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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In the little town of Bethlehem lies Lehigh University, home of the Mountain Hawks. The team is aptly named, as the main campus is located on a large hill known as South Mountain, while another campus is labeled as Mountaintop. But these are not the focus of this review; instead we look a few miles south to the Murray Goodman Campus, where Stabler Arena resides. This is the home gym of Mountain Hawk basketball, which gained fame with their upset of Duke in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Since then, the team has returned to the normalcy of mid-major basketball in the Patriot League, and they make a worthwhile visit to anyone traveling through eastern Pennsylvania.
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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".
Two concession stands can be found on the main concourse, both selling typical items. Those in a group can enjoy a full 16" pizza (plain is $17, pepperoni $20), while slices are $3.50 and $4.25 respectively. The only other meal option is chicken fingers and fries for $8. All-beef hot dogs are $3 while popcorn is $4 for a small and $8 for a large.
Snacks range from chips ($2), various candy ($3.50) and mini-pretzels, a relative bargain at two for $3. As this is a college venue, no alcohol is sold, but you can pick up bottled soda for $3 or a slushie for $4. On cold winter nights, coffee is your best bet at $3.
There are a few tables next to these concession stands where you can sit and relax while eating.
Upon entering, you will find yourself in a large lobby. The main concourse is up a staircase and is where you will find the concession stands as well as the breezeways to the seats, which are clearly marked as Gates. Note the team schedules posted on the walls around the concourse, a nice touch.
There are three seating sections on the sidelines: seven rows of blue seats quite close to the floor and another eight rows of gold seats above, separated by a walkway. Above these are benches that are rarely used, as the place doesn't fill up very often for Lehigh hoops. One end zone is closed off, while the other is where the students sit, again with the same three seating levels.
There are a few typical promotions during breaks in the action but nothing that would merit specific mention here.
Banners and retired jerseys are painted on the wall behind each end zone. There is no video board, and no scoreboard above center court. There are two basic scoreboards at opposite corners that include game information player stats but nothing else.
The mascot is Clutch, a Mountain Hawk, who doesn't do much other than hang around the student section and block the view of those sitting in the first couple of rows.
Stabler Arena is in the middle of nowhere and you will definitely be driving back to Bethlehem for your evening fun. The town is split by the Lehigh River, with the south side offering a few bars next to campus. Molly's Irish Grille and Sports Pub is just north of Campus Square, while the Steel Pub is located by the river.
Those who enjoy dive bars can try the Tally Ho on 4th Street. Across the river on the north side is Fegley's Bethlehem Brew Works, which has a sister branch in Allentown. Meanwhile, gamblers can try their luck at Sands Resort Casino, which includes several restaurants by Emeril.
You can expect a good crowd filled with both alumni and students. They cheer at the right times and stay until the end of the game. At Lehigh, empty seats typically outnumber filled seats by a wide margin. Part of the issue of Lehigh's struggle is likely the location, which is well away from the main campus and not in a good spot for the college kids.
Getting to the venue involves a short drive from Bethlehem, going up and over (or around) South Mountain and past I-78 before reaching Goodman Drive, where Stabler Arena is located. Parking is free and plentiful. The only issue here is that you must re-enter the concourse to move between one seating area and another, but this is a minor quibble. With the relatively small crowd, concourses and bathrooms are never crowded.
All tickets are $11 at the door, and quite a bit cheaper online, where you can find a reserved ticket for $8.25 including fees. Food, on the other hand, can be a tad expensive, but when you include the free parking, the Mountain Hawks provide a great value for fans of college hoops.
A point for the warning sign above the box office that informs you that "Heat source of any kind WILL DAMAGE and may invalidate your tickets!" That was not a problem during my most recent visit on a cold January night.
Another point for the portraits of the parents of Donald Stabler, whose donation in their honor was responsible for the creation of the venue, which is named not for him but his parents.
The Lehigh Valley is growing in terms of sports attractions, with the IronPigs and Coca-Cola Park well established as one of the best minor league baseball destinations in the country while the AHL's Phantoms highlight a new downtown rink in Allentown at PPL Center. Few will consider Bethlehem as a potential sports stop on a trip to eastern Pennsylvania, but they should, as Stabler Arena and the Lehigh Mountain Hawks provide a very enjoyable evening in their own right.
Member Review by JVerlin
"Out in Bethlehem they're killing time, filling out forms, standing in line"¦" is a well-known line from a well-known song by a well-known artist, and anybody who's listened to Billy Joel's "Allentown" knows he doesn't exactly paint the best picture of the twin former factory cities. Stabler Arena, set off the main campus of Lehigh University just ten minutes from downtown Bethlehem, is one of the older arenas in the league, though no geriatric at 31 years. However, unless you're from the immediate region""it's not a convenient location""Bethlehem is a town that was best visited many decades ago (at least, for basketball).
Member Review by shamus170 on Feb 28, 2013
Not too long ago, Lehigh was just like many of its other Patriot League combatants, living the life in a low-major basketball league. All it takes is one victory in March over a team that begins with D and ends in UKE, though, and your name will forever be known. The Mountain Hawks of Lehigh joined Bucknell as the only league teams with a victory in the NCAA Tournament, and as a result, a few more fans have made their way over to Stabler Arena. Lehigh’s basketball home was built in 1979 and seats 5,600. Stabler is bigger than most other facilities in the Patriot League, and it feels a little more like an arena as opposed to a large gym.
569 Main St
Bethlehem, PA 18018
4 E 4th St
Bethlehem, PA 18015
77 Sands Boulevard
Bethlehem, PA 18015
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