For those who have never paid a visit to the Palmetto State, it is safe to assume that most people know about many of the larger schools in the state (Clemson and South Carolina, for instance) and the bigger cities and beaches. If you drive between two of those bigger cities (Greenville and Columbia), you will pass through the town of Clinton. Though the casual sports fan may be unaware of what they could see if they just exited the interstate, it is time to pay heed to that sign for Presbyterian College on the side of the road.
The school's roots trace all the way back to 1880, but the 2012-13 season marked the first full season at the Division I level for Presbyterian basketball. After playing a conference schedule without being eligible for postseason play, the Blue Hose are now free to build on the success they have experienced in the school's history at the NCAA's highest level of basketball. The banners they earn will hang alongside the many others in the Templeton Center, Presbyterian basketball's home since 1975. While the facility may never host a Final Four or huge concert tours, it is certainly an interesting place to take in a game.
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".
If your expectation at a game is gourmet dining, the concessions at Templeton Center may not be to your liking. What you will find, however, is a nice collection of staple items. Hot dogs and pizza are very reasonably-priced at $2, while popcorn and candy are $1 each. Bottled Pepsi products are also available for $2. The single stand in the lobby of the arena is a bit small, but even during the busiest times of the game I attended, the lines seemed to move at an acceptable pace.
It should be noted that the concessions are cash-only, and the closest ATM is over two miles away in downtown Clinton. The ability to pay with credit card or access an ATM in the facility would be a nice touch, as very few people - especially students - travel with much cash in their wallets. If you are one of these people and plan to enjoy the concessions, be sure to grab a few dollars before leaving the house.
There is very little confusion in finding your seat at a Presbyterian home game. There are two entries into the gym, with a door on the same side as the team benches and a door on the opposite side. Seating is essentially first-come, first-served bleacher seating, with a few seats specially marked as reserved. This allows you to control how close you sit to the floor, though there is really not a bad place in the gym. The only exception to this is whenever someone stops to talk to a friend in the bleachers. This happens a lot at Presbyterian, as the small-school atmosphere creates an interesting rapport among students.
The gym features scoreboards on opposite ends of the floor, with fairly standard information (score, time remaining, team fouls, time outs remaining and a few other items) displayed on each board. There is no problem with seeing either board from anywhere in the facility, but with other facilities in Presbyterian's conference displaying information on electronic boards at center court or on scoreboards hung above center court, these might be upgrades the school investigates down the line. The time and shot clock also prominently display atop each backboard, so this information is easy to monitor.
The Presbyterian cheerleaders play a large role in the atmosphere of the game, frequently making appearances on the floor during breaks in the action to perform routines. The school also has a dance team, though they only appear for a routine during the halftime break and once or twice during the course of the game. There is also a pep band in the section of the bleachers across from the visiting bench, and for a smaller group, they are very talented. They even feature a cowbell, as somewhat of a humorous touch.
No matter how cold the temperature may be outside, it is recommended to shed your jacket once you step through the doors of the Templeton Center. The gym gets extremely hot during games, so if you are not prepared, you may find yourself sweating. Grab a short-sleeved shirt to go under that jacket before leaving the house.
We must finally mention one of the more amusing mascots in all of college sports, Scotty the Scotsman. Scotty is a huge hit with kids and adults alike, and it's really tough not to smile and laugh at his antics. When he isn't dancing along with a routine performed by the dance team, posing for photos with children or fist-bumping random camera operators, Scotty maintains an amusing Twitter account. If you get to a Blue Hose game, find Scotty and ask for a picture or a high-five.
Presbyterian is located in downtown Clinton, which is very similar to many other smaller South Carolina towns. The campus is beautiful and historic, making for a great place to go for a quiet walk and take in the scenery. What you gain in quiet and small-town atmosphere, however, you will lose in proximity of a great number of amenities.
Tony's Pizza and Subs bills itself as the official pizza of Presbyterian athletics, and it is within a short distance of campus. This "mini-chain" has locations in Greenville and several other Upstate towns, along with its Clinton location. They offer a great selection of pizzas, sandwiches, salads and pasta at reasonable prices. Senor Garcia Mexican and Dempsey's are among the other small grouping of options in Clinton. The town of Laurens is approximately 10 minutes away, with a few more chain offerings. Spartanburg is a half-hour away, with Greenville about 45-50 minutes. These two larger cities offer plenty of big-city benefits in a reasonable amount of drive time.
You may recall my mentioning in the recap of my Presbyterian football visit that the athletic facilities and student sections are referred to as "Hoseville". The same "Welcome to Hoseville" signs on display at football games are on display here, lending a feel unique to Presbyterian. Signs can only do so much to create a home-court advantage, however.
The game I attended was a Saturday night game against conference foe Campbell, and the students turned out in decent numbers for the contest. The fans responded at the expected intervals, trying to rally the Blue Hose to victory. As the game started to slip away from the Blue Hose in the second half, though, the students (and some others) started to file out of the arena, leaving perhaps half the crowd in the stands for the final buzzer.
With the gymnasium setting in the Templeton Center, it stands to reason that it could get very loud and create quite the atmosphere for Blue Hose basketball. The school is in its infancy in Division I and the Big South Conference, however, and it may take several years of winning and the establishment of rivalries - perhaps with fellow Palmetto State school and Big South participant Coastal Carolina - for this advantage to truly develop. The emotions of the students help drive the players, which is part of what makes college sports so intoxicating to watch. One would hope that the students come to realize their role in helping to build the program and come out to make noise for their team.
Flying in to visit Presbyterian may present a bit of a challenge. The closest airports are Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) and Columbia (CAE), with both about an hour from campus. Clinton is accessible from Greenville-Spartanburg from the west via South Carolina Interstates 385 and 26, with Columbia accessible from the east via 26. South Carolina Highways 56, 72 and 308 serve Clinton, along with US Highway 76 (Carolina Avenue).
Once you arrive in Clinton, be sure to map to the address we provide for Templeton Center, or you may find yourself being taken somewhere else in the downtown area. If your GPS cannot locate the address, map to the intersection of East Maple and Ashland, and the Templeton Center is just ahead on the right on Ashland. Street parking is easily available along Ashland, with surface lots surrounding the Templeton Center. Parking is free and easily available for even the largest crowd the Templeton Center may serve.
The lobby of the Templeton Center is somewhat compact, with ticket sales, concessions and bathrooms all within feet of each other. Be careful when going to purchase tickets, however, as the ticket sales tables - like the concessions - do not take credit cards. Cash or check are the only options to purchase tickets at the gate, and there is no online ticketing option. As the school's program continues to grow, the ability to use credit cards and buy tickets online would be great additions for fan convenience.
The aforementioned restrooms are just steps outside the gym in the lobby. They are a bit older, but are certainly clean and well-kept. Lines never presented a problem during my visit, whether it be at the concession stands or in the restrooms. It should also be noted that the lobby is somewhat of a gathering place during the halftime break, with cheerleaders, dance team members and students often congregating in the lobby to talk and consume concession items before returning to the gym for the second half.
Assuming you have cash in your wallet, seeing a Presbyterian basketball game is one of the more financially friendly things you can do in this day and age. General admission seats are just $6, which is virtually unheard of for Division I basketball. The Big South Conference is a highly competitive "mid-major" conference, with Winthrop University achieving a long run of post-season success in the early part of the last decade. A number of good opponents from Virginia and the Carolinas will be making the trip to Clinton in the coming years, and they can be seen for less than the cost of a meal at a fast-food restaurant.
We mentioned that parking is free outside the Templeton Center, which is yet another great value. Fans can purchase a general admission ticket, a hot dog, a soda, a program and parking for $10. With value like this, there is no reason not to visit the Templeton Center.
There is not a real program of sorts at Presbyterian games, but a single-sheet roster and stat sheet is available at the table as you enter the facility. Though there is not a lot of biographical information on these sheets, they do afford you the opportunity to keep up with the players on each team and keep score of the game as it progresses. Travel guides for the Big South Tournament in Myrtle Beach were also made available on my visit, but this is not as likely to be something found at each game.
The school had a balloon artist stationed at the door leading to the gym on the night I visited, which was extremely popular with the kids in attendance. I have seen a number of promotions focused toward kids in my travels, but balloon artistry is not a common thing at college basketball games. Thankfully, none of the balloons popped through the course of the game.
The cheerleaders appear on the floor during a number of breaks to toss t-shirts into the crowd. T-shirts are a very popular giveaway item, and Presbyterian is certainly no exception to that popularity. Be careful during breaks in the action, because a quick glance down at your phone may result in a t-shirt flying toward you when you look back up.
The school conducted a raffle on the night I visited, with each game ticket being accompanied by a raffle ticket. The two prizes were gift certificates to local dining establishments. It appeared that at least one of the raffles was won by a student, which was a nice thing to see.
We mentioned the lobby layout, but there is one feature we have yet to discuss. The athletic offices are just off the lobby of the Templeton Center, as are a number of medals, trophies, photos and other monuments to Presbyterian's past athletic successes. Some of the medals date back over 80 years, and provide a great history lesson about some of those who have starred on the field and court in the college's history. Be sure to take a quick walk down the halls of the main lobby and take in the reminders of past years that surround you.
This is not technically an extra, but Presbyterian is known for its service to the community and to others. This is prominently mentioned in the school's mission, as well as their motto, Dum Vivimus Servimus. This translates to "While We Live, We Serve". Presbyterian also promotes their service via a web page.
We are witnessing a trend in athletic facilities. Schools are employing larger and more modern facilities with all the amenities and trappings money can buy. There is great charm and character, though, in smaller towns and smaller facilities, especially now. The huge arenas will always draw people and be desired destinations, but on your way to one of those big arenas, hop off the superhighway and pay a school like Presbyterian a visit. You are sure to meet great people who truly appreciate your visit, and after all, that's the most important amenity you can have.
Basically a high school gym in the middle of nowhere. But the costs associated with coming here are the same as at a high school gym, and it is Division I. So there is that going for it.
111 Jacobs Hwy
Clinton, SC 29325
107 Jacobs Hwy
Clinton, SC 29325
910 S Broad St
Clinton, SC 29325
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