Temple basketball is a gem of a basketball program hidden in the expanses of the big city of Philadelphia. They are sixth on the all-time basketball list, only behind the big boys of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse and Kansas. The Owls have appeared in 31 NCAA Tournaments over the years.
John Chaney is the retired coach who led the team to many victories, and led the school to designate the court as John Chaney Court.
The university began as a commuter school. That is why their nickname is the Owls, so as to designate the "night owls" who used to attend the many night classes offered. The university has slowly morphed into a much more residential school, with much money and commitment coming together to enhance the school and the area around it.
The state-supported school (Temple gets funding from the state, but is not fully integrated within the Pennsylvania university system) is located in a sometimes rough-and-tumble neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Templetown, as the area is often designated, centers around Broad Street.
The Liacouras Center opened originally as the Apollo at Temple. Later the name was changed to recognize former Temple University President Peter Liacouras in 2000.
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The Liacouras Center is unique when compared to many on-campus basketball arenas. It actually has a good variety of food items and stands scattered around the concourse. When one walks around the arena, you would almost wonder if you ended up in the Wells Fargo Center further down south along Broad Street.
Also, instead of the ubiquitous generic concession stands, you will find locally-recognized name brand stands, such as PJ Whelihans, Campos and Chickie's and Pete's. PJ Whelihans has a good bargain of boneless wings and fries or chicken tenders and fries, both for $10. Campos has a great cheesesteak for $10, as well.
The Chickie's and Pete's stand is always popular with its crab fries on sale for $9. Other options here are the chicken cutlet at $8.
There is even a food stand with lowered prices just for the students. This is an option not seen usually at college venues.
Generally around the venue, you will see hot dogs for $3.25, pizza for $4 and soda for $4.25 and $5.50.
The Liacouras Center also surprisingly sells beer. It is still uncommon for on-campus venues to do so and it is a bit shocking. There is one stand selling craft beer, while standard American brands are for sale elsewhere. The lines will be extremely long, as the beer sales are quite popular.
The atmosphere is good, but a bit more sedated than I would have thought. The game I attended was against the defending national champions, and the noise level was not as loud as expected.
The arena has a lower bowl that goes around the entire court, while the upper deck only goes around three sides, with the north end having a wall filled with the large eyes of an owl mural instead.
There are plenty of banners celebrating the great players and coaches that helped push along the great history of the program.
The student section, which sits in the lower north seating, is known as the Wild Cherry section. They are a good student section, but went too long between plays to gather themselves and create a commotion on the day I attended. A very good pep band also sits at the bottom of this section.
Temple's mascot is an owl. There is a live owl who comes to games, along with a stuffed roving mascot.
Templetown is one of those neighborhoods which people refer to as "up and coming." That is code for one to watch yourself and your belongings.
It really is getting better, with a very good shopping center located just south of the Liacouras Center. There is a variety of good stores and fast-casual restaurants located there, as well other areas directly off of Broad Street.
The best bet for a pre and postgame meal is the Draught Horse Pub that is literally south of the arena in the same block.
You also have all of Philadelphia just a short drive or subway ride away. Take advantage of these options. I would recommend the Good Dog Bar on 15th Street, close to Rittenhouse Square or Me 'N' Mo on South Street.
Some of the best cheesesteaks are located at Philip's Steaks at 2234 West Passyunk Avenue for traditional Philly cheesesteaks. This is not one of the more touristy spots, but is still in a safe neighborhood and offers free parking. Philip's also has a surprisingly good cheeseburger for a cheesesteak joint. Just remember you have to buy the drinks and fries at a different window than your main entree, which is a strange and unique Philly tradition.
The Wild Cherry section needs to get more organized. They show up in good numbers for games but the sound from their section really needs to be louder.
The rest of the arena is made up of pretty knowledgeable fans used to a high quality of basketball. I love Philadelphia fans, but visitors need to realize that the Temple basketball fan is the same group of people who attend the pro sports teams of the region. That means they are a bit loud and aggressive. But also a generally good group, as well. Just be warned so you are not surprised.
American Conference games will, of course, get a higher level of fan participation than early season games against lesser opponents.
Temple University and the Liacouras Center are located in North Philadelphia and not near major highways. So if travelling here by car, you will likely head to center city and head north via Broad Street. The venue is easy to find, as it is located right on Broad.
The best bet is to park in the Liacouras Parking Garage located right to the west of the arena. Expect delays exiting after the game, as most people do use this parking structure. The price is $15.
It is not recommended to park too far away on side streets. Finding a space on the tight city streets may be difficult as well, as there are safety issues if one goes too far away.
The Broad Street Line of the subway does stop right next to the arena, so that is an option if coming from the north or center city to the south.
Access around the arena concourse itself can be pretty tricky at times. It is pretty wide, but since it services the upper and lower deck simultaneously, it fills up quickly. You will also have to navigate around the beer lines, as well as lines for the bathroom.
Prices can vary by the opponent. Conference games start in the upper $20s, depending on seat location. Expect to pay $35 and upward for really close seats. It is a pretty small arena, so any seat will offer a good value. Games against smaller, non-conference foes will be cheaper. Look for specials for those games, as well.
The ticket prices are pretty fair for basketball games of this quality in such a large metropolitan city. Coupled with parking and other transportation, it still makes Temple a good value.
Check out the Hall of Fame wall in the main concourse and explore the vast history of the Temple basketball program.
There always seems to be activity going on in the concourse before the game. A DJ will often be there to entertain the Wild Cherry section upon their entrance to the facility.
Also, look for the court designated to honor coaching great John Chaney.
The Liacouras Center is a great venue jammed into a tight city location. The relatively cheap prices and the high quality of play on display makes this a great venue to watch college basketball.
When one thinks of the top programs in men's college basketball history, a few colleges rise to the top: Kansas, Duke, Syracuse, Temple. Temple? Yes, Temple, the former commuter school whose "Night Owl" students gave name to the school's mascot, is 6th all-time in NCAA Division I victories. Now, the 15,000 students who live on and around the North Philadelphia school's campus give Temple less of a commuter feel than a real city university, and they have a stadium to compete with any great mid-major in the country.
Built in 1997, the Peter J. Liacouras Center (formerly the Apollo of Temple) is a modern stadium that seats over 10,000 in the most competitive mid-major league in the country, the Atlantic 10.
Food and Beverage: A wide variety of food options are available, including beer! Food is pretty pricy for what you get though.
Atmosphere: The atmosphere varies widely depending on the opponent. Games against Big 5 opponents, particularly Villanova and and Saint Joe's, as well as upper tier A-10 teams such as Xavier bring out good crowds. For lesser opponents such as Fordham or GW, the atmosphere can be flat. The Wild Cherry student section (Cherry Crusade), however, is involved and keep things lively regardless of who the Owls are playing.
Neighborhood: Temple is located in North Philly, a wide expanse of run down ghetto and/or abandonedness. Temple's campus itself is generally well patrolled and safe, and extremely well lit after dark, but step a block or two off campus to the east (past 11th St) or west or north and you are putting yourself at serious risk. However, the campus is continuing to build and expand its tentacles and so hopefully the gentrification will continue.
Fans: The Cherry Crusade student section, despite the official review here, is good and unified, making its presence felt throughout the game. Point deductions are for the rest of the crowd which tends to be quiet most of the time, and for the fans disguised as empty seats.
Access: The Liacouras Center is conveniently located along North Broad St a few miles north of Center City. The Broad Street Subway line is conveniently nearby, but most people seem to drive here. Unfortunately the arena is not near any major highways, so if you come via Broad Street or any other street to get to Temple, there is a lot of stop and go. Many of roads that get you to Temple's campus, particularly coming from the east or west, go through very sketchy areas. Once you get there, there are garages and lots around the area for a fee, or you can try parking along the street, some parking along Broad St is metered, or you can try parking on the campus streets through it is pretty tight.
Return on investment: Temple basketball is the 6th winningest program in NCAA history, and has been a perennial Tournament team under John Chaney and now Fran Dunphy. Rumors continue to swirl that a move to the Big East is imminent. Tickets for Temple games range from $35 for lower level sideline seats, to $12 for upper level seats behind the basket. This is undoubtedly the most comfortable college basketball venue in Philly, unlike other schools in town, there are no bleachers here, every seat has a back and is cushioned. Depending on the game, odds are you'll be able to sneak down or move around without hassle. This the best bargain in the Philadelphia sports scene: a great product on the floor, a consistent winner and class act in coach Dunphy, an energetic student section. If the Big East move happens, this will become a much tougher ticket.
Extras: One point for selling beer, one point for the Wild Cherry student section, one point for the massive home court advantage (two home losses in the last 3 years), one point for coach Fran Dunphy, one point for having no bad seats in the house and the ability to move around unless the game is sold out. Subtract one point for the ticket buying process. The online ticketing system works fine, but has some pretty steep fees, and for big games or weekend matinees, the walkup lines at the ticket windows are painstakingly slow. You are best advised if purchasing tickets at the window to get there *at least* 15 minutes before tipoff.
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Philadelphia, PA 19146