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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
It’s unfortunate that Kent State is most known for the tragedy that happened in 1970 with the shootings by the Ohio National Guard. A decent sized university established in 1910, Kent State is located just south of Cleveland in the college town of Kent, Ohio. With over 30,000 students, Kent State University is a significant member of the Mid-American Conference, where they have been a member since 1951, just five years after the founding of the conference. The Golden Flashes have a number of distinguished alumni including baseball legend Thurman Munson, football great Jack Lambert and golfer Ben Curtis. However, basketball at Kent State should not take a back seat to football, golf nor tragedy.
The Golden Flashes have slowly grown to a strong team in the conference winning the MAC Tournament in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2008. Those same years the Golden Flashes made appearances in the NCAA tournament. The regular season MAC title was also won by Kent State in 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2015. All this sounds great, however it was the 2002 Kent State team that tops them all. In 2002, the Golden Flashes made it all the way to the Elite Eight, the best showing in Kent State history. Entering the tournament as a 10 seed, the Golden Flashes would go on to upset number 7, Oklahoma State, number 2 Alabama and number 3 Pitt.
The home for the Golden Flashes is the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center. Built in 1950, the MAC Center has seen the ups and downs of Kent State basketball and is a great spot to catch some basketball MACtion. With a capacity of 6,327 the MAC Center is just the right size for basketball in this conference. Named in honor of students and alumni who gave their lives in World War II, the MAC Center remains a living memorial in an age of corporate and large donor naming rights. The Golden Flashes demand energy from their fans and High Voltage is on the menu and MACC Mania is required for Kent State basketball.
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".
Concessions at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center are about what you would expect for an NCAA basketball venue of this size. Concessions are decent, but will definitely not blow fans away. The main concession stands offer hot dogs ($3), chilli cheese dogs, burgers, grilled chicken, sausage, nachos, popcorn ($3/$5), chips and pretzels among other things. Although the selection is decent, the variety will definitely not overwhelm fans with options. Alcohol is not sold at the concessions. Pepsi products are the featured soda ($3). Coffee, hot chocolate and other non-alcoholic beverages are also available. Although the selection isn't massive, concession prices are pretty good with all items coming in under $5.
The Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center is a great place to catch a college basketball game. Approaching the MAC Center, fans will notice that this venue has been improved and upgraded over time. The original brown brick structure is still intact, but a newer grey stone, pillared entrance and foyer immediately greet fans. Large banners request fans to "Power Up" and let them know that "Home Is Where the Hype Is" and add colour and life to the exterior.
The main foyer is large and bright and when fans pass through security, they are immediately greeted by a large inflated Golden Flash mascot. Lots of natural light gives the foyer light and makes it seem like a venue that is at a much larger, more prestigious basketball school. Clean and bright tile and a couple of mosaic tile pieces of artwork on pillars add more life to the building. The concourses feature a number of historic pictures and artifacts, which help outline the history of Golden Flashes basketball, among other sports.
Upon entry to the main gymnasium, fans will be struck with the coziness of the seating area. The court runs from southwest to northeast with seating behind either basket and two levels of southeast and northwest grandstands. Fans have the opportunity to choose a variety of types of seating. The upper grandstands feature old wooden benches on both sides. The lower northwest grandstand has contoured plastic benches while the lower southeast grandstand has plastic chair seating. The southeast side is where fans want to be for that perfect picture of the center court logo. Surprisingly, there are some windows at the top of the grandstands which allow natural light to bleed into the main playing area. The upper southwest side of the court also features some glassed in, club seating. Above center court is the scoreboard which is pretty simple, but there are some video boards in the north and south corners of the gym.
Above the northwest banners are the Golden Flashes championship banners from their appearances in the NCAA tournament and NIT as well as their MAC tournament and regular season championships. At the southwest end of the gym proudly hangs the Golden Flashes greatest basketball achievement, their 2002 Elite 8 banner. Beside that are the honoured numbers of Andrew Mitchell, Trevor Huffman, Demetric Shaw and Antonio Gates, all of whom were members of the 2002 team. The number of 2002 team member Eric Thomas is also honored, however, due to some significant legal troubles, Kent State has removed his banner.
The game day production is what you would expect from a MAC school. The Kent State pep band plays in the southwest grandstand, behind the basket, and adds that college feel to the game. The northeast side of the gym features an in-house DJ who is clearly secondary to the band. The expected flag wavers and cheerleaders are also part of the game day experience. The Kent State mascot, Flash the Golden Eagle, roams the stands and courtside, interacting with fans, especially kids.
The Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center is located on the center-west side of the Kent State University campus. The closest major street to the MACC would be Summit Street, however, this is not the best spot to find pre or postgame fare. The best idea is to head north to Main Street, where fans will find a variety of establishments. There are a plethora of well-known chain franchises on Main, heading west towards Haymaker Parkway. There are also a few unique options that fans may want to consider. These include Main Street Continental Grill, Rockne's Pub and 101 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.
Kent being a small university town means there are not a ton of options for other entertainment nearby. Kent State does offer a full program of athletics, the most prominent of which is football played at Dix Stadium. Dix is quite a distance east of the main campus. Baseball is also played at Kent State during the spring months at Schoonover Stadium. For fans with a bit of an artistic side, the Kent State Art Gallery and Kent State University Museum are on campus. Also, the center of campus features a May 4th Memorial and May 4th Visitor's' Center for those who wish to learn more about the 1970 tragedy.
There are a couple of places to stay that are not too far from the Kent State campus. Fans may wish to try the Kent State University Hotel or the nearby Holiday Inn.
Although Kent State may not be known for preeminence in basketball, the Golden Flashes do lay claim to a pretty solid following. The Golden Flashes average more than 3,500 fans per game. This figure gives them a solid hold on third place for average attendance in the conference and are also above the MAC average for attendance. The fans in attendance are knowledgeable and passionate and the keep the noise level at a decent decibel. The seating behind the baskets is for the students. At the game that was reviewed, the student section was not overwhelming and not over the top. There was definitely some room for improvement from the students.
The town of Kent is located north of I-76. The campus of Kent State University is located pretty much central to Kent. For fans arriving from out of town, they will have to traverse some of the town of Kent to make it to campus. However, for basketball events, this does not seem too difficult and traffic is not over the top.
Free parking is located in the lot on the opposite side of Summit Street. For fans who wish to get a little closer to the MACC, there is some pay parking available on campus, closer to the arena.
Fans who wish to get to Kent State via public transit are in luck. The PARTA transit system runs all through the Kent State campus. Check out the Portage Area Regional Transit Authority website for maps, fares and schedules.
The main ticketing and entry gate at the MACC is found to the south of the building, at the newer foyer entrance. Ticketing windows are outside and lineups are not too bad. On a cold day, the entry to the main foyer can get pretty tight for fans who are waiting for the gates to open and want to escape the cold.
Getting around the arena is not too difficult. The upper and lower levels of the main foyer offer fans space to get around and the concourses on the southeast and northwest sides of the court may be a little narrow, but are not terrible considering the attendance. Washroom facilities are on the small side, but are adequate for this venue.
Mid-American Conference basketball is one of the real bargains in the NCAA. Tickets for Golden Flashes basketball range from $12 to $35. Ticket prices, expectedly, increase for the rivalry game against Akron. Kent State students are free to get in. Considering the cost of tickets, decent concession prices and free parking, Kent State basketball does not require a huge investment for an afternoon or evening's entertainment. The product on the court is also underrated and in fact, the game that was reviewed was tremendously exciting, against a conference rival, and went into overtime. All-in-all, Kent State basketball offers just about everything a fan could ask for considering the low investment required.
Two extra marks for the interaction of players and fans. On the game that was reviewed, players went into the stands and invited children to come on the court for the National Anthem as they stood arm in arm.
An extra mark for the May 4th Memorial and Kent State's treatment of the 1970 tragedy.
The Kent State Golden Flashes and their home at the Memorial Convocation and Athletic Center offer basketball fans the opportunity to experience a great NCAA basketball environment for a decent cost. Although probably not a college basketball bucket list experience, Kent State should definitely be considered when sports fans are in the area and looking for something to take in. If catching some Golden Flashes basketball, fans are to be warned that MACC Mania is in the house and High Voltage is to be expected.
Member Review by paul
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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