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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When you think of Ole Miss athletics, the first thoughts which come to mind are probably the Manning Family, Rebel football, Hotty Toddy, and the entertaining tailgate atmosphere at the Grove. Ole Miss Hoops, however, has the opportunity to earn a place among these popular experiences with their brand new, state-of-the-art basketball arena, The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
Constructed in 2015, The Pavilion has replaced the aging “Tad Pad” which served as home court for the Rebels since 1966. It was definitely time for a new arena, and Ole Miss held nothing back in providing a fan friendly atmosphere complete with a free wifi, plug-in ports, the largest center-hung video scoreboard in college athletics, and a large lounge area. There’s even a Raising Canes and Steak ‘n Shake on the inside.
While there’s still work to do in terms of consistent overall fan energy, the Ole Miss Hoops experience at The Pavilion has made its mark in 2016 as one of the best overall environments to watch college basketball.
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".
The food options at The Pavilion provide the perfect combination of quality and variety.
There's much more than the basics here. The two most popular concessions options, the Steak 'n Shake and Raising Canes stands, are located just inside the main entrance and nearest to the student section. With popularity comes a bit of a line, but The Pavilion utilizes stanchions for each of their concession stands which helps to manage the line and speeds up service.
If you're not feeling like having burgers, shakes, or fried chicken strips, head around to the other side of the arena for additional options. The Rebel Grill offers classic fare items like a foot long hot dog ($7), corn dog ($5), sausage basket ($10) and cheeseburger basket ($10). Pizza ($6) is available at the Old Venice Pizza Co. stand. This is a popular chain in Mississippi and their pizza is worth a taste. Chop's BBQ serves up BBQ nachos ($9), a BBQ sandwich basket ($9) and a Hebrew National Hot Dog ($4). Other snacks are available at each of these stands including nachos with cheese ($4), pretzels ($5), popcorn ($3), and more. Throughout the concourse, you'll find a few specialty carts like Dippin' Dots Ice Cream.
Beverages are headlined by Coca-Cola products. You can score a "bottomless" soda for $6, a small soda for $4, and a bottled water for $3. Alcoholic beverages are not sold at The Pavilion.
With a brand new facility, the Ole Miss Basketball fan experience has taken a major step forward.
Kudos to the Ole Miss Athletics Department for dedicating prime area seating to the student body. While they could certainly cash in on sidelines and endline seating, these lower level seats are reserved for students only and wrap from the northeast corner to the west sidelines and back around to the southeast corner. In the first season at The Pavilion, the students have responded to this prime seating by showing up early and being into the game throughout both halves.
Lower level seating on the east sidelines is reserved for members of the Courtside and Pavilion Clubs. Despite much of the prime seating near the floor being reserved, there's still plenty of great seats in the upper lower section above the student section, thanks to a smart design. With a total capacity of 9,500, the arena doesn't feel cavernous and the seats in the mezzanine level (sections 201-218) offer a great view as well. Look for seats in Section 204 for a great mid-court elevated view, with the "Ole Miss" center-court logo facing you. All of the seats at The Pavilion are cushioned
You'll definitely be impressed by with the lounge area on the north side of the concourse. There is a small electronics shop, tables and sofas, and plenty of room for fans to eat or meet up away from the action. With both Raising Canes and Steak 'n Shake located here as well, it's definitely an active area. In the smart-phone age, there just never seems to be enough electric plug-ins available anywhere, much less at a sports facility. One of the really neat aspects of The Pavilion is the installation of a standing "bar" around the concourse facing the floor. This allows fans to watch the game away from their seats and there's also plenty of plug-ins under the bar, so it makes for a great spot to charge-up as well. Combine this with free wi-fi courtesy of C Spire and the experience is a smart-phone owner's dream.
The center-hung scoreboard is the largest in college sports and makes use of every video panel providing a unique multi-screen, wrap around display (features nearly 2,400 square feet of LED). The promotions crew works hard to provide both the feel of a college event but with the bells and whistles you'd expect at an NBA arena including the popular "Kiss Cam," "Bongo Cam," and other promotions like the t-shirt toss, and even parachuting t-shirts down from the rafters.
From the interior to the exterior, the entire facility is visually stunning with a sharp, modern and clean feel to it.
The Pavilion is located on the campus of the University of Mississippi in the city of Oxford (technically, the university area is incorporated as "University, MS"). The Ole Miss campus provides the Southern charm you'd expect in the deep south and is a beautiful and comfortable backdrop for Ole Miss basketball. Oxford may be a little short on big-time attractions, but you'll fall in love with The Square area and the plantation style homes throughout the region.
There are several must-stop restaurants while in town. For lunch, be sure to stop in for the best cheeseburger in town at Handy Andy Grocery. The place doesn't look like much (it's a converted small grocery), but it's a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere on the inside with good ole-fashioned greasy cheeseburgers as well as a few barbecue options. Ajax Diner is located in the town square and offers a delicious assortment of southern cuisine dishes (both the chicken fried steak and meatloaf dishes are amazing). Phillip's Grocery is also a great stop for burgers.
While Oxford isn't overflowing with attractions and entertainment, there's definitely a few stops worth making. Any visit to Ole Miss requires a stop at "The Grove." While it won't be beaming with usual activity during football tailgates, it's still a nice central stopping point on the Ole Miss campus. Bring a football and a throw blanket. You'll definitely want to spend some time in the Oxford's The Square. From restaurants, to coffee, shops, and bars, it's the central hub of activity in town. Off Square Books is a really cool local bookstore if you're interested in a little quiet time. Keeping with the book theme, one of the hot attractions in town is William Faulkner's house (Rowan Oak).
While lodging can become a major problem during football season with 1-star hotels ramping up prices in the $150 range, options for basketball season are much easier (and more affordable) to find. Consider a stay at the Holiday Inn-Oxford (112 Heritage Dr).
The Ole Miss community has embraced the new life breathed into the Rebels basketball program with a state-of-the-art facility. Time will tell if the strong attendance will continue past the first year, but so far, the students are showing up in droves and the facility was nearly sold out for the 2016 season. Average attendance in 2016 was right around 8,000 for the season, which is up by about 1,000 from strong years at the Tad Pad.
And that's not to say there's just butts in the seats. The Pavilion can get extremely loud after big moments. There's a few fan traditions including the infamous "Hotty Toddy" chant just before tip-off. In case you aren't familiar, the chant goes like this:
"Are You Ready? (yelled by the announcer)
H*** Yeah! D*** Right!
Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty,
Who The H*** Are We? Hey!
Flim Flam, Bim Bam
Ole Miss By D***!"
Also, during free throws, students stand with spirit fingers high while the Rebels attempt the free throws.
The Pavilion is located on the south side of campus nearby other athletic facilities like Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the Track and Field facility, and the former basketball homecourt, the Tad Pad. Oxford and the campus of Ole Miss is located in the northern part of Mississippi at the intersection of Highway 278 and 7. If you're heading in from the north or south, I-55 is the major interstate which runs nearby.
Considering Oxford's location, it's not very convenient for fans coming in from out of town with no major airlines or transportation services nearby. In 2016, there was some significant construction taking place in the area south of the arena which impacts traffic and parking. For conference games, much of the parking around the arena, including the adjacent parking garage, is reserved for season ticket holders. However, there is plenty of free campus parking available, though a short walk will be required. Be sure to visit OleMissHoops.com for information about parking. The areas indicated in blue below are open parking lots.
Tickets can be picked up at the ticket office in the main entrance on the north side. Lines are very short. You'll quickly get into the arena without much of a headache. There is a ton of room in the concourse once you get inside. Restrooms are brand new and spacious.
Ticket prices for elite college basketball experiences are definitely on the high side. However, at The Pavilion, prices are relatively affordable and offer quality SEC match-ups. Upper level Mezzanine tickets are available for $20 and lower level tickets begin at $25. This is a great deal to catch top-tier college basketball in a state-of-the-art arena.
Concession prices are relatively affordable and parking can be found for free, if you don't mind a walk. Overall, the return on investment for a Rebels game at The Pavilion is excellent.
There's more than just a few "extra" components at The Pavilion which help to enhance the overall environment for Ole Miss Hoops.
Throughout the concourse, there's great wall art including a neat historical display along the entire west side concourse. Be sure to spend some time checking this out before the game or during a break in action.
Above the south side is a huge mural which honors the numbers (along with a few pictures) of past Rebel Hoops greats. It's a great usage of space that could have otherwise been a boring empty wall.
Along the north side, banners hang from the rafters for Ole Miss Hoops accomplishments.
The center-hung scoreboard is the largest in college basketball and is a big part of the overall atmosphere. Money well spent. Also, the lounge area is one-of-a-kind and allows those not zoned in on the game to mingle while grabbing a bite to eat.
If you need some Rebel gear, you're in luck. In the southwest corner you'll find a Rebel apparel shop offering everything from mini-basketballs to hats.
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800 N Lamar Blvd #5
Oxford, MS 38655
118 Courthouse Square
Oxford, MS 38655
Oxford, MS 38655
Oxford, MS 38655
129 Courthouse Square
Oxford, MS 38655
112 Heritage Dr
Oxford, MS 38655