The Atlantic-10 conference might have the best collection of arenas in all of college basketball. The A-10 boasts historic field houses like Fordham’s Rose Hill Pavillion and Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, and they have more modern facilities like those at St. Louis and Rhode Island. What makes the Hagan Arena at St. Joe’s great is they have seamlessly merged the old with the new. From 1949-2009, the Arena was known as the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. In 2008, it was announced that the Fieldhouse would be renovated and more modern amenities would be put in. For a year, the Hawks played their home games at the Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania while the fieldhouse was being renovated. The Hawks returned to the renamed Hagan Arena, where they were greeted with a brand new basketball center (named for the iconic coach and broadcaster Dr. Jack Ramsay) and an arena that kept the spirit of the Fieldhouse, while making it more fan-friendly. More seats were also added in the student section. Let’s take a look at Hagan Arena, the nest of the Hawks.
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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".
Let's get the unpleasantries out of the way early. The Hawks concessions at Hagan Arena are very average. The offerings include the standard hot dogs, pizza and sodas. They are nothing fancy and nothing to write home about. The University could do a better job with bringing in local vendors to help out with their food sales. Other universities in the Philadelphia area are bringing in catering companies to sell more upscale entries, and this would likely work very well at St. Joe's.
St. Joe's offers up one of the more exciting atmospheres at a college basketball game that I've been to in a long time. With only 4,200 seats, the fieldhouse is an intimate venue with very good sightlines. Even though I went to a game that was during the students' winter break, the student section at the end of the arena had really good representation from the student body. The alumni that sat behind the benches and next to the scorers table were hardly silent either. They let the referees have it for the bulk of the game. Hawk Hill has a deserved reputation as a tough venue for a visiting team, and it surely did not disappoint me when I visited. The St. Joe's Hawk might be the hardest-working mascot in NCAA basketball. To go with the school slogan, "The Hawk Will Never Die", the mascot Hawk has to continually flap his wings for the entire game. If ever a mascot earned his/her scholarship, that would be the one.
The University and the area around it are pristine. St. Joseph's campus is very nice and well-manicured, with gothic buildings and green playing fields in the middle of campus. The arena blends in nicely with the campus. There is a block of restaurants and bars that are right across the street from Hagan Arena. One of those restaurants is Larry's Steaks, "The Home of the Belly Buster". While not five-star, white tablecloth dining, Larry's offers up huge hoagies and good pizza. There were more than a few St. Joe's players in there after the game. If having a beer to celebrate a Hawks win sounds better, there are a couple of upscale bars across the street from Hagan Arena. They were packed after the game, especially at a bar called Landmark Americana.
While St. Joe's might not be the biggest school in the Atlantic-10, it has a fan base that most bigger college programs would be envious of. When Hagan Arena was renovated, the school increased the number of seats in the student section. The result of this was a wall of students at one end of the arena that are loud, and practically on top of the action on the court. I pity the visiting team that has to inbound the ball under the basket at that end of the floor. The seats that are behind the team benches are filled with alumni. They might be louder than the student section. I heard some epic rants from those sections directed at the referees. A St. Joe's fan is not one who sits on his or her hands or is quiet about their opinion during a game.
St. Joe's is located just off Interstate 76 in Philadelphia (Exit 339) if you're driving to the game. There is ample parking in a parking garage ($10) right across the street from Hagan Arena. Public transportation to the campus seems to be lacking if you're coming from Center City or the airport. If you're familiar with Philadelphia city bus routes, then it shouldn't be a problem. If you're not, well, you might end up in an area of Philly that Ben Franklin probably would never step foot in.
Ticket prices are a little steep at Hagan Arena. For most A-10 games, the lower-level seats cost $35 and the upper-level seats cost $25. While this is admittedly a bit pricey, the arena is small enough that, without hyperbole, there is not a bad seat in the house. St. Joe's always fields competitive teams, and with the additions of Butler and VCU to the A-10, you can watch a team that went to the Final Four in the past years in a very cozy environment. This makes it worth the price.
The contests that they run during timeouts are hilarious. If you want to see two human beings racing down the court wearing big coffee cup suits, you'll see that at Hagan Arena.
The coach of the Hawks, Phil Martelli, has one of the most entertaining coaches shows in America. Most of these shows are just garden variety highlight shows. Martelli has been known to break out in song and to have comedic skits on his show. It doesn't hurt that he's St. Joe's all-time winningest coach, as well.
The mascot and pep band deserve a tremendous amount of praise. From the moment the mascot comes running out onto the floor with the team, he/she can never stop flapping his or her "wings". The pep band is energetic and contributes well to the atmosphere of the arena.
The St. Joe's program enjoys a rich history. From legendary figures like Dr. Jack Ramsay to current NBA players Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, the Hawks have been well-represented in Big 5 basketball and nationwide. The Hawk Will Never Die!
**Lead photo courtesy of Mark Jordan of MNJ Sports Photography.
Hagan Arena, short for Michael J. Hagan '85 Arena, opened for the 2009-10 season after the expansion and renovation of the Alumni Memorial Field House. Hagan Arena now seats 4,200 - an increase of 1,000 seats. The arena is home to the St. Joseph's Hawks men's basketball team. St. Joseph's has a strong basketball tradition which includes 19 appearances in the NCAA basketball tournament, and one Final Four appearance (1961). The Hawks are more recently famous for their 2003-04 team that featured current NBA players Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.
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