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Official Review by Patrick Westrick, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Jackson State University is home to the Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center which was built in 1981 as a multi-purpose athletic arena and convention facility. With a maximum basketball seating capacity of 8,000, the WAAC still looks and feels like it is very much still sitting in 1981.
With nothing remarkable architecturally to the building it is easy to drive right by it and never know. Once inside there is nothing outstanding about the arena either other than the lack of modernity to it. You will not find a video board, a walkable concourse or even great sightlines from the seats. With the WAAC being a multi-purpose facility the main grandstands are quite-a-ways from the court with portable bleachers sitting closer to the floor but with even worse, even flatter sightlines. It is easy to see that this arena was not built for basketball use only. Thrown together would be a very good term to use when explaining your experience.
JSU has had some recent success in the SWAC with a CIT appearance in 2016, a NIT appearance in 2010 and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007 but it just hasn't been enough to keep the fans engaged. This is especially difficult in a market filled with Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU and Alabama fans.
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".
Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center has only one concession stand. Yes, you read that correctly. Only one concession stand in the entire arena built for 8,000 fans. Luckily, JSU rarely has to worry about long lines, given their attendance over the years so it's really not that big of a concern. However, if you're going to only have one concession stand it better be state-of-the-art and offer a wide variety of choices and this one definitely does not do either of those things. Instead it is a chain-linked fenced in looking booth that only offers Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Nachos and Popcorn with Candy Bars and Pepsi branded soda bottles.The silver lining is that the most expensive thing available is the Hamburger and Sodas at $3 a piece. The negative is that the food is not $3 quality. Do yourself a favor and eat before the game and only purchase a soda and a candy bar if you have to.
For as good as the Jackson State program has been the past few years the atmosphere is lacking to say the least. In an 8,000 seat arena, a crowd of less than 1,000 looks and sounds like a 1A High School basketball game. This was especially sad when you consider at the time of this review that the Tigers were playing in-state rival Southern Miss on a weekend.The student section, if there is indeed a student section was not loud. There were no cheerleaders, no mascot or even a pep band, which for a school with one of the largest, loudest marching bands in the country is a little shocking. Three major elements to a college sporting event were not present at a rivalry game. The crowd that was in attendance did their part and seemed to be into the game but it definitely was one of the worst atmosphere this reviewer has been a part of.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jackson, Mississippi, it is a very dangerous city. There are very few areas inside the city limits that are worth mentioning so if you are in town for a game please do not take this lightly.During the daylight hours you are fine while walking around campus, however campus does not sit in a 'garden spot' of the city so do not wander too far. There are no restaurants, bars or shopping centers near campus so the urge to get off campus and explore the immediate neighborhoods around will not be a strong one. If you are visiting from out of town, make sure you stay in the surrounding suburbs of Madison, Ridgeland, Brandon, Flowood or Pearl. At most, Madison is 20 minutes away from the arena and is the richest city in Mississippi with a plethora of activities to do. The Renaissance Shopping Center has plenty of nice sit-down restaurants and also offers hundreds of places to shop with the family. For more good local haunts to check out, Dogwood Crossing in Flowood has a ton of places to eat with your basic chain restaurants and a few local options like Half Shell Oyster House, Georgia Blue, and Table 100. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and shopping centers to see before or after a game in any of the afore mentioned suburbs but we do not recommend staying in Jackson for any extended period of time.
Jackson State University has been a long standing institution in the city of Jackson and also in the state of Mississippi. With a large alumni base throughout the south JSU alums definitely love their Tigers. However, they just don't show up to games like they use too. Even with the 2015-16 Tiger team making it into the second round of the CIT Tournament the fan support has been dwindling recently. The fans that do attend are indeed knowledgeable about the game, cheer at the right times and worship their Tiger basketball team; the only problem is that there isn't enough of them attending games to make a difference.I will put some of this on the university itself however. With the recent financial issues going on at JSU a lot of the fan base has tried to distance themselves from the former administration. There were even talks about Jackson State building a new 50,000 seat dome, much like the Carrier Dome in Syracuse to house the basketball programs and football program but those talks seem to have disappeared and for good reason. JSU has a hard-enough time filling the arena they have now.
Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center is very easy to get in and out of compared to a lot of smaller schools in downtown settings. Sitting only 2.7 miles west of I-55 and 1.9 miles north of I-20, JSU is an out-of-towners dream when it comes to access. While the school isn't necessarily marked all that well once you get off the expressways it is very simple and easy to find even with the most out of date GPS.Parking lots surround the arena and JSU offers free parking at all events so that is a very nice bonus. Be aware though, that the city of Jackson has some notoriously nasty roadways so make sure to drive slowly.
Considering that you can get a ticket to see a recent NCAA Tournament team for a little as $9 and sit wherever you want in the arena, you would think that it would be a heck of a deal. But given the state of the arena, concessions, atmosphere and safety of the neighborhood near campus it is not $9 well spent. If you are a rabid JSU fan or even a rabid NCAA basketball fan determined to see as many arenas as possible then, sure, spend your $9 and have as good a time as you can.
The production at a JSU game is as equally bad as the arena. There is no video board, no LED ribbons and barely a sound system. There is no concourse to walk around, just the four entrance gates and 1 concession stand. There are some banners hanging in the rafters representing successes from all the teams on campus but they are looking a bit outdated. While JSU doesn't have a rich history of basketball it still would be nice to see some modern amenities that the majority of collegiate venues have today.
Member Review by justinrsutton on Apr 10, 2013
Playing in the SWAC, the Jackson State Tigers do not get to play too many games at the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center, as they play most of their out of conference schedule on the road. This means that fans of the Tigers have to make sure to get to the home games once the conference schedule kicks off.
The AAC, built in 1981, sits in the northwestern part of campus and can hold 8,000 fans. It is a true multipurpose complex, as it also houses classrooms and athletic offices.
With the talk of a new 50,000 capacity football and basketball domed arena for Jackson State in the wind, the days of Jackson State basketball at the AAC may be numbered.
416 George St
Jackson, MS 39202
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