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Official Review by Steve Stoehr, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils play their basketball at Detrick Gymnasium on the college’s New Britain campus. Built in 1965 and renovated in 2003-04, Detrick itself is a quaint little facility with the sort of hybrid basketball court/classrooms/all-school recreation use pattern that isn’t normally seen in Division I basketball.
Rather than accept that their facility isn’t the most well-appointed in the country, the Blue Devils have taken the strong features of such a venue and maximized them, creating a solid atmosphere with a rabid fan base for each game. Despite a disappointing 13-17 season in 2012-2013, Blue Devils’ fans still pack into the 2,654-capacity arena and raucously cheer on their team. For the low prices offered, why wouldn’t they?
Unfortunately, crowds and affordability don’t cover up the areas in which the limited facility is lacking. Poor concessions, a lackluster neighborhood, and a dearth of extra perks bring down an otherwise great basketball venue.
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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".
Concessions are absolutely not the strong point at Detrick Gymnasium. While prices are more than reasonable (nothing over $3), the selection would be better at a Little League baseball game. Hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, candy, potato chips, and water round out the lineup, with the dogs and slices running purchasers the top-end $3 price tag. The concession stand itself is a tiny little countertop near the main entrance to the gym. Lines could get to be a bit of a hassle, but with such a limited menu, it's tough to imagine that it would take very long for anyone to get their food anyway.
Detrick has the look and feel of a high school gymnasium, or at least a gym for a basketball team below Division I. Honestly, though, the ambiance works. The place gets loud, and the students, cheerleaders, and dance team do a very good job of keeping the entire arena excited during the game.
There doesn't appear to be a dedicated student section, which is odd, but the students still show up in droves, peppering one side of the stand and joining in with raucous cheers. There is also a full pep band in one corner belting out tunes. All in all, this wouldn't be a fun place to play as a visitor.
Unfortunately, the high school gym atmosphere works against Detrick, as well. The gym is really only accessible to the public on one side, where there's basically an open foyer with the concession stand, "pro shop," ticket table, and restrooms. Two sets of doors open into the gym, but the doors on the other side of the court lead to lockers, classrooms, and some administrative offices. The simplicity holds the place back from being exceptional.
New Britain, Connecticut has a lot of nice areas, and CCSU is located in one of them. It does, however, have a reputation as a place where you wouldn't want to get lost. If you don't know your way around, walking aimlessly around the city streets isn't necessarily a recommended course of action.
For pre-game or post-game entertainment, there isn't much available. The favorite haunt of the students at CCSU is Elmer's Place, a restaurant, pizza place, and bar around the corner from campus. Elmer's has a full menu of decent food, delivers pizza, and runs nightly drink specials with various events and live entertainment. It's not the place to be for high-end entertainment, but for a beer and a bite, it more than gets the job done.
Students also favor the Wood-N-Tap in Southington, a 10-plus minute drive away from campus if you take I-84. It's a chain bar/restaurant that features a robust menu of so-called American fare (including bison, by the way) and happy hour food and drink specials. Unfortunately, these appear to be the only real options, and without much variety in the offerings, it's tough to rate the neighborhood much higher.
Detrick wasn't totally sold out, but it was a pretty packed house, and the fans were definitely into it. There's a good mix of student attendees and those who are either alumni or interested parties, and the differences in the way each group of fans enjoys the game actually creates an excellent brand of support.
Fans seemed knowledgeable, and launched their cheers and jeers at all the right times. This is a great group of people with whom to catch a basketball game.
The CCSU campus is not hard to find. It's only a few minutes off of I-84 and doesn't require a lot of complicated turns. The access problem stems from the difficulty in actually finding the gymnasium. Once again, the sort of "high school gym" image that the facility seems to embrace is detrimental. Without the aid of a passing student, I would have been forced to guess which building was the gym; there's really no signage to direct visitors, and the entrance to the gym looks like the double-door entrance to a gym at a junior high school.
On the bright side, if you know where you're going, there's a parking garage right next to the facility. Bathrooms are also very easy to find in the main gym foyer.
The entire experience may not be groundbreaking, but considering the price point, the return on investment couldn't be much better. The most expensive single-game ticket is $12, which gets you reserved chair-back seating. Seat-backs are $10, general admission $8, senior citizen and child tickets $5, and students/staff/faculty get in free.
Season ticket prices were capped at $200 for those same reserved chair-back seats. Coupling all this together with the dirt-cheap concessions, free parking, excellent fans, and decent atmosphere, paying $11 for a game and a slice of pizza is almost a steal.
There was nothing that could really justify adding points. It's not a bad experience, there just isn't anything really unique at this facility.
Detrick Gymnasium does a good job of maximizing its strengths, but the weaknesses in the venue show through. It has the sort of old-timey feel of a dusty, storied high school gym, and it uses that to create an excellent in-game atmosphere in the stands and on the court. However, it's like a high school gym in far more ways than one, and lacks the modern amenities - or even big-basketball amenities - that some may expect from a Division I basketball event. It's still more than worth the low cost of admission to take in a game with that crowd.
Member Review by pderrick on Jan 21, 2014
As long as you arent expecting much before walking into Detrick gymnasium then you probably wont be disappointed. Agree with review food & beverage items is a joke but what they have is cheap. Fans were disappointing, no real student section most attendees looked to be staff or alumni.
1427 East St
New Britain, CT 06053
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