly on the court. Sitting up high can be a bit claustrophobic though as the ceilings are low and there is netting hanging down.
The Iona College cheerleaders and dance team perform at each end of the court to keep the crowd entertained during timeouts. Before the game, the lights turn off in the arena as the players are announced. They run out from the tunnel next to the stands and the home court fans welcome them.
There are two video boards at either end of the court, but there is no overhead scoreboard.
One nice touch is having the cheerleaders welcoming the fans as they line up by one of the doors, pom-poms waving as fans enter.
The Hynes Athletics Center is located right on Iona's campus, situated in the college town section of New Rochelle.
There are a fair number of bars and college-type food establishments for before or after the game. The Smokehouse Tailgate Grill is a place worth checking out before weekday evening games; their happy hour specials include $3 pints and their spicy chili is well worth it.
There is a lively mix of alumni and students who make noise most of the night. From the General Admission section it is difficult to move around very much as most seats are taken. Unlike most student sections at college basketball games, the Iona students all sit down during the game action. But that doesn't mean they aren't loud when their team scores.
Even when traveling from New York City, the Iona campus is very easy to get to. There will likely be some traffic, since there always is, but if you plan accordingly, it will be a leisurely drive. If you are without a car, the Metro-North stop at New Rochelle is only about a mile walk from the campus.
The campus itself is easily navigable. It takes about eight minutes to walk from the two furthest points on campus, so everything is in the same area, although Hynes is near the main entrance.
In the arena itself, everything is well labeled to avoid confusion for first-time guests. Fans with unreserved seats use the far door to the gymnasium, while those with reserved seats use the near door. Restrooms are located downstairs next to the concession stand and there are not any excessive lines during halftime.
Iona has raised their ticket prices recently, and has three price levels for adults. A chair back seat (rows 5-9 on one side) will cost $25, while a reserved seat on the same side (rows 1-4, and 10 and above) is $14 ($12 if purchased in advance). The other side of the court is general admission seating at $12 ($10 in advance). There are no end zone seats here.
One thing to note is that the reserved seating area does not precisely line up with the court. There are two narrow sections with four seats per row on either end; one of them faces the baseline (sections 5, 10, and 15), while the other is better situated, looking at the basket (sections 1, 6, and 11).
Students get in for free. All they have to do is present their Student ID cards at the box office to get free tickets.
The food is all reasonably priced, as well. A day trip for a family of four to Iona is an affordable way to see some competitive college basketball.
The Gaels mascot, Killian, fires up the crowd at each game. In case you were wondering, a "Gael" is someone who speaks one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish, Gaelic, or Manx.
The Hall of Fame is inside the first door to Hynes Athletic Center, but if you walk all the way up to the box office, you might miss it.
Just because Iona is a smaller school doesn't mean it's not worthy of a visit, especially for die-hard college basketball fans. The MAAC is gaining popularity with the Monmouth bench's antics, but if you want a more sedate and perhaps authentic basketball experience that is easily accessible from New York, consider a trip to New Rochelle for the Iona Gaels.
Member Review by jmmanc on Feb 13, 2012
Nestled up in New Rochelle, N.Y., sits the quaint campus of Iona College. And on that campus is the Hynes Athletics Center, the home of the Iona Gaels. The 2,611-seat, $15 million arena was built in 1974 and was originally called the John A. Mulcahy Campus Events Center, until in 2006, a recreational center was attached and the name was changed. The arena may be considered small for a Division I institution, but there’s an intimate feel in the building unmatched by many of the college basketball stadiums in the Northeast.
Iona is an original member of the MAAC conference, which formed during the 1981–82 season. The Gaels have the most total victories of any MAAC team and have won a record seven conference titles. In its history, Iona has played in eight NCAA tournaments, but the school only holds a 1-8 record in those years. The Gaels’ only tournament win came in 1980.
The school’s basketball program has been around since the inception of the college in 1940. Though it has undergone renovations, the campus has the old stone look customary for many Northeast schools.
Iona is located only about 20 minutes from New York City, so it’s worth a trip to catch a game.
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