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Official Review by John McCurdy, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
There's plenty that Stadium Journey has given me, including an opportunity to practice my art of writing, new friendships with excellent professionals, and the chance see some killer games like a double-OT thriller between the Kennesaw State Owls and South Carolina State Bulldogs - but more on that will come below.
Just as significantly, though, it's given me a greater appreciation for the state in which I've grown and lived the entirety of my life. A few weeks ago, there I was, believing I was content with Georgia's solid mix of natural wonder, suburban sprawl and city life, but unaware of the gem that is KSU and the terrific Convocation Center that comes with.
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".
I've come to expect relatively little from college arena concessions, particularly those at basketball stadiums, and thus was not disappointed with KSU's selections. While the prices were reasonable "" only one item at $3 and the rest under (including 20-oz. bottled drinks for $2) "" the range (eight different snacks) and locations (one stand) left a little to be desired.
That being said, the line was quite long at various points in the game, so folks were definitely interested in getting their hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, soft pretzels and/or sweets. It made me feel bad for the three men working the counter; sure hope they had some help in the "kitchen."
One can't write off how clean and crisp the Convo is simply to how recently it was built. The fact that the Center isn't yet a decade old gives it an advantage in terms of looking fresh, but simple classy design and maintenance thereof clearly also plays a big role here, perhaps more so than in some stadiums of pro teams I've visited.
The black-and-gold color scheme plays right into sharp styling "" not to mention Wiz Khalifa's classic anthem "" and limiting construction to a lower bowl only makes for an appropriately intimate experience. The lack of jumbotrons presents no problem and in fact enhances; again, this is back-to-basics.
Other bells and whistles, like an overblown, lights-down-low intro or more detailed scoreboard (tracking player points, fouls) might come later. The walls are sparse enough to accommodate a bit more info for fans following at a more in-depth level.
Atlanta it's not, but for those that don't know, Kennesaw is another quick-growing, highly-livable suburb of the metro area and thus comes with some creature comforts. At KSU's exit alone, there are plenty of fast food options (I'm picking Zaxby's or Five Guys, though you can have your Waffle House, Wendy's or Arby's if you like) but also a number of diverse step-ups.
Yep, there's even a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse not half a mile away, just on the other side of Interstate 75 (620 Chastain Rd.). For the more adventurous, check out Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill literally across the street from RCS (745 Chastain Rd.) and Los Reyes Mexican catty-corner from there (777 Townpark Ln.).
I heard no one calling the players by their first names or screaming for their favorite bench player to get some burn "" both tell-tale signs of a die-hard, in my book "" but everyone was into this game, from the young ladies next to me to the cheerleader's parents across the aisle. It helped that it was a close and ridiculously exciting contest, but I can state without a doubt that never has the University of Georgia's nor Georgia Tech's spot been so loud during one of their Thanksgiving break games.
The number of students present was less than I was expecting, but as mentioned, the kiddos were probably at home for the holiday (and getting ready for finals, no doubt!). If the band was any indicator, though, the students that do show up regularly for games are enthusiastic, if perhaps not perfectly in-tune with their own Owls and the Atlantic Sun in which the team competes.
I can imagine that for a conference game or, better yet, the occasional big-name non-conference visitor, things would have been a little more complicated. Still, on this night, I zoomed up I-75 from my place in-town, took exit 271 (Chastain Rd.) to the west, made one turn, and was directed into the deck, where I parked for free on the first floor, with exiting being just as easy; adding a wait of 10 or 15 minutes to that would not have left me pulling my hair out.
Coming from Cartersville or Acworth means heading south on I-75, but otherwise following the same instructions; Woodstock residents will want to come down I-575 and cut across on Chastain. Most of the other suburbs of my fair city might as well hit I-285 at the soonest convenience and wrap around to I-75, except for Roswell and Alpharetta, who should consider surface streets.
At $10 for an adult and $6 for a kid (eighth grade and under) "" plus a 50% discount offered starting at 10 people and free admittance for any student with I.D. "" it would be a challenge to break the bank getting in. And as I hope you've seen, you'd be rewarded for doing so.
It's an overused statement, that there's "not a bad seat in the house," but it is so true at the Convocation Center. I spent the beginning of the second half just circling the concourse, checking out sightlines and taking some pics, and felt the whole time like I was practically on the court. The extras of audience interaction (see "Extras") and the courteousness of the staff seal the deal.
A point to the combined force of the cheerleaders, dancers, band, emcee and mascot, Scrappy the Owl. They did not cease in engaging an audience, even early in the game as the crowd still filtered in and a lead for the visitors persisted.
Another for the impeccable landscaping and entryway. Once more I'll partially credit the Convo's recent advent (an opening in 2005, to be exact), but without solid manicuring and curating, the greenery out front and the display inside wouldn't still be looking so good.
And finally, the contests were what one might expect "" make the most noise, get a pizza; make a layup, free throw and half-court shot and win a prize in the Owls Shootout "" but there was also the nice halftime activity of the Teddy Toss, from which all toys were donated.
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620 Chastain Rd NW
Kennesaw, GA 30144
745 Chastain Rd NW
Kennesaw, GA 30144
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