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Official Review by Richie Devotie, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Akron University is mid-major basketball program with lots of history. The history is evident as you look up and see the banners that hang above the arena floor.
Named for former Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes, the arena is commonly known as "The JAR" to Akron denizens and students. The arena seats 5,500, but it feels much smaller than that, with almost all of the seating being fold out seats on the lower and upper levels.
The Zips have made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament since they joined the ranks of Division I (1986, 2009, 2011, and 2013), the first being under the leadership of former head coach Bob Huggins. His picture and accomplishments hang on a large banner in the Northeast corner of the arena. Akron is a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
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".
Concession items are a little on the steep side when it comes to pricing. Overall, you can find the normal stadium staple foods, with a few other options.
Staple items are available including hot dogs ($4), Italian sausage ($4.50), Papa John's pizza ($4.50), super nachos & cheese ($6), soft pretzels ($4), and popcorn ($4). You can also get Shearer's chips ($2.50), king size candy ($3), or Cracker Jacks ($3).
They offer only bottled Coke products ($4) at James A. Rhodes arena. Bottled water is available in two sizes (20oz/$3.50 or 1 liter/$5). Smoothies can also be had in strawberry, lemonade, blue polar punch, and strawberry-banana flavors.
While the prices might be a bit steep for some items, the quality of food is very good. It's better than most arenas of this size. Best of all is the Chick-fil-A stand on the main concourse. Do yourself a favor, and grab a chicken sandwich.
The atmosphere is great from the fans all night long. The student section doesn't let up the entire game.
James A. Rhodes Arena has lower and upper level seating. Lower area seating has stadium seats, and the upper area is bleachers. The arena is very easy to navigate around.
To start off the game Akron brings out kids on to the court during player introductions. There is also a game where someone gets blindfolded and has to find Zippy the mascot. The dance squad and cheerleaders also keep the fans entertained during the game.
I would recommend seating in the lower bowl. The scoreboard is very pixelated and is hard to see. The bleachers can get uncomfortable as the game goes on, unless you have a soft cushion with you. Consider bringing something soft to sit on if you have a bleacher seat.
The JAR is located right off the interstate, making for easy access to the game. Overall the neighborhood is safe with plenty of options to eat within five miles of the arena. If you are up for some walking, fast food options are close by such as Taco Bell, Subway, and Chipotle.
Downtown Akron has quite a few nice places to choose from, and it is only about a mile away from the JAR. You can be adventurous and walk, but I would advise driving. If your inner beer snob is calling, then I would recommend 69 Taps, where they have (surprise) 69 beers on draft.
There is plenty of entertainment for the sports enthusiast if you are in the Akron area. During baseball season you could visit the Akron RubberDucks who play at Canal Park (AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians).
You could visit the Akron Zoo which is a 10 minute drive from campus. There are plenty of places to stay in Akron near campus, including the Hilton Garden Inn Akron, which has rooms starting at $119 a night. The Quaker Square Inn at The University of Akron Hotel is also recommended.
The fans at James A. Rhodes Arena are very much into the game and are not afraid to let the players or referees know how they feel about a call or play. The fans also expect Akron to win at home as the team has won 86% of its home games since the 2004-05 season.
A typical home game nearly sells out each time the team steps out onto the court at James A. Rhodes Arena. Even though the arena only seats 5,500, the fans make up for it with their volume. The student section is especially vocal and really help to make the atmosphere great.
Overall, the access getting to and inside James A. Rhodes Arena is very easy. Once inside, take a lap around and take in the experience.
Akron does have public transportation if needed. You can visit the Akron Metro website for more info. Akron also has an airport located about 13 miles south of James A. Rhodes Arena in case you are flying in for a game.
Parking is one of the best aspects of the arena experience. If you park in the park garage on Carroll Street, the parking is free. Arrive early, so you will have time for the short walk to the arena, which is less than a half mile.
You can get tickets at the box office which is right inside of the main entrance. You can also order tickets online.
The return on your investment is good if you get cheap tickets. Tickets can range anywhere from $10-$50. My advice would be get the cheap tickets and enjoy the game from the bleachers. It's a small enough arena that you will have a good view of the action on the court.
Parking is free, adding to the excellent return on your investment. But, the food could put a little dent in your wallet.
The free parking earns Akron an extra point. Akron also knows how to honor their past in the form of banners hanging around James A. Rhodes Arena. This one of very few arenas which has a banner dedicated to its mascot (Zippy the kangaroo), which is pretty unique.
The Akron Zips are a top notch mid-major program and their arena experience is definitely worth making a trip to see.
Member Review by paul
Have you ever wondered why the Akron athletic teams are called the Zips, and why they are represented by a Kangaroo mascot? I know that was the first question on my mind when I traveled to the Rubber City to see the James A. Rhodes Arena, home of the Zips of the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
Let's get to that mascot question first, then we'll get to the arena. The full nickname of the Zips is the Zippers, named because the zipper was invented in Akron. In the 1950's a contest was held to choose the mascot and a student recommended the kangaroo and it was approved. Today, Zippy the Kangaroo (who happens to be a female kangaroo) makes her presence known at games, and also hangs in the rafters in honor of winning the 2007 Mascot of the Year contest, sponsored by Capitol One (the banner humorously misspells the name of the sponsoring company however).
With that bit of trivia out of the way, let's get to the facility itself. Named for former Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes, the arena is commonly known as "The JAR" to Akron denizens and students. The arena seats 5,500, but it feels much smaller than that, with almost all of the seating being fold out seats on the lower and upper levels.
The Zips have made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament since they joined the ranks of Division I, the first being under the leadership of former head coach Bob Huggins. His picture and accomplishments hang on a large banner in the Northeast corner of the arena.
Member Review by CigarBoy on Dec 27, 2011
The JAR is the definition of average, as is the food, but the fans are above average.
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