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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
When most people think of New Orleans they think of things such as Jazz, Cajun food and Mardi Gras. However, there is a whole lot more than just that offered in the Big Easy. One item that few people outside of the city are aware of is the University of New Orleans Privateers basketball team. The Privateers have been around since the late 60’s and in 1976 made the jump from Division II to Division I. The Privateers originally started as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, but after hurricane Katrina they nearly stepped down to Division III due to a drop in enrollment. Instead they decided to remain in Division I and joined the Southland Conference, effective for the 2013-14 academic year.
The Privateers play their home games at Lakefront Arena, an arena built in 1983 with a capacity of 8,933. The arena has had its share of bumps and bruises due to hurricane seasons, with the worst being hurricane Katrina, which kept the arena closed for nearly three years due to substantial repairs. The arena is just the right size for the Privateers needs, but isn’t at the top of what the Southland Conference offers.
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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".
The Privateers don't shy away from giving fans plenty of options for food and drink. Since the arena is located off of campus you will have no problem finding a variety of alcoholic beverages. Some of the selections found on tap or in a bottle at Lakefront Arena include Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Michelob Ultra, Fat Tire, and my personal favorite Abita. Beer prices are right on par with your usual stadium and arena averages.
Lakefront Arena also has a nice variety of food selections. The arena carries all your normal snacks and munchies such as chips, candy, popcorn, and pretzels. You can also find some fulfilling items like cheeseburgers, pizza and my favorite smoked sausage. The Privateers give you a nice variety all while offering it at a reasonable price.
The Privateers have moved to the Southland Conference and unfortunately they left their fans and spirit in the Sun Belt. The crowds have been a bit sparse. The pep band is nice and energetic, and gets the crowd on their feet on occasion; however the game is more of a social gathering or get together for most in attendance.
The arena is located on the outskirts of New Orleans. The neighborhood around the arena is mostly filled with gas stations, supermarkets, and fast food restaurants so I would highly advise going into downtown New Orleans for any nice meal.
New Orleans has something for absolutely everybody, from great food to great music to even better entertainment. Some of the best seafood and Cajun food can be found in New Orleans as well as some of the best jazz music in the entire world. If you're looking to party or hang out for some drinks then Bourbon Street is a great option. If the Lakefront Arena didn't offer enough for your sports appetite then check out the schedules of the Pelicans, Saints, or Green Wave and you are almost guaranteed that at least one will be in town.
I have seen the majority of basketball venues in the Southland Conference and I have to say that the Privateers are definitely at the bottom when it comes to their fans. The student section is almost non existent and the crowd consists of mostly older alumni. The fans that I observed had no interest in the game and were using it as a social gathering to catch up on all the latest gab. When the Privateers get any kind of run or nice play there is little to no reaction from the fans other than a light cheer here and there. The pep band does their best to try and get the crowd into the game, but it seems like the Privateers following isn't quite there yet.
Access to the stadium is easy once you figure out exactly where you need to be. Parking at Lakefront Arena is free and is readily available within mere footsteps to the arena. The concourses are wide enough to allow for easy traffic around the arena, but the bathroom stalls are very narrow. Stalls are also located on the urinals which is strange especially since they are extremely narrow, making for some uncomfortable moments, especially if you are standing next to someone.
Tickets for a Privateers game can be found anywhere from $10-$25 depending on where you would like to sit. Ten dollars is about the most I would pay for an additional experience to Lakefront Arena, as the atmosphere and fans just leave a lot to be desired. If you are in the area and just need something to kill some time as a sports fan, then the Privateers are a viable option.
There are not a whole lot of extras or perks when it comes to Lakefront Arena. The biggest bonus is that the Privateers is located in one of the best cities in the United States. If you haven't visited New Orleans before, then make an excuse to do so soon. The other point I award is for the free parking. It is always great to see an arena that offers free parking in today's age.
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