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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Leavey Center is the home of the Santa Clara University Broncos of the West Coast Conference (WCC) and the next door neighbor to Buck Shaw Stadium. The aesthetically pleasing red and white exterior is imposing as it sits high above its outdoor neighbor.
You enter the building at one corner of the court with upper level seating to your left and right, and stairs to the lower level straight ahead. Because the court is lower than the street outside, the playing surface has a sunken feeling. If upon entering you veer right to the opposite end of the court, you'll notice the backside of the upper level bleachers visible, unusual for indoor venues (picture bleachers at a high school football field or grandstands at a speedway). Behind the bleachers are concession stands and a wall of plaques acknowledging the current scholar-athletes.
The opening behind the stands allows for plenty of room to move around, a significant difference from the narrow corridors common for basketball games. Because of the convenience, that area becomes a meet-up spot for students before they head down to the substantial student section below.
Across the court from the bleacher-like seats are similar seating arrangements with the difference being they are built into the wall, more typical of indoor venues. Above the upper level on that side is what looked to be a single, large luxury-style box.
This particular night pitted the Broncos against the Loyola Marymount Lions. On paper, the .500 Broncos and the 2-win Lions did not seem exciting but the teams ended up producing a 3-overtime affair.
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".
Simply enough, hamburgers and hot dogs were five dollars apiece while popcorn and sodas were three. There weren't very many options and certainly nothing out of the ordinary was available, but the prices weren't gouging and the workers were friendly.
It looked like there was another concession area available for a more marquee matchup that would draw more fans.
This could certainly jump up to a four or five on a more attended night. The rowdy student section and the mostly occupied lower bowl were plusses at Leavey and it certainly didn't hurt to have a back and forth overtime game.
Also plusses were the larger than average cheerleading squad, the smaller than average band, and the saucier than average dance squad. All brought excitement to the game in their particular areas of expertise.
The views of the court, particularly the upper corners that give a sense of hanging over the lower section, allows for a feel of being on top of the action. The views were great and the crowd was excitable.
Santa Clara University is located in a suburban neighborhood outside of San Jose. The immediate neighborhood is college-centric with good bars and restaurants nearby where you can grub with a group or spend a night with a date.
Smoke-Eaters typifies the student-style sports bar. It was featured on Travel Channel's "Man vs. Food" for its Hellfire Challenge (12 Hellfire Wingers, 10 minutes, 5 minutes of "afterburn", no napkins, no drinks) and is crowded every evening but particularly for Santa Clara and San Jose Earthquake games. This is a good place to share a pitcher or grab a bite to eat before the game since there are dozens of hi-def televisions showing other sporting events. It gets a gold star for a solid selection of craft beers in its arsenal.
Hatcho is one of the more popular sushi restaurants near campus that serves all of the traditional sushi staples that you expect. They also have a rather expansive menu that branches into more complex and unique styles. This restaurant is located in a nearby shopping center with other restaurants and shops and is within walking distance to the Leavey Center.
Aside from the options available the neighborhood is clean, safe and beautiful. This student-focused, somewhat upscale neighborhood is a nice place to explore before or after the game.
What the fans lacked in quantity, they made up for in quality. The aforementioned student section was strong and engaged. They never failed to chant "Auzzie Auzzie Auzzie, oi oi oi" after EVERY bucket made by their forward from down under.
The rest of the crowd was above average as well. They ranged from young families with children and groups of friends to older alumni or nearby residents.
In the second half and beyond the cheerleaders, dance squad and band worked as a cohesive unit in an attempt to distract the opposing free throw shooters. They pulled out all of the stops to support their team including the band member whose body moved in ways only seen by the blow-up dancing man, swaying in the wind outside of used car lots.
Even the visiting LMU supporters brought excitement of their own in their section adjacent to the band.
The campus is located between three major freeways: 101, 880 and 280. All of these allow easy access to surface roads leading to campus. These surface roads are well maintained and easy to navigate, even if it's your first time in the area. The major parking lots for the Leavey Center are located right off the El Camino Real and are easy to get in and out of. Trying to avoid paying for parking? Street parking is just as easy, just watch for signs.
There's a gradual incline leading up to the arena with no major staircases to scale. Walkways are wide enough for several people to get through and once inside the corridors are wide open; claustrophobia deterred. Getting to the restroom, concession stands or your seat is a breeze in this beautifully laid out building.
For $10 you can get an upper level general admission ticket. There is almost no difference in view from the general admission ticket and the reserved seating one for double the price so I suggest going that route. This holds even more weight on nights when the upper level is at less than half capacity. The angles and views of the court are great, even from upstairs and the crowd was engaged. Concession prices were almost as friendly as the staff at the Leavey Center.
Overall, it was an above average basketball experience in what was a very down year for Bay Area college hoops.
There were a couple of banners signifying special years in Santa Clara athletic history. NCAA tournament berths and WCC championships adorned each corner of the court as well as a half-dozen retired numbers at one baseline. The oddity: Steve Nash had his number 11 retired along with Kurt Rambis and the like but also had a banner 3 times as large with him in a Phoenix Suns jersey with the MVP award. It was almost comically large.
An extra full point for the completely remote controlled shirt-shooter, launching Broncos gear into the stands. Outrageous!
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2565 The Alameda
Santa Clara, CA 95050
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