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Official Review by Adam Reiter, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The University at Albany basketball program is a recognizable Division-I program, but they belong to a university where student support is almost non-existent, despite two trips to the NCAA Tournament in the last six years, including nearly becoming the 1st 16 seed to ever beat a 1 seed, leading UCONN by 12 in the second half in 2006. Early in the 2012-2013 season, the Great Danes pulled off the biggest regular season win in school history by shocking Pac-12 conference member Washington playing AT Washington; and yet, few students even knew about it.
UAlbany has produced no NBA talent, though some of the school’s more recognizable players have gone on to play overseas after graduation (Jamar Wilson, Jason Siggers, and Tim Ambrose). Gerardo Suero made quite a splash in his one season at UAlbany, finishing in the top 10 in Division I in points per game, before leaving after his junior season to play professionally. The lack of fan support and enthusiasm around the team on campus, though, takes a lot away from what has the possibility of being an awesome experience.
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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".
With so many restaurants close by, it would seem smart if food and beverage prices were to fall on the cheap side, but, unfortunately, they do not. A "Mucho Nacho" option will cost you $6, even though a similar option is available at both Moe's Southwestern Grill and Chipotle, both of which are less than a five minute drive from SEFCU, for only a few dollars more at a much higher quality. $4 for popcorn chicken is a decent bargain, as no restaurants near SEFCU offer that on their menus, but it is a rare bright spot on an otherwise disappointing menu.
SEFCU Arena has started serving beer in its "Hall of Fame Room" this season. A wide variety of bottles will cost anywhere from $3-$6, depending on the brand. Bottled soda and water are also sold at the concession stands for $3.
UAlbany's dance team, cheer team, and pep band do their best to keep the crowd involved, but to little avail. It's not their fault; in a mostly empty arena, there's only so much that can be done. The arena is clean and comfortable, and sight lines are good from anywhere.
SEFCU Arena is located on the UAlbany Campus, surrounded by student housing. Eateries within a five minute drive include Ninety-Nine, Burger King, TGI Friday's, Chipotle, Five Guys, and Moe's Southwestern Grill. Local favorites like the Across the Street Pub and Bountiful Bread never fail to impress either.
If someone is in the mood for a coffee, there is a Dunkin Donuts on one side of campus and a Starbucks located on the other side. There will never be a shortage of available places to eat.
For a school with 18,000 students (undergrad and graduate combined), the turnout for Great Danes basketball games is simply sad. Most students live on or near campus, making a walk or drive to the arena easy.
Despite several hundred seats of the 4,538 capacity arena being typically reserved for students, there are only 3-4 home games every season that reveal any presence of the UAlbany student body. For an average game, about 2-3 dozen students at the most will show up in support.
When the fans do come out for the annual "Big Purple Growl" in February, the students give the Great Danes a decisive home-court advantage, packing SEFCU Arena to capacity.
The city of Albany is firmly behind their Great Danes, which is a positive, because the students of UAlbany clearly aren't.
SEFCU Arena's parking lot is located just south of the arena. As only a select few games sell out these days, finding a space close to the building is never a challenge.
Once inside, both food vendors and bathrooms are found quite quickly in the easily walkable arena.
Most fans will spend $12 on a "reserved" seat at SEFCU, some will spring an extra $6 for a seat with a chair back. Those compare evenly with the conference rival Vermont Catamounts, who charge $12 and $14 respectively for similar seats. If someone is in the mood to watch the game courtside, it'll cost only $28.
The Great Danes are a top team in a below-average conference, so the quality of play is decent at best. However, one should not complain for the cost of a ticket to see a Division I basketball game.
The UAlbany Alumni Association and "DANEger Zone" work to create a sense of excitement during media time-outs, with t-shirt launches, and promotions/contests such as the ever-popular half-court and the SEFCU Money Machine, with new contests taking place at every home game.
The University at Albany basketball program is competitive in the America East, but students fail to realize that, which is why only a handful will attend even 50% of home games. Another run to the NCAA tournament would certainly help with that aspect. UAlbany holds an advantage in that no major sports teams play their home games within two and a half hours of SEFCU Arena, and the Danes are constantly engaged in a battle with cross-town rival Siena for most media coverage. If UAlbany can get their students behind the team, SEFCU Arena is a great place to see a game.
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1238 Western Ave
Albany, NY 12203
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