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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Stetson University lies north of Orlando on I-4 not far from I-95 in the small town of DeLand, Florida. It was founded in 1883 as DeLand Academy, but was changed to Stetson University six years later in honor of famous hat manufacturer and supporter of the university John B. Stetson, hence the name “Hatters”. Just north and within easy walking distance of Main Street in downtown DeLand, Stetson is a quaint tree-lined campus that has a distinct small town private school feel to it. DeLand itself has a small town Main Street full of pubs, restaurants and local shops.
Stetson is an NCAA Division I basketball member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Hatters basketball team has played in the Edmunds Center since 1974. Since the program elevated to the Division I level in the early 70’s, they have never made an NCAA tournament. The Edmunds Center lies on the north end of a beautiful campus and within easy walking distance of downtown DeLand.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
When you first walk through the doors at the Edmunds Center, you'll find one high school style concession stand directly in front of you between the doors leading to both sets of bleachers lining the court. I'd love to say this adds to the local charm of visiting the campus, but the menu really is basic and lacking in character. Hot dogs, cheese pizza, popcorn and a selection of candy bars are the selections available, making it feel like it could be any local rec league concession stand across the country. Prices are cheap, but for the simple hot dogs and cheese pizza, this isn't a surprise. The refillable cup for $3.50 is probably the best option available.
Once you pass the double doors in the gymnasium, you'll be immediately whisked back to memories of high school basketball. Bleachers span one side of the court, while old plastic seating rises up the other side. The ceiling is flat, with the side-court hoops raised over the seats. Both ends of the courts run squarely to a wall, meaning you really do need to select the right door for your side of the court, as there's no way around in the gym. The scoreboard is of the old light-up numbers variety with no info on players or the foul situation. If you're looking for the replay of that big play, you're just out of luck.
General admission will get you a bleacher seat on one side of the court, while paying a little extra will get you a plastic curved seat on the other side. The oddest part of the seating is the very gradual tier that drifts away from the court. This means that if you were to go to the furthest seats back, you'll be about twice as far from the court as you are elevated. It's a strange feeling, and I can't imagine the bizarre site line if the place was packed and you had to sit that far from the action.
The whole place really does have an odd recreated 1970's feel, and not in the traditional basketball sense. It feels like you're in a plastic seated movie theater/basketball gym. The best part of it is that there isn't much of a crowd, so putting your feet up while being only a few rows from the action isn't a bad deal for the price.
Between the beautiful greenery of campus and the nostalgic charm of Main Street DeLand, this has to rate high. The only reason I couldn't rate this five stars is because you will be a bit limited on overall dining and entertainment options by the size of the town. That does not, however, mean you won't find some attractive options. Only a few blocks away, you'll find Byte (a restaurant that came strongly recommended by some locals), as well as a few blocks full of dining options. If you're looking for a drink, The Abbey Bar has indoor/outdoor seating and a few local beers to sample, as well as a decent wine collection. You'll also find plenty of athletics apparel stores full of Stetson Hatters merchandise before you head to the game.
I would strongly recommend parking in the free-after-5 lots behind the local businesses for dinner and a drink before walking along north along the beautiful Stetson campus to the Edmunds Center. There is also parking next to the arena on campus and a café across the street, but I think you're missing out if you don't hit the main strip of DeLand.
Well, the fact that there were a few fans in attendance when I visited gets it the first star. A formal student section is almost nonexistent, as they tend to just be spread around the bleacher side of the court. The seat-back side had sporadic clumps of fans wearing Stetson green, as well. To be fair, I was impressed with the knowledge of the few fans in attendance. They seem to know the players by name and know their tendencies pretty well. So while small, the Hatters do have a loyal fan base from DeLand. It would just be nice if anyone else would turn out to see the games.
Getting to the Edmunds Center couldn't be easier. From either I-95 or I-4, you just follow the signs to DeLand and it'll be just north of the city center. Traffic isn't a concern, and parking is easy either on the main strip or in the lot next to the Edmunds Center. Walking the area is simple, as it's all a direct line up and down New York Avenue.
Once inside the Edmunds Center, everything is basically ground level. Go to the left for the premium seating and to the right for general admission bleacher seats. Premium seating has two rows for floor seats readily available, but the ascent of the bleachers is very gradual and easy. The restrooms are standard, but clean enough. Just make sure you use the correct door out or you could be facing a door with no handle.
The experience is relaxing enough, especially with the combination of the quaint campus and town. But as far as the Edmunds Center and Hatters experience, you're not going to find anything remotely special. It really is like attending a high school game in a lot of ways. Tickets are affordable, and there's no need to spend more than $15, since all the seats on both sides will be open anyways. Food is cheap, but it's also cheap food. Overall, it's very affordable for a forgettable team and venue.
All the credit here goes to the five-star town of DeLand and its picturesque southern charm. Unfortunately, I have to also review the basketball venue, and Main Street America can only help out so much with such an off-the-radar experience.
Member Review by StPeteRays
Nestled halfway between Daytona Beach and Orlando is the tiny railroading community of DeLand. You'd miss it driving down Interstate 4 if you weren't looking for it. There's only one main exit to and from this small city, a fact they seem to have planned in order to keep the small-town charm that's been preserved since the town's founding in 1882. The "main street" mentality with shops, stores, restaurants, and walkability are all quite apparent; it's much like I'd imagine walking into a Norman Rockwell painting would entail. To make the retro experience even more complete, they even included an old-time school, too.
On a tree-lined campus north of that "main street", State Road 44 a.k.a. New York Avenue, is Stetson University, a private university founded in 1883 and having the current name since 1889. Shortly after its founding, in 1901, Stetson fielded its first sports program, football, which folded in 1956. However, the legacy of the Hatters (named for John Stetson, the school's main benefactor's profession of hat maker) was already established, and sports had been running continuously. Amongst those sports is basketball, which has been played at the J. Ollie Edmunds Center since 1974. Can the facility live up to the hype of historical charm and overall beauty the rest of the campus - and city as a whole - exude? Sadly, not as much as I had hoped driving in.
105 W Indiana Ave
DeLand, FL 32720
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