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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Eight conference titles since 2000. Nine national championships since 2000, specifically 9 of the last 11 years including a streak of five in a row. This is a resume that Duke or Kansas or any other big-time NCAA school can not claim. This resume belongs to the Carleton Ravens of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS). Carleton's nine championships puts them atop the CIS for most ever, which is shocking considering their short run. The Ravens' run can be directly linked to the arrival of head coach Dave Smart, who joined the team in 1997 as an assistant and 1999 as the head coach.
Located in Ottawa, Ontario, Carleton University has formed a bit of a renaissance in athletics. What was formerly looked at as a program with nothing much going on, and heading in the wrong direction, Carleton has rebuilt its athletics portfolio on the back of men's basketball. In the last decade, Carleton has christened hockey teams, which have seen recent success. In 2013, the Ravens fielded a varsity football team for the first time since 1998 when the program was dropped. Carleton has also sponsored the CIS Final 8 Basketball National Championship four times at what is currently known as the Canadian Tire Centre, and will host again in 2014.
CIS Basketball does not have the flash or buzz that their counterparts south of the border provide with the NCAA, but there is quite a story brewing at Carleton, and even as a travelling fan you would be remiss if you passed by an opportunity to catch some Ravens basketball.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are many things that you would go to Carleton for, but the culinary experience is not one of them. The Ravens' Nest features the most basic of food offerings; basically what you would expect in a local arena snack bar or vending machine. The south end of the gym is where you would find the concession stand which features soda, popcorn, chips and candy. What gives the concessions a slight bump up is that there is a licensed area roped off where you may purchase and consume alcoholic beverages. You can't take your drink to your seat, but for those fans that have to have their beer, it is a small price to pay.
Almost all CIS venues are multipurpose and designed more for physical education and kinesiology classes first, and hosting sporting events second. The Ravens' Nest is one of the best facilities for watching a CIS basketball game in Ontario. Both the east and west sides of the gym feature bleachers with either benches or seat backs. You can actually reserve seating in the Nest if you wish, rather than taking your chances with general admission. With such a small capacity, sightlines are no issue at all and you are right up close and almost in the action. You get all of the sounds of the game that you will not get in a big facility without having to sell your children to pay for the tickets!
The north side of the gym features the OUA banners that the Ravens' have won as conference champions, and the east side features the nine CIS banners as National Champions for the Ravens. Also in the north side, beyond the basket and end bleachers is the kid zone, which is a great spot to stash your child with a short attention span so you can catch the game. The kid zone features games and activities put on by the Carleton students for the children of spectators. At the southeast side of the gym the Carleton Conspiracy Pep Band sets up shop, which is a nice touch and not common for CIS athletics. The Ravens' Nest even features a decent media area behind the stands on the west side. This is not a big deal for most people, but it does keep the gym looking neat and organized and overall, more professional. The scoreboard is very simple and shows the basics. It would be nice to see some player stats including points and fouls, which is not unheard of at this level.
Where the Ravens' Nest really has it over many competing schools is upon the entrance to the Ravens' Nest. The concourse in the main athletics building is sparkling and Carleton has done a fantastic job of showing off their recent basketball history.
The Ravens' Nest is located on the campus of Carleton University. The campus is south of the Trans-Canada Highway and south of downtown Ottawa and the Parliament buildings. There is not much in the immediate area of the campus in the way of pre and post game meals, but you are not too far from a ton of interesting places. One must stop on your Ottawa journey is to head north and check out the Elgin Street Diner, which is open 24 hours a day and has some ridiculously good poutine, as well as other options. There are numerous museums all over Ottawa as well as Parliament Hill. If you are there in the winter, then make sure you bring your blades and take a little skate on the Rideau Canal which is very close to Carleton, just to the north.
CIS basketball is not measured in tens of thousands of fans, or even thousands of fans for that matter. Many times the box scores will reveal no attendance figures at all. It is fair to say that the attendance for Ravens games is quite strong as compared to their compatriots. Carleton routinely attracts over 500 fans per game and announced a crowd of 600 for the game that was reviewed. When the Ravens play their crosstown rivals from the University of Ottawa, they frequently play at the Canadian Tire Centre and attract a larger crowd. The crowd at the game in the Ravens' Nest is knowledgeable and energetic, making for a fun experience.
Getting to the Ravens' Nest is not that difficult. Carleton is located south of the Trans Canada Highway and the Rideau Canal. Bronson Avenue will get you to campus from either the north or the south. The Athletics building can be accessed from University Drive and is close to other athletic facilities including Keith Harris Stadium and the Carleton Ice House. There are public transit options available including the O-Train and public buses. The concourse is large and easy to get around, and the washroom facilities are solid.
CIS basketball is a great investment with a huge return. Reserved seating can be had for $17 at the door with discounts available when you purchase online or for students, seniors, alumni and staff. Tickets for children five and under are free. Parking in the lot by the athletics building is only a couple of bucks and the concession prices are very reasonable. Match that with the opportunity to see history in the making and a legendary streak of success and you can't go wrong when you take in a Ravens game.
An extra mark for the impact that Carleton basketball has had on the rest of the athletic programs and the creating of new teams in hockey and football.
Two extra marks for the legendary run of success that the Ravens have shown on the court.
It is not often that you can say that you were there or that you saw something legendary. In Ottawa, the basketball dynasty is well under way at Carleton. The Ravens are proving to be one of the greatest basketball programs ever put together and you should make sure you get to see it in person. Any trip to Ottawa would be more than complete with a trip to see the defending (2013) CIS National Champion Carleton Ravens.
Follow all of Dave's sports journeys on twitter @profan9.
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