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Pete Hanna Center

Birmingham, AL

Home of the Samford Bulldogs

3.3

N/A

Pete Hanna Center (map it)
800 Lakeshore Drive
Birmingham, AL 35229


Samford Bulldogs website

Pete Hanna Center website

Year Opened: 2007

Capacity: 5,000

There are no tickets available at this time.

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A Night in the Dogs' House

If you build it, they will come. Those were probably the thoughts of Samford administrators when the $32 million Pete Hanna Center opened in October 2007. While the jury may still be out on how the facility has worked to increase attendance, there is no doubt that the Bulldogs have added a jewel of an on-campus arena that will rival any in the nation for a school their size.

Samford plays in the North Division of the 12-member Southern Conference, having joined the league in 2008. Their only two NCAA tournament appearances came at the conclusion of the 1999 & 2000 seasons, where they qualified by winning the now-defunct Trans America Athletic Conference tournament. Unfortunately, each trip was short-lived, as on each occasion, the Bulldogs were bounced in the 1st round – to eventual ’99 Elite 8 participant St. John’s in the South Region in Orlando and in 2000 to Syracuse in the Midwest Region in Cleveland.

3.3

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    4

The food options available in the Hanna Center are diverse and almost any guest should find something to their liking. The east end concession stand offers the standard arena fare at reasonable prices. Burgers ($4), hot dogs ($2.50), nachos ($3) and soft pretzels ($2.50) are popular, and a variety of bottled and fountain drinks are available ranging from $2-$4. The most expensive item is a large popcorn ($5).

The west end features a stand from Whole Foods, who bill themselves as the world's largest natural and organic food store. As expected, the prices are higher, but if you are looking for healthy alternatives, they are available. Offerings include fruit smoothies, sandwiches and salads, all ranging from $8-$10,

The concourse offers funnel cakes ($3) and the very popular Dippin' Dots ice cream ($4 small/$5 large).

Atmosphere    3

The Hanna Center certainly offers fans an opportunity to see a game in a modern arena; however, there isn't much charm to the place, and little history, given its relative short existence. The lower bowl features 2,800 chair-back seats, which offer sufficient comfort and legroom for most guests. On either side of the arena are blue, pull-out bleachers, each seating approximately 1,000 fans. On this night, as is normally the case, the bleachers were folded up and seating was only available in the lower bowl, which cut back on the intimacy you would prefer, while creating a cavernous effect due to all the open space on the upper levels of the arena.

The crowd for the game I attended in Feb, 2013 was listed as 2,864, which is the second-largest crowd to see a basketball game in the arena's six-year history - surpassed only by the 5,116 who packed in to watch Stephen Curry and Davidson on 1/31/09 - but even with the lower bowl full, the overall atmosphere seemed somewhat muted. A ten-piece pep band did their part to try and liven things up during timeouts.

Because there are no conference schools within the state borders and Alabama and Auburn practice the standard hardball tactic of not playing their non-SEC in-state brethren, there aren't many natural rivals for Samford to generate electricity in the arena. The closest SoCon school is UT-Chattanooga, which is about 2½ hours away.

Neighborhood    4

Samford is a suburban university located approximately eight miles south of downtown Birmingham. The campus itself is beautiful, featuring many green areas and hundreds of mature trees, with immaculate landscaping. It is quite hilly, with a significant elevation change from front to back. The campus is surrounded by upper middle-class houses and professional office complexes, but blends in naturally to the setting. Given this sort of land-locked feature, there aren't many off-campus activities available within walking distance.

Fans    3

Samford seems to have a small but loyal core group of fans with the average attendance for home games running about 1,500. The large attendance for this game was likely driven by a promotion of 4 free tickets which was offered by a local sporting goods store. Although it certainly had an effect on the numbers through the doors, the enthusiasm of those who took advantage was lacking.

Although there were plenty of students in attendance, the majority did not appear to be interested in the game happening on the court. There was no discernable student section - an area of students who stand and chant during the entire game as is becoming the norm in college hoops - save for 3 guys standing behind one of the goals, one dressed as SpiderMan, one as Moses and one in "normal" attire (see photo gallery for a shot of these diehards).

Access    4

Samford is easy to find with its location on Lakeshore Drive, a busy east-west connector between I-65 and Highway 280, which are the two main traffic thoroughfares in and around Birmingham. There are only two entrances - east and west - to the main campus, with the Hanna Center best accessed from the west entrance. When entering the campus, travel just past the guard shack and turn left up the hill. The arena sits beyond Joe Lee Griffin Field (baseball) and Seibert Stadium (football). If you want to try and park closer, you can, but as with many campuses, you should be careful not to park in spaces reserved for faculty and/or students, or you may return to find your car towed.

Samford's relatively small enrollment (approximately 4,500) provides ample parking, although, as mentioned earlier, the campus is hilly, so anyone needing assistance should try and park in the handicapped spaces directly adjacent to the west entrance to the arena.

Return on Investment    4

Tickets are readily available for just about every home game, and can be purchased at the box office inside the arena, located on the upper level of the main entrance. General Admission tickets are $10, and parking is free, so for about the cost of a movie, you can see a Division I basketball game. The food prices are reasonable and in-line with most non-BCS arenas, but if you want upscale dining options - for an additional fee - the Whole Foods options are an excellent choice. Being only six years old, the arena is clean and comfortable with ample facilities.

Extras    1

An interesting feature of the Hanna Center is an observation deck just to the left of the box office, which is located inside the arena on the upper level of the east entrance. Once a ticket is purchased, you then go back downstairs to enter the inner doors to the playing area. This means you can technically enter the outer doors without a ticket and just stand and watch the action. I did this for approximately five minutes after the game started and nobody asked me to purchase a ticket. I'm not sure how long it would have been before someone actually asked to see my ticket, or if I would have been allowed to stand there the entire game.

A couple of negatives must be pointed out, as well. First, the student section - or lack of one - for the second-largest crowd in the arena's history is disappointing. There were also no merchandise stands for one to be able to purchase Samford apparel such as t-shirts, sweatshirts and the like. There was a 'Go Red' silent auction benefiting the American Heart Association where one could bid on signed memorabilia (jerseys, basketball, shoes), but that was a one-time event.

Final Thoughts

Samford has never produced an NBA player, and there are only two SoCon alumni on NBA rosters - Davidson's Stephen Curry (Golden State) and Western Carolina's Kevin Martin (Oklahoma City Thunder) - so the likelihood of seeing future NBA talent is remote. This doesn't mean there isn't exciting, quality basketball played in the SoCon, however. If you have a chance to visit the Pete Hanna Center for a game, you will be treated to an enjoyable evening in a sparkling arena at a very reasonable price. What more could you ask for?

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