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Official Review by Mike Stunson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Built in 1952, Vanderbilt University's Memorial Gym is sometimes named "The Fenway Park of Southern Collegiate Basketball" based off of its history and heritage. But the Commodores home basketball stadium is not always so kind to its opponents. Memorial Gym is the only college basketball stadium in the country with the teams' benches behind the goals, as opposed to on the sideline. This gives a disadvantage to the opposing team's coach when trying to coach the game. Memorial Gym is also known as "The Hoops House of Horrors" and former Georga head coach Dennis Felton did not have kind words to say after a loss to the Commodores in Memorial Gym.
"It is illegal," Felton said after the loss. "For some reason, they are the only program in the country that is allowed to have an illegal set-up."
Illegal or not, the oddly configured benches are just one example of the traits that make Memorial Gym so unique.
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".
There is a wide variety of food at Memorial, ranging from $4 Fischers hot dogs or $6 Papa Johns personal pizzas at the main concession stands. Soft drinks are $4 for a small (which is still quite large) and $7 for the large souvenir cup.
Memorial Gym also houses two Petro's Chili and Chips stands. A typical "Petro" includes chips or pasta underneath a layering of chili, cheeses, tomatoes, green onions and sour cream. I tried one without the tomatoes and was really impressed. This stand, as well as another bar-b-que stand give Memorial Gym a large amount of options for fans.
On the night I went to Memorial Gym, Vandebilt played their first home conference game of the year and the place was packed. The Commodores entered the arena with "Baba O'Riley" from The Who playing and everyone in the stadium was on their feet for their team.
Memorial Gym's last renovation came in 2002 and the capacity is now 14,168. For an SEC school, this is actually a low number as most in the conference house at least 20,000. Students sit on one of the baselines but are seated in the bleacher seats. You do not see too many Division-I schools with bleacher seats still. This is definitely a part of the heritage of the stadium, but it is safe to assume that not everyone likes the bleacher seats. The gym has three levels of seating and the top level still has a decent enough view of the game.
Located in the heart of the Music City of Nashville, Vanderbilt has many options for shopping and eating within walking distance of the gym. West End Ave, just a block away from Memorial Gym has many different chain restaurants as well as others unique to the area.
But for tourists, the real fun is just a couple miles down the road on Broadway. There you will find country music shops, bars and clubs as well as the nearby stadiums of the Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans.
With this game being played during Winter break for Vanderbilt, I was surprised to see so many students at the game. The student section for the game was full and they stayed on their feet throughout the game. The rest of the stadium was pretty full as well and they helped their Commodores to an SEC victory.
One sight to see was after the victory was when the Alma Mater was played. The students sang along, arms around each other swaying back and forth. Many other fans stayed the extra 5 minutes to sing along as well.
The 25th Ave parking garage is just a block away from Memorial gym and it seems like most people park there.
Access inside the stadium, however, is a different story. For new visitors, it is sometimes hard to navigate through the gym. Each of the four sections of the gym are sectioned off, as it is one of few stadiums that is not in an oval shape. Each section has its own entryway, and I actually got lost a couple of times trying to get back to my seat.
Tickets for games are over $30 for seats in the top level, which seems a little high to me and tickets for the middle tier are as much as $70. With other options such as Belmont and Lipscomb within 10 minutes, as well as two professional sports teams, fans may opt out in choosing to attend Vanderbilt's high priced basketball games.
In one hall of the stadium there is a hall of fame which features jerseys of former Vanderbilt players that went on to play in the NBA. The hall also includes Vanderbilt award winners and former all-Americans.
The biggest thing I can say about Vanderbilt is that they hold a large home advantage. The past four teams that went to Memorial Gym ranked No. 1 in the country left with a loss.
Member Review by SneakinDeacon on Jan 16, 2011
I am always looking for a new and unique experience and that is certainly what I got when I visited Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym a few years back. Upon entering the arena I immediately discovered that the playing floor is more like a stage, and is actually above the first couple of rows of lower level seats. Fans in those rows are actually looking up at the game action. You don't get to floor level seating until you are seated in about the third row. Game management including the official scorer and the PA Announcer are also seated below the playing floor. I was fortunate to have floor seats along the baseline adjacent to the visiting team's bench. Yes, as stated in the review the team benches are located on the baseline which creates some unique coaching challenges. During my visit I found that while the students were energetic almost everyone else were more like casual fans cheering politely for good plays. The game I attended was against a non-conference team, so hopefully the fans get more excited when conference play starts and give the Commodore's more of a home court advantage in addition to the unique court design. Memorial Gym is definitely not your standard cookie cutter sports arena, but it gave me everything I was looking for. My trip to Vanderbilt's historic Memorial Gym was fun, unique and enjoyable.
Member Review by Chad Minton on Jun 30, 2012
Seeing a game here is unlike any other venue in college basketball. If you're into seeing unique venues, Memorial has to be on your list.
Member Review by BillVol on Apr 04, 2014
I'm a Tennessee fan and graduate, but I always give credit where it is due, and that's what I do with Memorial Gymnasium. I've been in hundreds of arenas around the country and world, and this is my favorite. Extra credit for being called "Gymnasium" or "Gym." More credit for having a permanent floor (not a portable one with soft spots). Going down the FANFARE list...as for food and beverage, they could serve dog food here and I'd give it a five. But as I recall, they have good food at good prices anyhow. The atmosphere? Without equal. Basketball heaven. The neighborhood is one of the best in the country -- in the West End area of Nashville. Vandy's fans are great, even though they look down on us UT fans. Access is easy. Everything else is perfect. This is what I look for in a college arena. A college feel (and a regal one, at that). Tradition. Quirkiness (such as the benches on the baselines. And the "balconies that Clyde Lee built" on the baselines. Way underrated and under appreciated by SJ.
Nashville, TN 37203
Nashville, TN 37203
605 8th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203