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Official Review by Ed Pelle, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Stony Brook men's basketball Head Coach Steve Pikiell once told me, "You know, they had been promising me a new arena back when I was hired ten years ago." On November 14, 2014 that vision became a reality as the Stony Brook men's basketball team played their first official home game against Columbia in the newly minted, $20 million, Island Federal Credit Union Arena. The new arena was built on the site of the former Stony Brook Arena within the Stony Brook Sports Complex.
It wasn't long ago that Stony Brook basketball was known more for its mascot Wolfie's proclivity to physically attack other mascots, than the on court product in some basketball circles. The team did have some success at the NCAA Division III level -- qualifying for the NCAA Division III Final Four in 1978.
Like their arena situation, a lot has changed for the Seawolves in a relatively short period of time.
After reclassifying to NCAA Division I from NCAA Division III the Seawolves competed in the Stony Brook Arena for several years before moving across the hall within the Stony Brook Sports Complex to the older but more intimate confines of the Prichard Gymnasium. It was during the Seawolves time spent using the Prichard Gymnasium as a home court that the men's basketball program began to enjoy their first success at the Division I level, winning three America East Conference Regular Season Titles while routinely playing in front of enthusiastic, sellout crowds.
In 2012, Stony Brook hosted its first America East Championship game against Vermont. This was the final appearance by the men's basketball team in the Stony Brook Arena as it was used on this occasion to accommodate a larger crowd.
During the following academic year, approval for renovations to the Stony Brook Arena were granted and construction soon followed.
In 2014 the Men's Basketball team again hosted the America East Conference Tournament final game, which was contested at the Prichard Gymnasium against Albany as the renovations were ongoing. This game served as the final appearance of the Seawolves at the Prichard Gymnasium.
Nearly every aspect of attending a game at Stony Brook has now been upgraded with the move into the new arena sometimes referred to as "the island" by locals.
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".
There are two concession stands located on either side of the main entrance and one stand on the main concourse opposite the main entrance. These stands offer many new options not previously available at the Prichard Gymnasium.
Some items include hot dog ($4), Italian sausage & pepper hero ($6.25), cheeseburger ($5.25), grilled chicken sandwich ($5.50), pulled pork sandwich ($6), chicken tenders and fries ($6.50), onion rings ($3), pretzel braids ($4), nacho supreme ($6), pizza ($7), and garden salad ($4.95).
Pepsi products are sold here; 22oz. fountain soda ($2.50), Gatorade ($2.50), coffee/tea/hot chocolate ($2.50), and Jamba Juice ($6).
Passes are also available for sale to an area below the stands dubbed the Wolves Den where there is an all-you-can-eat buffet style set up and several tables. The main courses here vary from game to game but there are always plenty of drinks, pretzels and hot dogs in addition to the other fare. One of the benefits of coming down to this level is the opportunity to watch the players, dancers, cheer squad and infamous mascot Wolfie emerge from the locker room as they walk past the dining area.
The first thing one might notice if you had attended an event at the old Stony Brook Arena is that the orientation of the playing surface has been rotated ninety degrees. After entering the venue, you can walk on a wide concourse past all of the sections in a wide circle. All of the seats that are installed at the IFCU Arena are bright red. On the players side of the court, there is an overhang in the seating area with three suites and VIP court side seating located on the ground level. At the ends of each side of the court above the stands are a large video board and a large scoreboard.
During some of the biggest games, the intensity level has been high and the home crowd has consistently been producing a hostile environment for opponents. The fans tend to get a little bit louder when rivals Albany and Vermont come to town.
Located on the north shore of Long Island, Stony Brook is a quiet town that is very close to the Long Island Sound. Historically the north shore of Long Island had been home to some of the most influential aristocrats and many of these historic estates are still in existence. One such estate belonging to William Vanderbilt has been turned into a museum in nearby Centerport. Admission is ($7) for adults ($6) for seniors and ($3) for children under 12 years of age. There is also a planetarium that Suffolk County, who oversees the property, built there in 1970.
For pre or postgame libations there are two great sports bars within walking distance of Island Federal Credit Arena on the other side of the train tracks. The Bench Bar and Grill has several large televisions placed throughout the establishment with sports programming always on. They have 25 beers on tap daily and a full menu of lunch and dinner dishes. Some highlights are steak and mushrooms ($19.99), St. Louis BBQ ($18.99), bourbon glazed pork chops ($16.99), seared tuna ($17.99) and rigatoni chicken alfredo ($15.99).
Jake Starr Cafe is located one block east and has a similar set up with sports themed television programming, a full bar and an extensive menu. I would highly recommend a deluxe burger platter here with several combinations starting at $11.75.
Attendance has increased dramatically due to the recent success of the program. The atmosphere of the smaller Prichard Gymnasium has carried over to the IFCU Arena, despite it being roughly four times larger in capacity. The student section participation has been strong as well taking up residence behind the visiting team basket in an area dubbed the RED ZONE, which is larger now than in its previous home. The band also sits in the RED ZONE area and does a fantastic job of keeping the crowd intense.
One of the great things about the Stony Brook campus is its proximity to a Long Island Railroad terminal. It is very easy to walk from the station to the game. Most people in attendance will drive in headed north on Nicolls Road, which has an intersection with the Long Island Expressway. The campus will be to your left shortly after passing Route 347 as you proceed north on Nicolls Road. Free parking is available near LaValle Stadium and near the LIRR station. You could even travel to or from Southern Connecticut easily on the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson auto ferry which is a sponsor of Stony Brook Athletics. The terminal is only four miles away in neighboring Port Jefferson.
Tickets range from $22 for center court down to $10 for seating behind the baskets, which is reasonable for mid-major basketball. Although some of the parking nearest the arena is reserved for season ticket holders you shouldn't have any trouble finding free parking within walking distance.
A point to the best mascot in the America East Conference, Wolfie, who is seemingly everywhere and always leading the charge. His entrance consists of him standing menacingly behind a curtain just before player introductions.
A point to the university for having a willingness to invest in its athletic programs; a move that will pay dividends.
Stony Brook basketball has grown a lot over the last ten years, but in another sense it seems like this is just the beginning of something big. Strap in for the ride.
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1007 Route 25A
Stony Brook, NY 11790
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