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Official Review by Chad Minton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
With the ability to seat over 5,000 fans, Skyhawk Arena offers a nice stage for the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks to play basketball. The Skyhawks are trying to make a name for themselves in the Ohio Valley Conference in this modest venue, and there are plenty of loyal fans who show their support.
Forget about the glitz and glamour when coming to Skyhawk Arena. It’s simple and to the point. However, there are some hidden treasures in this arena that looks more like a large high school gymnasium. The major hidden treasure is that of the court being named after Tennessee-Martin alum Pat Summitt.
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The concession stands at Skyhawk Arena are about as bare as you can get. The high-ticket item is a basic cheeseburger for $3.50. There's also popcorn ($1.50), hot dogs ($2), nachos ($3) and candy ($1).
As for beverages, you have the choice of Gatorade, bottled water and fountain sodas. In other words, don't come to the game too hungry unless you're easily satisfied.
Even though Skyhawk Arena has the look of a high school gymnasium, there are some neat things about the arena. There is a large scoreboard on one end of the court that serves as the arena's video screen. It shows live video of the game throughout, and also provides player stats. You'll find a much more basic scoreboard hanging above center court, along with a tiny scoreboard hanging on each end of the court.. You'll definitely have no trouble keeping tabs on the score.
The building may not have been rocking for their Skyhawks on the night I attended, but there was plenty of noise when the home team made a frantic comeback in the second half that came up short in the end. The small number of students in the band did their part at making sure the game felt like a college basketball atmosphere, and a halftime free throw contest provided some laughs for the crowd. As for the seating arrangements, it's probably smart to spend a couple of extra bucks and get the chair-back seats, because the bleachers are very uncomfortable to sit in for two-plus hours.
There's plenty of potential here for the atmosphere to be a great one in the future at Skyhawk Arena.
Even though there isn't much of anything to do once you get outside of Martin's city limits, there are plenty of bars and restaurants near the UT-Martin campus. One place worth mentioning is Tony's Sports Bar and Grill, which is located within walking distance of the arena. They have all of the bar favorites like wings and pizza to satisfy your appetite after the game. Another cool local place to check out is Brandy's Restaurant, and the menu offers great items like seafood, pasta and steaks. There's also a full bar to go along with big screen televisions, but be sure to bring a little extra cash.
If you're looking for some post-game festivities, then make sure to stay near the campus. There are no major cities near Martin, so you'll have a long drive after leaving town.
The official attendance for this Saturday night game against Southeast Missouri State was well over 2,000, and that number seemed to be pretty spot on when looking over the stands. UT-Martin and Southeast Missouri State are "mid-major" programs that don't have near as large of a fan base as the bigger programs in their states, like Tennessee and Missouri. I was actually quite impressed with the involvement of the majority of the fans. The Skyhawks have experienced their share of recent struggles, so the fans have every reason not to be excited.
I saw a lot of loyalty out of the fans that attended this game, and that remained even when the Skyhawks fell behind by over 20 points in the first half. Most of the fans stayed for the entire game, and I applauded the loyalty that I saw from them. They also made plenty of noise when the Skyhawks made some good plays, like the classic four-point play that got the game within reach. You could have asked for a little better turnout for a Saturday night game, but the fans were great, for the most part.
Simply put, there is no easy way to get to Martin, Tennessee. This is even more true if you're not familiar with the state of Tennessee. Since Martin is not located off of any major interstates, it can be quite challenging to find this cozy little town without a navigation system. If you're coming from the Nashville area to Martin, then there are a number of routes you can take. However, any one of those routes will require taking a lot of state highways to get to Martin. Both Interstate 40 and Interstate 24 will get you within 100 miles of Martin. Plan for a long, lonely trip out to Martin, Tennessee.
The one single bathroom seemed large enough to support most crowds that come into Skyhawk Arena. There was also only one concession stand, and the line was excessively long for even a small crowd. The concourse of Skyhawk Arena is more of a lobby that leads you into the gymnasium. A narrow walkway inside the gymnasium will take you all the way around. I could see this area getting very cramped if the Skyhawks got even close to a sellout.
Tickets are fairly reasonable, with general admission tickets at just $10. The general admission tickets will put you in some pretty uncomfortable bleachers, but they will provide a great view of the game. The much more comfortable reserved seats go for $14, which is also a pretty fair price.
Parking is free, and the prices at the concession stands are as cheap as you'll find. Lump all of that together and you can enjoy some mid-major basketball for less than $20 per person. In this day and age, this is not bad at all.
An extra point goes for the university promoting their Breast Cancer Awareness night. Many of the fans were wearing pink t-shirts to show their support of the great cause.
There is also all of the attention and honor that Pat Summitt gets for her contributions to women's college basketball and college basketball in general. The arena does a great job at honoring Summitt, with the court being named after her, along with the statues in front of the entrance that honor Summit and two other pioneers in women's basketball.
There's plenty to like about Skyhawk Arena, and it definitely serves its purpose of being a home venue for an Ohio Valley Conference program. It's big enough to support the occasional near-capacity crowds it sees, but is also cozy enough to offer a great viewing of any game you attend. The few negatives are directly linked to the size and financial limitations of the program. The fans show plenty of passion for their hometown team, and Skyhawk Arena has plenty of promise in its future. The Skyhawks just need a winning team to build a following, much like their conference partners Murray State and Belmont.
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112 Lovelace Ave
Martin, TN 38237
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