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.
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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.
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.
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.
Nashville, TN 37203
Nashville, TN 37203
605 8th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203