For many, the first thought that comes to mind when you think of Kent State is the tragic events of May 4, 1970. It was on that day that 4 Kent State students were killed and another paralyzed when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a student protest of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Even more than 40 years later, there is a reverent quiet as you traverse the hilly campus of Kent State University.
A trip to the nearby Memorial Athletic & Convocation Center would not be complete without a visit to the May 4, 1970 Memorial. Attending a Kent State basketball game is very different from the football experience in that the arena is enmeshed within the campus, as opposed to Dix Stadium which is more than a mile away from campus.
A little American history and a little college basketball, and you have the ingredients for a good night.
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There isn't a lot on offering from the two concession stands in the front lobby, but there should be enough to get you through the two hour contest if you need the sustenance. There is nothing unique or exciting. The menu includes the usual staples including hot dogs ($3), chili cheese dog ($4), burger or cheeseburger ($5), grilled chicken sausage ($5), sausage ($5), nachos with cheese ($4), pretzel ($4), popcorn ($3 or $5), Pepsi products ($3), and coffee/cocoa ($2).
The Memorial Athletic & Convocation Center is small, and this is a very good thing. The size of the half-century old facility allows the school to be packed to the rafters (and they literally have rafters). The arena is loud and intense.
Seating is a little outdated with predominantly plastic or wooden bleachers throughout. This can make for a less than comfortable seating arrangement, especially if the arena is packed. There are a few chairback seats in sections A-E. The legroom here is adequate and you get to face the benches so this is probably your best seating option. Keep in mind that the arena can get very warm, so plan to dress in layers, as you will likely be comfortable in a t-shirt once inside.
If you end up sitting in the upper sections (sections 1-10) try to get a lower row as the top rows have a partially obstructed view of the game and scoreboard. In fact, any seat row L or higher and you can't see the score at all, which makes it difficult to follow the game properly.
Speaking of the scoreboard, it's a pretty basic center court hanged structure showing just the basics and the line score of the players on the floor. There are also video screens in opposing corners.
The final notable element of the atmosphere is the pep band, known as the Flasher Brass, who are better than what I was hoping for, and add that extra college basketball energy to the game.
I like the downtown area of Kent. It is less than a mile away from campus and there are plenty of good spots to stop in and have a bite or a drink.
My favorite is Water Street Tavern, which also houses Cajun Dave's. Cajun Dave's has wonderful sandwiches, Cajun and southern treats, barbeque, and pizza. I really like their shrimp and grits, and generally feel like this is the place to go before or after a Kent State event.
Zephyr Pub is probably better suited to the football crowd when the weather is a bit nicer. They have a wonderful outdoor beer garden, but also a pool table in case you're looking to shoot some stick.
If your inner beer snob is calling, then Ray's Place should be your destination. They have the best beer selection in Kent, and recently have won acclaim for their MoFo burger recommended by Chef Michael Simon.
There are two student sections, one behind each basket. There seemed to be a rowdy end (near the Kent State bench) and an end that required some additional coaxing to get off their butts and cheer on their Golden Flashes (the end near the opponent's bench). Even the mascot at one point in the second half came down and tried to get this group of students on their feet, to no avail. The latter is also where you'll find the stellar pep band.
The alumni and other fans are a string crew as well. Standing when the team enters and exits as well as other critical moments in the game. Overall, this group shows a lot of love for their team, and when you pack an arena for a November non-conference tilt, then you know this is a special group.
Parking is free, and it is hard to argue with that. The problem with the access in this case is the size of the building and the placement of the two concession stands side by side, creating a major congestion area during halftime. If you want something to eat at the half, or want to use the rest room, then exit at the under 4 minute time out, so you don't get stuck. This will make your visit much more pleasant.
Restrooms are a little small as well, but clean and reasonably accessible. The arena itself is a little difficult to find. If you are a GPS-dependent junkie like me, then aim for the commute C parking lot at approximately 150 E Summit, and you'll be all set.
The upper seating goes for just $10 for non-conference games, and $12 for MAC play. The price jumps quite a bit for lower reserved with $25 getting you a spot for non-conference or $30 for conference play. Finally, the chairback seating costs $40/$45. There is one exception to this pricing and that is for the hot ticket versus arch rival Akron.
Concessions are fairly priced, but uninspired, and parking is free. If you sit in rows A-K, in the upper section, then you are in for a fantastic value. If money is no object, then aim for sections A-E in the lower section. Just avoid the upper reaches of the arena and you're in for a great return on your investment.
One extra point awarded for the ability to mix in a little history to your visit. One additional point for the packed house, overall solid crowd, and pep band. I enjoyed my trip to Kent State and I will surely visit again.
The Mid-American Conference (MAC) often gets a bad reputation for dull venues. Memorial Athletic & Convocation Center is definitely an exception to that reputation. If you're in the area, and love college basketball, then this is a place that you need to visit.
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132 S Water St
Kent, OH 44240
106 W Main St
Kent, OH 44240
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