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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
McGonigle Hall is best known as the former home of the successful Temple Owls basketball teams during the John Chaney era. After years of playing in the larger Palestra a few miles away on Penn’s campus, Temple brought games back to McGonigle in the 1980s to utilize the small gym’s better atmosphere. Eventually, a bigger and more profitable house was desired, so the basketball team moved next door to the Liacouras Center in 1997. The university made the wise decision to keep hosting sporting events at McGonigle as the women’s basketball and volleyball team’s became the main tenants. The Owls have been pretty good at volleyball since inception in 1975 as they have a winning percentage over .600. Despite the wins, they have only competed in four NCAA Tournaments and that number may struggle to change due to The American’s unfortunate lack of notoriety with the NCAA Tournament Committee, which typically favors selecting Power 5 schools for at-large bids. While volleyball fails to bring in a decent crowd, it is well worth checking out this entertaining sport in a gym that holds some history.
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The $1 and $2 snacks are not too appealing at the late-opening cart along the end walkway, though the free pizza offered by the school for most matches is a nice touch. Bottles of soda and water are available for purchase ($2). Also, the building does contain a Cosi Restaurant, which is a decent place for a flatbread sandwich. However, the hours are not friendly for volleyball as the place closes at 6 PM on Fridays and opens at 2 PM on Sundays.
Pearson Hall is the larger building that contains McGonigle Gym and a significant renovation a few years ago changed the face of the facility to a complete glass front that is visually appealing. Stepping inside, it certainly feels more like a student rec center than a sporting arena, especially with the rock climbing wall and the administrative desk welcoming visitors. The design is welcoming and it quickly becomes apparant that McGonigle Hall is on the right side.
Entering the gym, the seating is simple as it is all on the sidelines, rising from the floor to the ceiling. While bleachers make up most sections, the section in the lower third features fold-down chairbacks, which are open for all fans. There is a lot of character in the arena and it is great to see plenty of school logos and Owl images, to go along with their famed cherry color splashed everywhere.
Pre-game music blasts through the speakers, while the PA announcer does a nice job keeping up the energy (highlighted by his "Let's Gooooooo Owls"). In between sets, there are a couple of contests and often there is a theme or promotion for the game. Both the cheerleaders and the mascot are in attendance as well.
Temple is in North Philadelphia and though the surrounding neighborhood is dicey, the area that encompasses campus and the athletic facilities is completely safe. There is not too much to do in the area, but walking across the arena into the heart of campus to see the Bell Tower is a nice detour. McGonigle Hall is located on Broad Street and near the intersection with Cecil B. Moore Ave, some nice development has taken place with the inclusion of decent eating options. I had lunch at Pita Chip (like a Mediteranean Chipotle) and enjoyed a very good wrap with beef shawarma. Other good options include Qdoba Mexican Grill and the Draught Horse, which has a solid beer selection. Also of note, there is a Tony Luke's inside the student center, however my craving for a cheesesteak went unfulfilled as it was closed on the Sunday I tried to visit.
A few miles south on Broad Street is the center of Philadelphia, where there is plenty to check out. Independence National Park includes the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall. Other great museums surround the Park, while in the heart of the city, it is worth seeing City Hall and JFK Plaza, where the famous "LOVE" sign is located. For a cheesesteak, Steve's Prince of Steaks on 16th and Chestnut is a fine choice for an authentic Philly specialty.
Volleyball matches at Temple are generally a friends and family affair as I counted 78 people in attendance for the game I attended. Other matches during the 2015 season have produced a similar crowd and only if there is an additional incentive (like free student football tickets) will more people turn out. It's too bad a school with such a large student body does not draw better for other athletic events. Those that are in attendance clap at the end each of point and there is not much more additional excitement for when the Owls win the set or match.
Reaching Temple is not difficult as both I-95 and I-76 connect with the Vine Street Expressway (I-676) that cuts through the city. There is an exit to get to Broad Street and then Temple is just a few miles north. Parking is a little harder and while one may be able to find metered street parking along Broad, the other option is to park at the Liacouras Garage. It can be tricky to find this parking deck and it is best to follow directions from the school's website. The ridiculous $17 parking charge is a downfall, but there is another option as the Broad Street Line via SEPTA's subway system has a station right near the arena. The Cecil B. Moore station is only a five minute ride from Center City and is the cheaper access option. Once at McGonigle Hall, the bathrooms are in the hallway area of the building center.
Free entry, free pizza, what more could you ask for! It's a shame parking costs are so high as the lack of a ticket needed to attend is a real bonus.
What I enjoy so much about watching women's volleyball is the enthusiasm displayed by the athletes. What other sport do you see so much smiling and excitement during competition? Their energy is infectious and the quick pace of the matches, make this a sport that first-time attendees quickly warm up to and begin following.
Though the scoreboard is not conformed for volleyball, the video board on each end wall is a nice enhancement to the gym. Live and recorded video come out clear and with so few in the crowd, the little ones have a good opportunity to blush at seeing their faces on the big screen.
Women's Volleyball is an underrated, entertaining sport and the athletes always display an infectious enthusiasm. While it is disappointing that more fans are not in attendance for Temple games, the school does well to attract people by making tickets free and often providing complementary pizza. The renovation to Pearson Hall provides an inviting entrance to McGonigle's gym and the simple seating structure is enhanced with lots of color and school logos. An afternoon or an evening at a game on this urban campus will not disappoint.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium and Arena Visits.
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1600 N. Broad St. #7
Philadelphia, PA 19121
1431 Cecil B. Moore Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19121
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