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Official Review by DeRon Talley, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
For a school that has only been in the NCAA tournament three times in its history – including the most recent appearance in the 2013 season - the fans know how to make some noise. With the conference title on the line, an opportunity for the team’s head coach to become the all-time leader in career collegiate wins in Louisiana, and in celebration of its centennial season, the Demons of Northwestern State rocked the Prather Coliseum with their fans there to witness. Eventually, all that was cheered for was awarded with the teams’ win and eventual Southland Conference Tournament title victory.
The Prather Coliseum’s max capacity is 3,400, but for basketball games only about two-thirds of the coliseum is used for seating space. There is baseline seating at each end of the court and on one back end of the coliseum are smaller practice courts. The Prather looks like a hanger on the outside, and it hosted rodeos at one time.
The Demons celebrated their centennial season for basketball in the 2012-2013 season. The first recorded games on campus took place 100 years ago in 1912. NSU was then known as Louisiana State Normal School and it’s believed basketball games were played outside, but there is no definitive documentation.
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The Prather has all of your basic food items covered at its lone concession stand. There is only one concession stand available though, so you can at times expect to stand in line if you hit the stand at the wrong time. The concession stand offers hot dogs, chili dogs, nachos, candy, and popcorn. For drink options they have 20 oz. Coca-Cola products and water all for a reasonable $3. Overall there is not the best of selections, but the prices are more than fair so there is very little room to complain here.
The Demons have done a good job of providing a great atmosphere for college basketball. Interestingly enough, they place the student section behind the west basket, which is the one the visiting team uses in the second half. It's a great placement for the students. The Prather is filled with Demon memorabilia and remnants of teams and players of the past. You can see banners of the former Demon teams that have been conference champions hanging from the rafters. I was pleasantly surprised for a school this small to have such a great college basketball atmosphere.
Natchitoches is a smaller city, but its downtown area is about a mile north of the campus and has a nice historic district. In the downtown, there is a red-brick road and there are a few bars that peer over the river. There are a few different options for places to eat or hang out, and there are always the fast-food chains as well.
I'll start with the student section which was a bit of a disappointment. The students showed up, but with silent chants and looking bored most of the game. As for the other fans in attendance, most were either older alumni or faculty but they kept the game alive. They were proud of their school and openly supported it by applauding when needed and joining in with the cheerleaders' chants.
The access to the Prather is one of the hardest I've ever experienced at the college basketball level. I don't know if my directions were bad, but my route to the coliseum was confusing. When I got to the campus I had to drive all the way through it to the athletic side and when I got there I wasn't sure if I was at the right place.
Let's just say the Prather's outer appearance doesn't look like it's still an occupied building - very antiquated. However, there is an open parking lot across from the arena and parking is free. The parking isn't bad at all and the walk to the coliseum isn't far. When you get in though, it's an old laid back coliseum with a straightforward entrance; ticket scanned in lobby, walk into coliseum.
The bathrooms were clean and I never noticed a line, even during halftime intermission.
Tickets range from $10 for adults to $9 for kids aged 3-15 for double-header games. All kids under the age of 2 are admitted free into the games. With food prices more than manageable and tickets prices as low as this, a trip to the Prather makes for a fun trip out in a historic city. The Demons are doing a great job of not only providing a great atmosphere for college basketball, but making it affordable for the whole family to go.
One point automatically goes to free parking. In today's economic world this is always a plus. Another point goes to the Demons' success at 100 years and recognizing its players from the past. Head coach Mike McConathy gets an extra point for becoming the winningest coach in Louisiana.
You can't help but root for the Demons, despite their devilish theme. Even if the Prather used to host rodeos or was a hanger, it goes down as one of my favorite places to visit for basketball.
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