The Seton Hall Pirates' home court is Newark, New Jersey's Prudential Center, a venue they share with the NHL's New Jersey Devils and the NBA's New Jersey Nets.
The $400 million venue was built in 2007 as part of the "Newark Renaissance", a city-wide project seeking to revive the downtrodden city and turn it into a safe, clean, and vibrant destination which is conveniently located in the New York City area, but boasts a personality all its own.
The realization of the project as a whole may take as long as another decade to complete, but the city took a step in the right direction with, among other things, the Prudential Center.
With their campus being nearby, the Seton Hall Pirates have the somewhat unique opportunity to play in a pro-style arena and give their fans all the amenities that come with that, but still host their home games very close to the school itself.
Like the Newark Renaissance project that it is part of, the Prudential Center's offerings have not yet fully meshed with its tenant. There are some problems with a college team playing in a pro venue that become apparent here, but there are also some significant benefits which in time will hopefully outweigh the drawbacks.
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One of the advantages of attending the games of a college basketball team that plays in a pro arena is that the quality and myriad options of concessions available is far greater than what you typically find in a college's own venue.
Of course, you'll also pay higher prices, but for many of us, better food and more choices makes that worthwhile.
While the Prudential Center certainly boasts plenty of concession stands where fans can buy the basics (hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, etc.), it also carries a number of more unique options. Scattered around the arena you'll find sushi, New York-style pizza, Mrs. Fields' desserts, and one vendor serving Coney Island-themed boardwalk food.
One caveat: Because Seton Hall games draw a smaller crowd than Devils or Nets games, some of the concession stands aren't open during Pirates games. Luckily, most of the stands that were closed were those that were duplicates serving the same fare as another stand in the arena, and most were also in the upper reaches of the seating areas, where there seemed to be very few spectators taking in the event.
There's always a danger with shared venues, whether between two teams in the same league (e.g. The Jets and the Giants at Meadowlands Stadium) or teams playing different sports (think of any MLB team that shares space with the local NFL team) that the atmosphere for any one team will suffer because of it.
With the Prudential Center hosting multiple teams across multiple sports, that seems imminent here. As it turns out though, the improvement the college basketball experience gets from being played in a pro arena trumps the impersonal feeling shared venues like this seem to exude.
For those of you looking for a "Hoosiers" style experience, this is not the place for you. There's nothing homey, personal or charming about the Prudential Center. But if you're looking for all the amenities and conveniences of a professional-caliber arena while still being able to watch college hoops, you're in luck.
While the area has improved over the last few years and continues to do so at a rapid pace, Newark isn't the most desirable place to wander around and explore.
There is easy access to transit to New York City, several nearby college campuses , and more and more restaurants and shopping all the time, but it's still not the most pleasant or safe place to explore pre- or post-game. It's not terribly dangerous, but you should be careful at night.
One of the drawbacks of being a college team playing in a pro arena is that there are rarely enough fans in attendance (particularly if the team is having a down year) to fill the seats. In this case, such circumstances made attendance seem sparse and made the fans seem relatively quiet as a group. There was a noticeable number of empty seats in the lower seating bowl, and the upper seating area was nearly empty.
The fans who were in attendance (the student section in particular) were active and enthusiastic, but the relatively small number of attendees relative to the number of empty seats rendered their presence somewhat unimpressive.
This is not so much the fault of the fans themselves as the unfortunate byproduct of playing in a venue that for most games, is too large for the expected size of the crowd. A top-ranked team could easily fill such a venue, but Seton Hall's situation this year demonstrates how an unranked NCAA team can't draw a big enough crowd to fill a pro-style venue.
Unlike most venues in the Northern New Jersey/New York Metropolitan Area, it is possible to park near the Prudential Center without a huge hassle or terribly high cost (this is less true for Nets and Devils games than for Seton Hall games). The area also offers prepaid parking through clickandpark.com, where you can buy a guaranteed spot near the arena ahead of time for about $25.
Still, as is the case with most venues in the area, the train is the best bet for getting there. From New York City, it's about a 30 minute ride from NY-Penn Station on the PATH train and a two-block walk to the arena from Newark Penn station.
Tickets run anywhere from $10-$50 for Pirates' games. There's no need to pony up for a $50 ticket though - we had great seats that were four rows from the floor that set us back $26.50 a piece.
Granted, that (and certainly the more expensive tickets) are a little steep for regular season college basketball (particularly for an unranked team), but keep in mind that they are playing in a professional-caliber arena that offers all the amenities that go along with that.
Look at it this way: A Nets ticket for the same seat costs three times that much. This is a great way to see the action on the court close up at the Prudential Center without breaking the bank.
There aren't a lot of bells and whistles attached to Pirates' games at the Prudential Center, but there are some amenities that warrant a bit of extra credit.
The enormous square of high-definition LED screens in the center of the arena allow spectators the sort of advanced viewing common to NBA games but not seen all that often at college venues.
There are also tons of flat screen TVs located around the concourse to ensure you won't miss any of the action on the court while making a trip to the bathroom or the concession stand.
*Photos courtesy of S.R. Smith
The review is still spot on two years later. This place is too big for this school, but it still made lots of noise when the Pirates made a last second comeback from 4 points down. Advantages are that you have lots of space to yourself and you can get inside for $10. The upper deck is closed off though and having so few fans does hurt the atmosphere.
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Newark, NJ 07012
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Newark, NJ 07102
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