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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
With an Ivy League school, you would expect a deep athletic history and that is no exception with the Cornell Big Red. More than 100 years of generally mediocre basketball all changed with a remarkable class in the late 2000s as Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale and Jeff Foote helped to lead Cornell to three straight NCAA Tournaments. Their run culminated in 2010 with a trip to the Sweet 16. Since then, the Big Red have settled back to the pack in the Ivy as hockey remains the sport of preference at Cornell. Basketball is played at Newman Arena, a high school-like gym that at least features nice character and displays in the concourse. The rest of the experience however, leaves a lot to be desired.
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Food items are what you would expect at a small arena with snack varieties and small meals. From the grill, fans can grab a cheeseburger ($4.75), hot dog ($3.00) or sausage ($5.00). A cup of chili is a nice option on the typically cold Ithaca nights. One of the more unusual things being sold: Gum. I never thought at a game that I needed a piece of gum, but hey, it's here if you want it. Beverage choices are from Pepsi.
Newman Arena is located within Bartels Hall, which houses a multitude of athletic facilities. A small ticket window is inside a small vestibule and then fans are greeted with a colorful entranceway that features plenty of Big Red displays. The basketball court is in Newman Arena and the set-up is reminiscent of a high school gym as two telescopic bleachers on the sidelines house most of the seating. These wooden bleachers are OK for watching the game, but a slightly better option are the chairback seats in the lower part of a couple middle sections. These cost a little more, though since they are hardly ever filled, it is not an issue to sneak into one a few minutes into the game. There are also a couple rows of bleacher behind each basket. An older scoreboard above center court displays only the most vital information as even "Timeouts Left" are missing.
The small city of Ithaca sits right at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, within the Finger Lakes region of New York State. This part of the country is quite beautiful as wineries, waterfalls and gorges make for a great outdoor excursion. However, given that Cornell basketball is a winter sport, the outdoors may be less desirable to explore. A visit to downtown Ithaca is a better way to spend the day and there are plenty of hot spots to check out. Beer lovers will find plenty of great establishments and the Ithaca Ale House is an excellent choice as craft beers abound. Near that same area around Ithaca Commons, several other places beckon for those looking to eat, drink or hang out. Before heading to the arena, be sure to walk around Cornell's hilly campus as the diverse building architecture provides a classic Ivy feel.
For most games, fans fill about a third of the gym and at only select games will more than a few thousand attend. Cornell and Ithaca have at least showed great support when the team is contending for the Ivy Title as numerous sellouts filled Newman Arena during the glory years of the late 2000s. The crowd does a nice job responding to the game and they have increases in energy as the game flows. Cornell's pep band size depends on whether hockey is going on at the same time and regardless of numbers, they do a decent job.
Both Ithaca and Cornell can be challenging to reach from any direction and it certainly can be a nerve-wracking ride given the proficiency of snow in this part of the country. The closest interstate (I-81) is over 20 miles away, so country roads are needed. The most direct route is Exit 12 from I-81 as this leads to Route 79. Meanwhile, from the NY State Thruway (I-90) it takes almost 45 minutes of two-lane rural roads to reach Ithaca. Once on Cornell's campus, the small streets and busy pedestrian traffic can make things a little confusing for visitors, but thankfully the athletic section is not far from the campus entrance. The Hoy Road parking deck a few buildings down from the arena is sufficient for fans attending the game.
Bartels Hall provides enough space to move around before the game and at halftime, however there is a fairly small number of bathrooms available. Given the typically low attendance, this does not hinder access.
Cornell basketball is a very affordable event with free parking, tickets available for $8 and cheap concession items. The event is great for both families and passionate followers of the sport as the Ivy is a solid mid-major league with teams near the top of the conference that are usually pretty good.
The displays throughout Bartels Hall do an excellent job highlighting the student-athletes at Cornell. Each sport receives a banner and murals throughout the area give the whole section character. I always love when a school displays their greatest athletic moments and Cornell does that quite well on the walls.
Kudos to the Big Red Pep Band. Even though most members were at the hockey game simultaneously going on across the hall, those that were playing busted out a number of catchy tunes that made fans hum and sing along.
Cornell's Newman Arena may have the feel of a high school gym, however the basketball and competition inside is well above that level. Big Red school spirit is splashed on the walls of the concourse before entering the gym and the intimate setting offers a decent look at the school's basketball team.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium and Arena Visits.
Member Review by paul on Mar 13, 2013
Ithaca, New York and the Cornell University campus just make you wish you were back in school (and had the intelligence and resources for an Ivy school education). The hilly campus and the quaint and snowy downtown help to get you in the sentimental spirit before the basketball game at Newman Arena, located in Bartels Hall.
The campus is an eclectic mix of old architecture and new architecture and it is well worth the first-time visitor’s time when visiting Cornell.
Newman Arena is located within Bartels Hall, sharing a home with the Cornell hockey team which plays its games at Lynah Rink, described by one fan as the Cameron Indoor Stadium of college hockey.
Newman Arena seats 4,472 spectators, and while the atmosphere is little to write home about, the overall experience of enjoying your time in Ithaca makes this visit worthwhile for stadium travelers.
Cornell’s basketball success is limited, but somewhat recent. In 2008, 2009, and 2010 the team won the Ivy League and made an appearance in the NCAA basketball tournament (their first conference championship since 1988). In 2010, the Big Red advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Kentucky. The success was short-lived however as the current (2012/2013 season) basketball experience is decidedly flat.
381 Pine Tree Rd
Ithaca, NY 14850
111 N Aurora St
Ithaca, NY 14850
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