Its grey concrete exterior I ran by every day - literally, every day for three years - but after visiting the inside once, never could I shake my mental image of the University of Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum. That's not to be taken as pure praise, however; by reading this review, you'll come to understand just what I think of the arena I called "home" during my college career.
The outside may appear odd with gently sloping "ramps" on the four corners (and spiked fences to prevent mischievous fans from climbing on the roof), but there is no confusion to the inside of the building. This is the Bulldogs' building; the seats are overwhelming red and the "G"s are large and omnipresent.
For a spot that opened in 1964 (as the Georgia Coliseum), it's remarkably modern, clean and inviting. Unfortunately, on several levels it also feeds into the generic feeling that goes with UGA men's basketball.
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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".
I am at this point fairly convinced that every major university in the state of Georgia signed a mutual agreement that their basketball venues would sell only the smallest selection of unpalatable food. I know, I know, the games aren't long, and students on the meal plan have several dining hall options within walking distance, but how about the rest of us?
Same old, same old: Get your popcorn, hot dogs, personal pizzas (Papa John's) and over-iced, overpriced sodas at any of the many identical concession stands. Or just eat before or after at one of the many fun Athens restaurants (see "Neighborhood").
With no shame, I can admit that I truly enjoy pregame intros. Georgia has never cut corners here, typically turning off the lights and showing a heart-pounding video on the brilliant big screen to bring out its starting five (they come up with a new mix every year).
Of course, no matter what kind of mood is set before the tip, nothing can save a crowd from the boredom that comes with an SEC team playing your average South Carolina Upstate. However, at a conference game, seated in the lower level, the excitement can indeed carry through the entire contest.
For sure, connection to the oncourt action lessens the higher one climbs in the stands, but doesn't that only make sense and happen in every stadium? My point is, a matchup with Kentucky or whoever else might be tussling at the top is every bit as enjoyable here as it would be away from home.
Downtown Athens never fails, and with Stegeman situated in the south-central area of campus, you're not too far away at all. I wouldn't recommend the walk (probably about a half-hour), but even for a packed game, the streets are manageable and one can traverse from main thoroughfare Broad Street to the Coliseum with little problem.
The eateries to frequent are many, but since I've already mentioned some of the older staples in my Sanford review, here I'll let you in on a few "secrets." Clocked is a posh burger spot on West Washington St. (next to the well-known 40 Watt Club), but if you're an Italian fan, there are too many options here not to try one.
As a certified pizza-face, I can heartily recommend Amici's (East Clayton, one block north of Broad), Transmetropolitan (a block west of that) or the standby Mellow Mushroom (a block east) if they don't have those where you come from. And then there's Little Italy (on Lumpkin, towards the west side of downtown), terrific for late-night.
Two challenges prevent Dawgs fans from being consistently supportive. For one, the team is not consistent "" and I place no blame, simply state fact "" and for another, Athens is no bustling center of commerce, let alone an Atlanta.
This means that students will likely only be drawn out of their dorms (or the bars) when there's a chance of a close game with a decent competitor, the same situation for which your average alum (now probably living in a more urban area for its job opportunities) will make the drive.
As stated before, noisy, standing-room only home-court advantage is not unknown to Stegeman, but it takes the right cocktail of circumstances. When the Wildcats come to town, poof, it's like magic; when a middling SEC West team (say, Ole Miss in recent years) is in, fans pull a disappearing act.
While it's a drawback in terms of the damper it can put on attendance, UGA's more out-of-the-way location makes navigating not so tough at all. Parking options abound, including the lot and deck directly across the street. If the weather's not bad though, explore just a little bit further North (along Sanford Dr. and in the nearby Rutherford parking lot) for options with easy exit routes.
Actually getting to Athens is simple enough as well; approach from Atlanta via Highway 78 or 316, your choice "" either will dump you close enough to campus. We insiders would always hop on Loop 10 however (available via both of the above an exit earlier), and spin round to the stop of our choice, be that Milledge, College Station, or Lexington.
Now you just need Lumpkin and Carlton or East Campus and Calhoun, as these two intersections are to the immediate northwest and southeast of the Coliseum. Park, get inside, and enjoy the facilities after the long car ride.
This is always a variable, so I'll stick with a nicely ambiguous answer. You've read it already: Cop a seat for a good SEC opponent and it's a steal, but $15 (upper deck, typically what's available for single-game purchases) is right on the borderline for any other foe, and that's coming from a basketball junkie.
Student sections are behind one goal at the lower-level on the southern side, so if you'd rather be either near or apart from that mass, then choose accordingly. I have to say that while an exciting game always has a tendency to unite everyone in the building, the higher up one gets, the more disinterested your companions will become.
Another point for being so close to downtown Athens. Please, for your own good, come hungry, thirsty, or better yet, both.
One point goes to the mascot Spike, the inflatable bulldog. Yes, you have seen this kind of suit before, perhaps on TV or perhaps at your local arena, but watching the antics has never been so hypnotic. The fan (or whatever keeps the air going inside) malfunctions just as often as it functions, so the entertainment value never ceases, and Spike can not only rapidly inflate/deflate his nose on command but also will sometimes bounce up and down on his head. It really needs to be seen to be believed.
And then, forgive me for this (or give me a high-five), but the Dance Dawgs "" not the cheerleaders "" are just amazingly talented and a pleasure to watch during timeouts.
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