The home of Miami basketball since 1968, Millett Hall has been a fortress. Miami’s teams have posted a collective winning percentage north of .700 at home before a downturn in recent years. Now led by Coach John Cooper, the RedHawks are hoping to regain the collective interest of the university and reclaim Miami’s strong basketball history.
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In my other visits to Miami's venues, I've been surprised by the quality of their "stadium food". There's nothing out of the ordinary on the menu, just the basics like hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, etc. Everything tastes good, and you would think I wouldn't need to mention this, but the hot food is actually hot (temperature-wise). Hot dogs are $2.75, and they feature local favorite Montgomery Inn barbecue sandwiches for $4.50. Pop (or soda for the non-midwesterners) range from $3 for 24oz. to $4.50 to 44oz. There are some great campus options for food, but if you just have to eat at the game, you probably won't regret it.
For an arena that opened more than 45 years ago, Millett's exterior and concourse are in pristine condition. The design is definitely a relic of the 60's but fits in well with the design of the rest of the campus.
During a weekend day game, and the concourse has a bright, airy feel that's unusual for venues of this age. The concourses are wide so it's easy to get where you need to be even as people are lined up for concessions or just milling about during a break. The interior of the arena has been kept up just as well, with clean, undamaged carpet lining the walkways and has an oddly comfortable, "well worn" feel. The lighting over the seats is dark, with most of the lighting focused over the court, giving fans watching a basketball game the feel like they're in a theater.
However, Millett is not a basketball arena. It's clearly a multi-purpose venue built to hold everything from major speakers, traveling productions and concerts, college commencements, etc. The hall is even home to the headquarters and training facilities of Miami's ROTC branches. As you can see in the photos, the floor sits in the middle of the hall floor, leaving fans in the curved portion of the seating bowl at the endline far away from the action.
I don't know if it would be possible to move the floor closer to the seats. It would look odd, especially if they didn't move the center-hung scoreboard, but it might make for a smaller, more intimate atmosphere.
For now, with the downturn in interest in the program, the school doesn't need all of the 9,200 capacity. Unless demand calls for it, the upper bowl is completely tarped over, bringing the capacity down to around 6,400.
Miami's campus is just beautiful with the majority of buildings built in the Georgian Revival style. The university is considered a "public Ivy school", a term people associated with the school wear with pride. If you have the time, be sure to walk, or at least drive, through the area and see the campus.
For food and drinks, the main drag is High Street and is just a few blocks away from Millett. There are plenty of cheap options, sports bars and fast food. A landmark for the after-bar crowd is Bagel & Deli, a tiny restaurant that serves over 90 different steamed bagel sandwiches, I had a 'Pig in the Mud' which was great. Other than that, there's plenty of options for pizza (try Bruno's), burritos, etc.
Unfortunately, there just aren't many fans these days at RedHawks basketball games. The season average in 2012-2013 is just 1,400 per game. It's a shame, especially when it's free for students to get in. There just hasn't been any buzz for the program since the late 90's and the program had one of its worst seasons in program history in 2012, so it's understandable the malaise the locals show towards the games.
The student section on the temporary bleachers that frame the court were sparsely filled except for the pep band.
That's where first-year Head Coach John Cooper is stepping up. Cooper has brought a more up-tempo style to the RedHawks and perhaps more importantly, has devoted a lot of time trying to reconnect the student body to the program. I hope the coach can be successful because Millett would be an intimidating place to have to come into and face over 9,000 strong.
Getting to the Miami campus in Oxford is somewhat easy. The small town sits about an hour away from both Dayton and Cincinnati. From Cincinnati, I would recommend taking State Route 27 the entire way to campus as the alternative route of I-75 to the Fox Highway will lead you right into downtown Hamilton, Ohio. If you hit the city at rush hour M-F, it will add some time to your trip.
From Dayton, you can take three major routes, though they all involve some travel on two-lane country roads. Depending on the time of day, I would suggest taking I-75 to State Route 73, which will take you from just south of Middletown straight to the Miami campus.
Signage is plentiful all around the area, if you do get lost keep in mind Millett is north of the campus. It's a small town and really shouldn't be difficult to navigate, even if it's your first time in the area. There are parking lots on the grounds containing Millett and Yager Stadium. Parking is $5 and flowed pretty well both before and after the game. If you're considering finding on-street parking, be careful to check the surrounding residential streets for signs requiring parking permits or Oxford P.D. may leave you a nice memento for your visit.
Adult tickets are $20, kids seats are $10. You can find deals for value added packages like a 4 for $44 package that gets you 4 tickets to a game and 4 vouchers for food at McDonalds. In addition, there's a flex package that lets you choose three games for $48 total. Even at regular prices, you could bring a family of four, pay to park, get snacks and drinks and spend around $90.
An extra point for the maintenance of Millett Hall. While it's not a stunning example of sports architecture, it has been meticulously maintained, giving it an air of importance, and historical significance.
Another point for the Millett staff. A mix of students and locals, everyone was polite and helpful. (Interesting fact I learned from the merchandise stand employees: After noticing logo merchandise that featured Miami's old nickname and logo from when they were called the Redskins, the employee explained that the school struck a deal with the NCAA and are allowed one item with the Redskins logo each year. This deal must also explain how Miami is allowed to have the old Redskins logo displayed inside the hockey rink, Goggin Ice Center).
So maybe Millett is not a perfect basketball arena. Regardless, it's still a nice venue and if Coach Cooper can keep improving the product on the floor, hopefully the locals will start paying more attention. The game experience is comfortable and a solid value, so if you just want to see some live basketball and are in the area, then check out Miami. The campus and town are unique and would be a great daytrip in addition to basketball.
Millett Assembly Hall, pronounced (mil-let) as I was immediately corrected by some fans, is named after former Miami University President John D. Millett and serves as home to the university's basketball and volleyball teams. The arena opened on December 2, 1968 as the men's basketball team hosted The University of Kentucky Wildcats. Since that day, the men's basketball program has accomplished an impressive winning percentage of .762 with an overall record of 361-113 prior to the start of the 2011-2012 season; talk about a home court advantage.
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