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Official Review by Jim Mancari, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
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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The Hynes Athletics Center has a small concession stand located downstairs from the arena. However, no food or beverages are allowed inside the arena. The concession stand tends to fill up at halftime, so try to head down a few minutes early to grab a bite.
Since it’s one of the smaller college basketball stadiums, the 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.
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.
The Hynes Athletics Center is located right on Iona’s campus, so it’s situated right 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. A must-stop is Blackboard Pizza Shop, which is right across the street from the campus and about a five-minute walk to the arena. Not only does it have great pizza, but Blackboard also has an array of delicious sub sandwiches. The SmokeHouse Chili-Grill is also another place to check out.
Unlike most student sections at college basketball games, the Iona students all sit during the game action. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t loud when their team scores.
The seats are situated on both sides of the court, but not under each basket. You can see maroon and gold, the school’s colors, everywhere you look in the stands.
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.
The campus itself is easily navigable. It takes about eight minutes to walk from the two furthest points on campus, so everything is right in the same area. The restaurants and bars are right across the street from the campus, which certainly is convenient.
In the arena itself, everything is well-labeled to avoid confusion for first-time guests. Restrooms are located downstairs next to the concession stand, so it doesn’t interfere with the game action.
Even though it is a Division I team, Iona only charges $5 per adult ticket and $3 for a child’s ticket. That’s unheard of today. Granted, the MAAC conference isn’t exactly the Big East, but it still exhibits high-quality basketball. And for that price, you can’t beat it.
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 a speaker of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, or Manx.
The Hynes Athletics Center is also home to Iona’s women’s basketball and volleyball teams. The building features a regulation size pool, which houses the swimming, diving and water polo teams. It’s also the student workout facility, so the building is always bustling with activity.
Just because Iona is a smaller school doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of a visit, especially for die-hard college basketball fans. For the price, the experience really is a steal. Division I basketball at a historic institution: What could be better than that?
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