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Official Review by Joshua Guiher, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Bucknell University Bison play in Sojka Pavilion, which was built in 2003 as the final piece of their Recreational & Activities Center. The Pavilion itself can seat 4,000 for a game with some stationary seats and some that can be retracted to allow for three regulation basketball courts. I walked around a good bit and was really surprised how good the view was from every section.
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".
It isn't that Bucknell has any kind of food outside your traditional hot dogs $1.75, hamburgers, $3.75, chicken fingers $4, popcorn $1.50 and nachos $3.50. It is the fact that it is so affordable. You can get a large soda for $3. The one thing that Bucknell did have that you can't find everywhere was ice cream treats. They were all $1.50 with options ranging from Klondike bars, cookie ice cream sandwiches and King cones to name a few. I went for a hotdog, nachos and a small soda. My total was only $7.75, making my entire trip cost under $16 for ticket, parking and food.
Despite being a small school in rural Pennsylvania, the Bucknell basketball program is perennially a top team in the Patriot League and a contender in the NCAA tournament. In fact, in 2005 they beat Kansas in the opening round. This type of program success has led to solid crowds, including the sellout of the game I attended despite an all-day ice storm that forced multiple detours in the area.
During both gameplay and timeouts, the fans were cheering loudly and were very much into the game. There were constant chants along with chatter directed at specific players on the opposing team.
I also noticed that a good number of children, all wearing their Sojka Psychos shirts and enjoying the game. I always feel it is important to involve families. This builds your fan base for generations instead of just the boosters, who are typically older.
Lewisburg is a wonderful town. It is easy to get around and almost all parking is free. There is not a whole lot to do as the main employer is the University itself, but just a few miles away is Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series. Also, just a few minutes away is a reptile zoo and an amusement park with one of the best wooden roller coasters in America.
If you want to catch dinner before the game, I recommend La Primavera Italiano Ristorante & Pizzeria. The food is excellent and worth the visit in my experience. My favorite is the Pollo Piccata, which is chicken in a lemon butter sauce sauteed with mushrooms and asparagus served over spaghetti or with choice of vegetable.
Lewisburg only has a population of 5,500 and less than 20,000 people within a 20 mile radius according to the latest census. To consistently draw sellout crowds of 4,000 is simply amazing. Then, to have the crowds as engaged as they are really shows how strong the basketball program is.
Bucknell seats their students beyond each basket, with a large percentage of the students dressing in outrageous costumes. During my visit I saw a group wearing nothing but speedos, a group in togas, and a student who was wearing a costume cow head.
Access was a bit difficult because there is not as much parking as needed around the arena. The close lots only hold a few hundred vehicles at best and are reserved for Bison Club members. This leaves the general public to fight over the street parking. I'll admit that I was running late, but I had to park seven or eight blocks away and I only got that close because I parked myself on top of a huge snow pile.
This might be the easiest rating I have ever given. For only $8 for adults and $5 for children, you can get into Sojka Pavilion to see Bucknell play. That is an amazing bargain for a program and experience of this caliber.
First point is for the lack of excessive entertainment. I know that probably sounds odd but some schools try so hard to keep the fans entertained, it feels like they are trying to mask a bad product. At Bucknell, they only had 1 small t-shirt toss and 1 dress like a player and make a shot race. The other stoppages were just filled with pep-band and cheerleader performances. This allowed the fan to keep the action of the game as their top thought, instead of discussing how good or bad the entertainment was. The other point is for the nice display of star player jerseys instead of cheesy banners or giant jerseys hanging from the rafters. It makes for a nice, clean look for the Pavilion.
Overall, I was very impressed with the experience and only wished I lived a little closer as I would attend more games. If you are looking for a great venue for a trip for a Patriot League game or happen to be passing through Pennsylvania on Interstate 80, I recommend a stop at Sojka Pavilion to watch a Bucknell Bison game. I've only been to around eight different basketball arenas, but my experience at Bucknell was by far my favorite.
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18628 Route 15
Allenwood, PA 17810
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