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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
One of the top-rated colleges and universities in Alabama is not located in Tuscaloosa or Auburn. It is located in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood, and its name is Samford University. The small Baptist institution was founded in 1841, and is rated as the top-ranked private university in Alabama, and is highly ranked nationally for its high academic performance. Samford has a student body of 5,000 and a teacher-student ratio of 1:20. All classes are led by full professors and students are expected to complete a mandatory number of hours doing community service in the Homewood/Birmingham area.
It is not all work and no play at Samford, as the university also has a strong athletic program. The school's teams compete in the Southern Conference and go by the nickname of Bulldogs. All indoor sports take place at the Pete Hanna Center, a multi-purpose facility with areas for basketball, volleyball, and the student fitness center. The Bulldog basketball program plays all its home games in the Corts Arena section of the Hanna Center. The arena holds 5,000 in its basketball configuration, and up to 6,000 for concerts, convocations and other special events. The Hanna Center opened for business in the fall of 2007.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is one concession stand in the lobby, with a second one available for bigger games. Prices are very reasonable: Hot dogs ($2.50), nachos ($3), popcorn ($2.50), sodas ($3), water ($2), chips ($1.50), and a large cookie ($2).
The Hanna Center was built with flexibility in mind. The Cort Arena section of the facility is no exception to the rule. The basketball court is surrounded by a lower tier of chair back seats that bring you very close to the action, with great legroom and comfort. Behind this tier is a second, higher tier which consists of pull-out bleachers, which are used only when the attendance requires it. The bleachers tend to be needed if the opponent is UAB, Auburn or the University of Alabama. A majority of the Southern Conference schools are quite a distance from Birmingham, and their fans do not travel well. While not having the bleachers in use makes the seating area seem quite small, those seated in this lower tier really feel a part of the game, as opposed to viewing the game from some upper deck outpost. You are paying a low price for virtually courtside seats, which creates a very intimate atmosphere within the area.
The Samford University campus covers more than 200 acres and is buffered by a large, wooded area from any surrounding development. The campus is noted for its Colonial Georgian-style architecture in all of its campus buildings, including the Hanna Center. Externally, you would never know the building houses the athletic programs. Samford is also known for its lovely manicured grounds and gardens.
Outside the campus gates is the Birmingham suburb of Homewood, Alabama. This community of 26,000 has a very vibrant downtown and a wide selection of restaurants, nightlife and entertainment options. Among the local favorites are Holler and Dash, which is known for its southern-style breakfasts of biscuits and grits, as well as Highway 55 Burgers Shakes and Fries, a fifties-style diner. Those looking for a meat and three will be very pleased with Johnny's, and for nightlife and a wide selection of local craft beers, head on over to Jackson's Bar and Bistro. Among the lodging choices within a 10-minute drive of the Samford campus are the Best Western Plus, the Comfort Inn and the Holiday Inn Lakeshore.
Homewood is only 10 miles from Birmingham, which offers larger concerts, great shopping and minor league baseball at Regions Park. Birmingham is also home to the Bulldogs neighborhood rivals, the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers.
Football is still king in the South, and Samford's fans are no different. As a matter of fact, Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan served as the school's football coach for a number of years. The fans at Bulldog games come more to socialize than to root on the home team. The cheer squad and the pep band do their best to get the energy level up at games, but to no avail. Two other facts of life to face when rating this section are that attendance suffers due the size of the arena in relation to the size of the student body, and that Samford is only minutes from Birmingham and its many shopping, sports and entertainment options.
Getting to a game at Samford University is very simple, as it can be accessed via I-65, the main north/south artery running through downtown Birmingham. A few miles south of the I-20/I-65 intersection, you will see the exit marked Lakeshore Drive. Exit here and turn left (east), and Samford University will be on your left. Enter through the west gates and turn left going up the hill to Hanna Center. The on-campus signage is excellent in getting you to your destination. There is ample free parking immediately around the center.
Attending a Samford basketball game will not be hard on your wallet. Tickets are priced at $12 for reserved seats and $8 for general admission. All children 12 years or younger can attend at no charge. Parking is plentiful on campus, and is free. The concessions are reasonably priced, and lodging in the Homewood area falls within the $75-100 range. Birmingham and all it has to offer is a short 10 minute drive away,
Samford celebrates its 175th anniversary in 2016.
The architecture and grounds of the Samford campus are well worth checking out.
Member Review by BamaBob on Mar 10, 2013
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.
437 Green Springs Hwy
Homewood, AL 35209
2801 18th St S #101
Homewood, AL 35209
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