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Official Review by Brian Jones, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Hawkins Arena is where the Mercer University basketball team plays, and the arena is part of the University Center, which also has an indoor pool, intramural basketball courts, offices and meeting rooms. So it almost feels like Hawkins Arena is just a small piece to the University Center puzzle.
However, when the basketball team beat Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2014, everything changed. Now Hawkins Arena is one of the more exciting places to watch college basketball in the state of Georgia. And while it’s not to the level where McCamish Pavilion or Stegeman Coliseum is in terms of size, Hawkins Arena has risen to a level it has never been before.
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".
There is not a huge variety of food to choose from, as there is one main concession stand that sells hot dogs, popcorn, chips and soda.
However, Francar's Buffalo Wings, which is a wing restaurant in Macon, is on hand selling food. There is also a food court in the University Center that features Subway and Chick-fil-A. The food is inexpensive and it tastes good. But a wider variety would make Hawkins Arena a better experience.
I have to say that for a mid-major basketball team, the Bears do a good job of making the atmosphere fun for fans. The video scoreboard above the arena is a plus, because it's something you don't see from too many schools in the state.
Also, the orange and black seats throughout the arena are a nice touch. It's always good to see the team colors all over the arena.
And the promos are fun. They are constantly giving away free t-shirts and free pizza. I didn't win anything when I visited, but these are more for the kids anyway.
I'm from Atlanta, so I love visiting other cities in Georgia, because each of them has a different feel. And out of all the other big cities in the state, I love going to Macon the most. Macon is a lot like Atlanta, but it has more of an old-school feel, and the city is a lot more laid back. There are plenty of things to do while in Macon, but the one thing that everybody needs to do (including myself) is go to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. I'm a huge sports fan, and that place has everything you need to know about the greatest athletes and coaches that are from or played in the state.
As far as food goes, there are so many restaurants to choose from. When I was there, I went to Hooters, and it was a very good experience. However, there are numerous original restaurants to choose from, as well as regional and national chains. Wild Wing Café is another great place, and they are big supporters of Mercer athletics.
In the past, many fans did not really pay attention to the action on the court, because Mercer was not making noise in the NCAA tournament. But when the upset happened in 2014, the passion really picked up.
When I was walking into the arena, there were a ton of fans sitting down and waiting for the game to begin. The student section is loud, as well as the rest of the fans in the area. Some fans walk around the arena when the action is going on, but for the most part, the fans are attentive, supportive and know what is going on.
Getting to Mercer is not the issue. If you are coming from either Atlanta or Savannah, it's right off the interstate, and it only takes two-and-a-half hours from Atlanta.
However, the real issue is parking. If you were to go to a game at Georgia or Georgia Tech, you would not have an issue finding any parking spots. That is not the case with Mercer, because you are limited to one parking lot, which can get full if there's a baseball game going on.
Then when you park, the arena seems like it's a mile away, because it's in the heart of the campus. It wouldn't surprise me if parking is something the university officials work on the next few years.
Tickets for a game are $8 for general admission and $10 for reserved seating. That's fair for a mid-major Division I basketball game.
But going to a Mercer game is worth it if you live in Macon or anywhere in the middle Georgia area. If you live in the Atlanta area, it's not worth going to a game in Macon, especially during the weekdays. And that has to do with Georgia and Georgia Tech being closer and the quality of basketball being better. That said, going to a Mercer game is something families in the area need to experience.
One point goes to the display cases outside the arena. The cases have jerseys of former players, as well as trophies from previous conference wins. It's a great way to learn about the history of Mercer basketball before heading into the area.
Another point goes to the fan store right next to the arena. There are plenty of shirts and hats for fans to buy, which is something every school should have.
And one point goes to the inflated bear on top of the building. It's very creative and it gets the fans fired up (sort of).
Member Review by jmccurdy on Feb 19, 2012
Mercer’s University Center isn’t multi-purpose; it’s myriad-purpose. Where the Bears play their basketball games is part of a larger complex — 230,000 square feet — with the school’s workout facilities, plenty of offices and meeting rooms, an air-rifle range, and an indoor pool, among other amenities.
This must be nice for students, as you’ve got a clear go-to spot on campus, but the fact that there’s so much else going on in the building only adds to the sense of scatter-brained-ness that will be described below.
Member Review by oldskoolberk on Feb 21, 2016
With the addition of football to the program and baseball getting better, Mercer is starting to become a rising athletic program and it is basketball leading the way. The Bears are slowly becoming a mid-major mainstay, first in the Atlantic Sun and now in the Southern Conference. And fans are taking note of it as Mercer basketball is becoming more and more of a hot ticket on campus and around the city. And it is definitely a nice place to take in a basketball game.
THE POSITIVES: Prices for foods mostly run $5 or less, though the variety is not the greatest. That said, the chili cheese dogs are actually quite tasty and filling than a standard dog so it is really worth the bang. You have other food spots like Zaxby's, Papa John's, and a local Mexican place that gives you a choice of making your own nachos. The arena is very neat, clean, and has a classical feel with the concourses as well. In the "outside" concourse, there are plenty of trophies, memorabilia, and famous Mercer players on display including their big win against Duke in the NCAA tournament a few years back. There isn't a bad seat in the house and the big screen scoreboard was great to keep up stats and have replays after a whistle. Last, the fans were friendly and into the game.
THE NEGATIVES: If you head to a game in February, it is a pain to get out of the place when there is a baseball game going on as the arena is adjacent to the ballpark. But at least the parking is free and it is easy to get in the parking lot. The only other gripe is the top spots to eat in Macon are more of a driving distance such as Ingleside's Village Pizza and Francar's Wings. You could stay and have the local college food court just outside of the game, but I wouldn't call it an "authentic taste" of Macon as it is Subway and Chick-Fil-A.
562 Mulberry Street Ln
Macon, GA 31201
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