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Official Review by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
While it may seem that the Wright State University Raiders play second fiddle to the University of Dayton Flyers and UD Arena in the great hoops town of Dayton, Ohio, the Wright State University Nutter Center sure is a fantastic venue to play host to competitive Horizon League basketball action. Since the inception of men’s basketball at Wright State in 1968, the program has a nice resume to be proud of including a Division II national title, a Horizon League title, two NCAA Division I tournament appearances, a 5-1 home record against top 25 ranked teams, and hundreds of regular season wins at home.
With nearly $35 Million and after two years of construction, the Wright State University Nutter Center opened on December 1, 1990 on the campus of Wright State University. In addition to Wright State men’s and women’s basketball, the modern multipurpose venue has hosted minor league hockey, professional wrestling events, monster truck shows, Harlem Globetrotters games, presidential rallies and debates, and some of the biggest international musical acts. For the most frequently used purpose, basketball games, the arena seats 10,400. Compared to other Horizon League basketball venues' seating capacity, only UW Milwaukee Panther Arena is a larger arena, coming in at 10,783 seats.
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".
Unfortunately, if you're the fan who likes to go to games and get a unique stadium dinner while at the game, you won't be satisfied as the WSU Nutter Center has only a small notch above the basic stadium fare. Having said that, I attended about half of the 2015-2016 season games and ate plenty of concession foods and having tried most everything on the menu, would have a hard time not recommending most of the food because of the taste and service received at the concessions. Windows are plentiful and generally move quickly before, during the game, and at halftime. Among the options served include chicken tenders with fries, burger with fries, chili cheese fries, hot dogs, nachos, soft pretzels with or without cinnamon, popcorn, peanuts, and candy.
One of the best things about the WSU Nutter Center is their ability to serve beer. The beer selection is good at all concession windows, but is the best at the Budweiser Brew Deck, where one will find an extended draught beer selection along with the spectacular corner deck view of the arena and game.
Though the Wright State University Nutter Center is celebrating over 25 years in existence, the venue and university have done a great job keeping everything updated and feeling fresh. The seats, while slightly narrow, have cushions from the front row all the way to the last row, which is a nice perk. Legroom is good for the majority of people, but one with longer legs will be happier on the aisle.
The scoreboard underwent a massive overhaul and now rivals some NBA scoreboards. It beautifully displays the live game, player points and fouls, and includes two ribbons for sponsors and other graphics.
The arena features nice banners for retired numbers, achievements, school spirit, and Horizon League conference members. While the university does have a cheerleading squad, it's the Wright State Dance team that brings the real spirit to the arena with dances during timeouts and halftime. The in-game public address announcer does a fantastic job from the opening introductions to keeping the crowd excited throughout the game to the closing remarks after the game.
While the Wright State University campus might not have the traditional college hole in the wall eateries, carry outs, and dive bars, it is located among a very large community of restaurants, shops, hotels, sports bars, and a movie theater, all centered by the indoor mall, the Mall at Fairfield Commons. For a unique local sports bar experience with great food and beer selection, be sure to visit Caddy's Tap House.
For a fast casual build your own pizza, you have to experience the Dayton based chain, Rapid Fired Pizza. Lastly, for a nicer sit down local experience, Spinoza's provides craft sandwiches and salads with live music.
Unlike the stereotype, the Wright State men's basketball team actually does draw good crowds to games. Undoubtedly, the arena is a little too big for the collegiate basketball games, which makes it feel less than full, but Raider fans do get loud, and the mascot is affectionately known as "ROWDY!"
For the 2014-2015 season, Wright State drew just under 5,000 fans per game, which led all other arenas in the Horizon League, and has led all other teams in attendance in the league ever since Butler left the conference. The truth is, Wright State is right in line with the entire NCAA Division I home men's basketball average attendance of 4,754, which would come as a surprise to many. That average ranks just outside of the top 100 attendance averages for the 2014-2015 season putting them in the upper 30% of all men's basketball home attendances for that season.
Wright State's student section is located directly behind the basket. The section is known for dressing up in costumes, making signs, chanting, and having a good time.
While the Wright State University Nutter Center does not have any public transportation options, it is conveniently situated just off of Interstate 675. The arena has tons of parking, albeit some further than others, but the staff does a fantastic job bussing patrons to and from the parking lots before and after the games. This is especially impressive considering that all public parking for games is completely free.
One thing that makes the "Nut House" particularly unique in terms of access, is the main concourse level is actually positioned at the top of all of the seating, with the suites located on this level as well. One of the neat things that comes from this is the distinctive perspective that fans can get at the corners of the arena on this level where the walls are actually open. Concourses are plenty wide, even when concession lines back up, and restrooms are plentiful for the usual crowds on hand.
Wright State makes it really straightforward on their ticket pricing. They break the season into two categories, "Regular Games" and "Select Games," and then from there, the stadium seats into three categories, "Premium Seats" ranging from $20-$25, "Non-Premium Sideline Seats" ranging from $10-$13, and "Value Seats" ranging from $7-$10. Based on the entertainment received, the quality of performance on the court, free parking, and the frequent giveaways and promotions, basketball fans get a great value at Raiders games. (Prices are based on the 2015-2016 season.) Additionally, food and beverage prices are right on par for what you'd expect of a sporting event of this level, making it neither a great value, nor an overpriced experience, but instead, what you'd expect for what you receive.
One of the coolest perks of the arena is the Budweiser Brew Deck located on the concourse level in the corner that overlooks the arena. This is a great spot to hang out before the game and during halftime. Definitely worth grabbing some friends, a table, and some beers and enjoying the view!
Free Parking. The two magic words that are always a perk at any sporting event, let alone an NCAA Division I basketball game. This is a benefit that should never be taken for granted, as even high school regional basketball games charge for parking.
The amount of entertainment options in the neighborhood should be pointed out again, as the quantity and quality of possibilities are so great in the immediate area of the arena.
One last mention needs to be made of the seat service that is available for the first few rows in the premium courtside seats. While the majority of these seats are season ticket holders, there are some typically available for even game day purchase. Talk about being spoiled!
Overall, even though the majority of basketball fans wouldn't generally think of Wright State first when thinking of college basketball experiences in Dayton, it's surely a mistake not to take in games at the WSU Nutter Center. It's a family friendly experience, one that won't break the bank, one that you can easily get in and out of, and one that offers plenty of fun and excitement!
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!
Member Review by cadence80 on Feb 28, 2013
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.
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