The Borough of Staten Island has seen better days. Since Superstorm Sandy hit, it’s been a rough go for many residents of the New York City borough. Houses and property were washed away, and many of Staten Island’s residents have been displaced because of the storm. On the top of Grymes Hill, overlooking the island, is Wagner College. The college has become somewhat of a rallying point for the community. With many of Wagner’s students from the immediate area, the whole school has a very local feel to it.
At the center of campus is the Spiro Sports Complex, which is the home of Wagner’s basketball team, the Seahawks. The building was built in 1951 and was expanded in 1999. It has a gym, a natatorium, fitness center and the athletic department offices. The Seahawks play in the Northeastern Conference and are one of three teams in that conference that call New York City home (Long Island University and St. Francis (NY) are the other two). The team and university has a long athletic heritage, with veteran NBA head coach P.J. Carlesimo and University of Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley having previously coached at Wagner. Let’s take a closer look at the Spiro Sports Complex, home of the Wagner Seahawks.
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Wagner's concession offerings are somewhat average, but they won't break the bank. Wagner offers standard snack bar fare, including hot dogs, pizza, popcorn, chips and soda. No item is over $4, so you don't have to worry about spending a lot of money on food. The pizza is pretty good, and it should be, as Staten Island is known for its good pizza. The line at the snack bar was a little long at halftime when I attended, and it seemed that the service was a bit slow. It would probably be a good idea for Wagner to open up another place to get food in the gym. Most Northeast Conference schools are average in terms of concessions, and Wagner certainly fits in with that criteria.
When I say that Wagner is a part of the Staten Island community, it shows with the amount of kids and families that go to Seahawks games. It's not your typical college basketball crowd at all. The feel of the crowd is definitely much more of a high school contest than a college game. This isn't a terrible thing, just kind of different from what you may expect. The student section is located behind one of the baskets. I've been to two games at Wagner, and the first one I attended, the student section was loud and made their presence felt. For the second game, the section was barely halfway full, and didn't quite fill the gym up with noise. There was no pep band, which would have livened up the atmosphere a little bit. The adults and families filled the bleachers behind the team benches, but didn't seem as involved in the outcome of the game. The Spiro Sports Center seats 2,100 for basketball and I'd say about 1,500 people were at both games I attended.
Wagner College is in the middle of Staten Island on top of a hill. The campus itself is really attractive, filled with gothic buildings and pretty easy to navigate around. The benefit Wagner has from being on top of a giant hill is the view. You can see downtown Manhattan and the Verrazano Bridge twinkling at night all from different vantage points on campus. The problem with Wagner's campus is that there's nothing in the way of food or drink after the game within walking distance. If you're driving, you can likely find some tavern or pizza place in Staten Island (there are many). As far as Wagner's campus goes, I couldn't find a single place to get a burger or a beer. The closest restaurant is The RoadHouse on Clove Road, but this is a long walk up the hill back to campus, and it closes at 10:30.
The fans that come to the Spiro Sports Complex are about a 50/50 mix of students and families that live in the community. I noticed that there are a lot of incentives for kids to get in free, whether it's part of a little league team or getting perfect attendance on their report card. Having promotions like these helps foster the family atmosphere that is prevalent at Wagner games. It doesn't get particularly loud during games, and there are absolutely no bells and whistles when it comes to the arena. The lack of a replay screen, two out-of-date scoreboards and a very weak sound system do not do much to pump up the crowd. It seems as if Wagner games are like going to the movies or the mall in Staten Island, just something to do on a Saturday with the family. This is not a bad thing, but the Spiro Sports Center may not be the best environment for someone who wants to scream and yell at a basketball game.
There is a big parking lot across from the Spiro Sports Complex next to the football stadium. Parking is free, which is a pretty good deal. Wagner College is located off the Staten Island Expressway (I-278) on exit 13 (Richmond Road/Clove Road). For public transportation from Manhattan, take the Staten Island Ferry to Port Richmond. From there, take the S66 bus to Wagner. This is about a 20 minute bus ride that will put you on the front door of the campus. There is a shuttle service back to the ferry on campus, and it leaves every twenty minutes.
There is one price to pay at Wagner, and that price is a $10 general admission fee. You can sit wherever you like with that ten dollar ticket, as seats are first-come, first-served. This is a pretty good deal for Division I college basketball, and if you want to bring the kids, as long as they have a uniform on, or do well in school, they will get in for free.
One star for all the baseball memorabilia in the lobby outside of the gym. There are some really cool paintings and autographs which are definitely worth a look.
One star for the friendliness of the athletic department at Wagner. The media relations department is fantastic, and Coach Mason goes out of his way to thoroughly answer every media question.
Two stars for the way the Wagner College community has helped the Staten Island community with recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy. There were several 50/50 raffles held for the victims during the game and posters all over campus encouraging students to volunteer to help Staten Island. Wagner truly does care about the community in which the school resides, and is doing their fair share to help.
While the Spiro Sports Complex was expanded in 1999, the gym still looks like it did when it opened in 1951. Wagner could truly stand a facility upgrade. The school deserves a top notch basketball facility, and a new or upgraded facility would benefit the program and the community in the long run.
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