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Official Review by Josh Oakes, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The most recently built of the University of Virginia’s stadiums, John Paul Jones Arena saw its first action on November 12, 2006, when the Virginia Cavaliers defeated then-#10 Arizona 93-90 in front of a record crowd of 15,219. Since then, over 1.3 million fans have visited, and JPJ has played host to four ACC-B1G Challenge games.
As with all buildings at the university, John Paul Jones Arena is constructed using Jeffersonian principles and architecture. This gorgeous arena is yet another architectural gem on the grounds of the University of Virginia, and a must for any college basketball fan visiting the Commonwealth of Virginia.
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".
John Paul Jones Arena offers a wider variety of concessions than Davenport Field and Klöckner Stadium, but the prices are as steep as the upper seating bowl. The most popular dish is the chicken tender basket, which smelled delicious until I saw the price. $8 is quite expensive for 3-4 fried strips of chicken with French fries. Popcorn is the second most popular item. The high prices do not seem to deter the fans, however, as there is almost always a line at most of the concession stands. A small hamburger or grilled chicken sandwich will cost $5 (I will tell you where to get an amazing burger for under $10 later). Domino's Pizza is $7 and bottled water is $3.50. There are plenty of water fountains on both concourses, so do not worry about going thirsty. The upper concourse has the standard fare (hot dog, hamburger, popcorn) while the carpeted lower concourse offers more options. Other menu items include Italian sausage and the cheese steak at $6.50 a piece. The quality is average to slightly above average, but generally not worth the price, especially considering the plethora of dining options in Charlottesville.
The atmosphere at JPJ is either wild and electric, or dead and static. There is very little in between. Due to recent success, the former has been more prevalent. Even the non-conference games can get loud, especially against in-state teams like JMU.
The pre-game ceremony and player introductions are absolutely incredible. The lights go off and curtains are drawn across the massive windows at the east end, as well as across the section access ports, preventing any light from getting in. The PA system is loud and clear, and red and orange lights flash across the video ribbons lining the upper-level seating bowl. The massive jumbotron plays highlights from Cavalier greats such as NBA Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson and former point guard Sean Singletary. The music reaches a crescendo amidst clips of spectacular dunks and amazing assists, which all leads up to the players' faces, names, and stats being shown on the screen as the players are introduced.
JPJ is made of brick, and the seats are arranged in a "U" shape, with the upper level larger (and steeper) than the lower level. This construction funnels the noise down onto the court, making for quite an intimidating sound.
Mount Jefferson (the student seating at the east end) is home to one of the best pep bands I have ever heard. Seriously, these guys are amazing and will play everything from Neil Diamond to DJ Khaled to Joy to the World from pre-game to post-game.
The grounds at the University of Virginia are nearly as beautiful and historic as the mountains that surround them. The Rotunda is the centerpiece of the university and is a short walk from JPJ. If you are in Charlottesville for the day (which I highly advise), make sure to see this amazing structure designed by the university's founder Thomas Jefferson. The JPJ lots are not open all day (more on that later), so just park along one of the many streets, or pay $5-$10 to park all day in a garage.
Across the road from the Rotunda is an area known as The Corner, where restaurants and shops line the brick sidewalks and alleyways. The first stop on The Corner is Bodo's Bagels, a local favorite serving up delicious sandwiches on piping hot, fresh bagels, all for under $6. Bodo's is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat before or after the game. Next up is Three, a full-service restaurant and bar with a relatively diverse (and inexpensive) menu. Three is equipped with large storefront windows and couches in the window bays, making it an ideal place to relax and watch whatever game is on at the time.
Further on down the road is a gourmet burger joint called Boylan Heights, where the main menu consists of a list of ingredients. You check off what you want on your burger and even what kind of meat you want. The burgers are thick and juicy, with the ingredients all coming from local farms, and it only costs $9 and some change! You can ask for a traditional menu, but creating your own is so much more fun. They also have plenty of beers on tap, many of which are brewed locally.
Attendance has picked up substantially after the Cavaliers made the NCAA tournament in 2012. The first-ever UVa-Syracuse ACC matchup sold out five months before it was played, and the addition of Louisville to the ACC will also boost attendance. Virginia fans love their team -- they may not be the "Cameron Crazies", but they can get very loud. You have to be smart to be a student at UVa, and those in the student section are no exception. They know everything about every opposing player, and will call each one of them out during the game, and they never forget a bad pass or missed shot. Overall, this is a family-friendly place. The fans are polite and the ushers are helpful, so you probably won't see any fights in the stands.
The lots open one and a half hours before tip-off and must be cleared no later than one hour post-game, so forget about parking at the arena for the day.
Parking at the JPJ lots requires a season parking pass that can be purchased on the Virginia athletics website. For the rest of us, there is free parking down the road at the law school, with shuttles that run from the lot to the arena before the game and back to the parking lots after the game. There are a few off-site garages that charge various rates on game day and local businesses will open up their lots for a fee. But why pay for parking when you can park for free?
Getting out of the lots after the game can be a nightmare, especially if you are parked in one of the stadium lots. As a general rule, the farther away you park, the easier it will be to escape the erratic traffic pattern. Getting out of the law school lots usually is not difficult as far as direction, but the traffic backs up quickly and stays backed up. Expect to spend around 15 minutes or so in traffic after the average game and 20-plus minutes after a game vs. UNC, Duke, or one of the bigger schools.
I love it here. While the place is lacking a certain character and history that can be found at old stadiums like Allen Fieldhouse or Rupp Arena, the architectural beauty and genius of this place is outstanding. Tickets start at around $12 for an upper level seat for most games. All of the seats are comfortable and padded (save for part of the student section, where they stand all game anyway) and the grounds of the University of Virginia are not to be missed.
Behind Mount Jefferson is the Virginia Basketball Hall of Fame, complete with signed basketballs and jerseys from the likes of Ralph Sampson and Sean Singletary, along with old trophies and programs. The game programs at the game are a bit larger than average and free. If you cannot find one, ask one of the ushers and they will get one for you. There are always free posters and magnet schedules available in the main concourse, and Virginia Basketball t-shirts are thrown into the crowd or dropped from the rafters from time to time. I did mention the amazing pep band, right?
Member Review by jharver
Standing off to the side of Route 29, its roof rising above the treetops and nearby shops, John Paul Jones Arena has been south-bound Charlottesville visitors' first glimpse of the University of Virginia since its completion in 2006.
With neo-Jeffersonian pergolas stamped on its glass-fronted east end, it's an accurate depiction of the pains taken at Virginia's oldest public university to straddle over two centuries of history, paying aesthetic respect to Thomas Jefferson's vision while embracing modernity. That, and it's how Scott Stadium was designed""so that's institutional continuity, right?
The arena holds roughly twice as many seats as University Hall (its '60s-era precursor) and was warmly embraced by students and alumni at the start of the 2006-07 basketball season.
Game day at "JPJ" is an experience as polished as the hardwood floor that squeaks beneath the players' sneakers, and as smooth as the picture on the video scoreboard hanging above midcourt, but it's also a lesson in how "bigger" can sometimes mean "hollow."
Member Review by senorr on Dec 17, 2013
It is a large arena and it is much better if you can sit in close. The seats are not angled steeply so you can get very far from the court. Better to fork over $35-40 to get near the bottom of the second level than $20 for near the back.
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