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Official Review by Brandon Gee, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Dayton, Ohio is a storied college basketball town. In addition to the Raiders, the University of Dayton Flyers have held court at UD Arena. Also, since the NCAA expanded the tourney field from 64 to 68 in 2011, U of Dayton has hosted the ‘First Four’ series and will do so until at least 2015.
Meanwhile, Wright State has been staking its claim to the local sports populace. Wright State Raiders basketball is still a young program. The school made the jump to Division I basketball in 1989 and has managed to earn two appearances in the NCAA tourney.
Since 1990, the Raiders have played in the on-campus Nutter Center. The arena serves as not just the home of Raider basketball, but also is the premier concert and entertainment venue in the area. It’s a massive building that includes another gymnasium, practice courts, classrooms and exhibition spaces.
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".
All the standard arena fare is available, with hot dogs ($4), nachos ($4.50/$6.50), popcorn ($4), etc. In addition, certain stands sell slices from local pizza chain Larosa's and there's a dedicated stand for Fricker's chicken restaurant. Items there top out at $7.50 for a chicken sandwich.
I know this is unusual at most college venues but like many here in southwest Ohio, Nutter Center sells beer. $6 macro-brew is available on draft.
As you walk the Nutter Center concourse, you'll see the accolades of all the school's athletic accomplishments, as well as displays of any Raider athlete who went on to the pros in their respective sport. Since the concourse is at the top of the seating bowl, there are some great vantage points from which to watch the game, mainly the two corners on the open end of the seating bowl.
As far as multi-purpose venues go, Wright State makes a valiant effort to generate a solid college basketball atmosphere. The seating bowl is a one-tier horseshoe configuration with all the sections (33 rows up) set at a steep grade. This actually helps keep fans much closer to the action and despite the venue's tall ceiling, helps keep the noise level high. The Nutter Center is a large venue, but with the setup the Raiders use, it creates a "pit" style atmosphere so beloved by other college basketball programs.
The school added a new center-hung, four-sided scoreboard with dedicated screens for game video and stats. It is a definite upgrade over the last board and only adds to the experience.
As far as the open end, the court is framed in by an elevated cafe of sorts. These are premium seats that offer an amazing view of the game from the baseline perspective.
I should note that since the Nutter Center is configured for events other than basketball, sections 201-203 and 222-224 do not face the court. The good news is that since the incline is so high you can still get a solid view, you're just removed from the action somewhat.
The Nutter Center sits on the eastern edge of Wright State's Fairborn campus, 15 minutes east of downtown Dayton. Given the suburban location of the school, there are all kinds of food options lining the area around Colonel Glenn Highway. In addition, a quick five minute drive south on North Fairfield Avenue (Nutter Center's other cross street) will take to the Mall at Fairfield Commons. There is everything from standard fast food to casual places like Steak n' Shake and Frisch's Big Boy plus just about every chain restaurant you've ever heard of in the area. There really is something for every taste in the area.
If I can make a suggestion, I'd say Red Robin for burgers or the Fox & Hound Pub for fish & chips and a solid beer selection. They both sit on outlots on the mall's south side (far side coming from the arena).
Normally, I prefer to be able to park in one place and walk around to experience an area. That is not the case here, a car will definitely be necessary to get around. The sheer amount of choice though somewhat makes up for this situation.
If you're looking to stay in the area, hotels line the area around Colonel Glenn Highway with a varied selection of classes/price levels. Most of the hotels in the area appear to be rated highly, including a 3-Star Holiday Inn on Presidential Drive, which is just across the campus and five minutes from the arena.
If you're able to spend time in the area before/after a Raider game, one really interesting option is the public offerings at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Wright-Patt is one of the Air Force's largest bases and Wright State's campus sits just to the west of the expansive grounds. A major attraction here is the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. It is the world's largest aviation museum and boasts a comprehensive collection of aerospace related artifacts, from the Wright Brothers era to modern space travel. To top it off, admission here is always free.
Another option for something to do outside of the game would be to make the 20 minute drive west to the town of Yellow Springs. It's basically a small, "bohemian" village that is home of Antioch College and boasts a variety of small businesses and activities perfect for families like Young's Jersey Dairy. The fall is a particularly nice time to be in the area.
The school put out a big push to get fans out for the most recent game that I attended in particular. Alumni weekend, plus a halftime ceremony honoring all the athletes of the school's other sports teams and it was a 'blackout' game with 5,000 free t-shirts given out. While it wasn't quite a capacity crowd, a great crowd showed.
The students were loud and energetic, and just seemed like they were having fun. A student section can sometimes make or break the experience at a college game and Wright State's only added to the atmosphere.
With Wright State still being such a young program (relative to most in college basketball), it hasn't yet developed the kind of hardcore following that becomes a tradition as generations come and go. The average attendance in 2012-2013 of 4,000 is solid, and the attendance has seen steady growth over the last couple seasons. Coach Billy Donlon and the staff at Wright State are doing what they can to help foster that and hopefully with time, they'll see a bigger return on that investment.
The arena sits next to I-675 on the eastern edge of Wright State's campus in Fairborn. From the north, turning right off exit 17 and a short drive puts you right at the lots in front of Nutter Center. From the south, exit 17 will lead you north of the arena on Route 844. Take the first exit for the arena. A left on University Blvd, then another on Raider Road leads to the surface lots behind the arena.
The cost of parking is included in the ticket so that helps to speed the process up. However, the lot crew were less than helpful with directing cars toward open spaces.On this occasion, it was a large crowd and with the lots incredibly full, I was told by an attendant and heard others say to patrons, "you just gotta find a space." Which I thought was kind of part of the job they were doing out there. There was a bit of a logjam for late arrivals weaving up and down the aisles looking for spaces.
When leaving, if you're not leaving early, you'd be well-served to hang out in the arena for a few minutes after the game to let to exiting traffic die down a bit.
Tickets for most games cost $14 with seats in the first 12 rows of the sideline sections costing $26 (both figures do include the dreaded TicketMaster fees). It's also nice that the parking fee is included in the ticket.
Be sure to check the Raider website as they offer a number of value-added packages that will allow you to get fast food vouchers or t-shirts in addition to your game ticket. Food costs are decent, as are costs on Raider merchandise. This is a great value for Division I basketball.
A point for the seating bowl. With the height of the bowl and the steep incline, even the seats furthest away from the court have a nice view.
A point for the interesting use of the space. With so much extra room, it's hard for an arena like this to not seem like a cavern. The school manages it well.
Another point to the convenient location. With all the food options nearby, as well as attractions nearby, Wright State basketball is a part of some great options for a daytrip for people in the region.
Where are you, Raider fans?!? Despite its size, this is still a nice basketball arena and the Raiders are poised to compete for the Horizon League title for the foreseeable future. They just need students, local alumni, and the general Dayton sports fan to invest some time in the product.
Member Review by CigarBoy
The Nutter Center, affectionately known to Wright State Raider fans as the "Nutt House" a term first coined by former radio color commentator Ron Coleman, opened in the fall of 1990 with a concert by the Boston Pops Orchestra, but soon became better known as the rocking home of the late coach Ralph Underhill's running Raiders. That year they ran and pressed their way to 19 wins and averaged over 8,000 fans per game in just their fourth year in Division I.
These days the Raiders are members of the Horizon League and usually only draw 8,000 or more for their big games like Butler, as they averaged around 5,500 fans per game over the last several years. But more often than not, when it counts, the fans come out and the Nutter Center is a loud, fun place to watch some good college basketball.
Member Review by conradklank on Dec 20, 2011
This place is really nothing too special but a very clean, bright place to see some good horizon league ball. You'll enjoy easy access in and out, and a nice overall experience.
Member Review by corporatelaw on Dec 21, 2011
A terrific venue, with a hard core following of rabid fans for their Raiders (c'mon, where are the rest of you?). A undiscovered gem that is well worht the visit!
3979 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Beavercreek, OH 45324
2760 Towne Dr
Beavercreek, OH 45431
2640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Fairborn, OH 45324
3110 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Beavercreek, OH 45324
2671 Fairfield Commons
Beavercreek, OH 45431
2661 Fairfield Commons Blvd
Beavercreek, OH 45431
2800 Presidential Dr
Fairborn, OH 45234