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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Al Lawson Center – Florida A&M Rattlers

Photos Courtesy for Florida A&M University

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Al Lawson Center 1835 Wahnish Way Tallahassee, FL 32307

Year Opened: 2009

Capacity: 9,639


The Snake Pit

Florida A&M University (FAMU) is one of the oldest and most prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the country. Founded in 1887, the Tallahassee-based institution has a student body of more than 13,000. Among the top majors are Business Administration, Biology, Criminal Justice and Black Studies. A number of famous athletes are alumni of FAMU. These include Bob Hayes (football), Althea Gibson (tennis), and baseball’s Hal McRae, Vince Coleman, Marquis Grissom, and Andre Dawson.

The FAMU athletic program is a member of the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) and is famed for its very distinctive team colors of orange and green and its unique team moniker of the Rattlers. The Rattlers basketball program has won four MEAC championships and appeared in four NCAA tournaments over the years. Their on-campus home is the Al Lawson Multipurpose Center, a 9,639-seat arena built in 2009. It is the second-largest basketball arena in Tallahassee, trailing only Florida State University’s Leon County Civic Center.

Food & Beverage 2

The concession stands at the Lawson Center is located to the left as you enter the arena. It offers a very limited number of items: Pepsi-branded sodas ($3), hot dogs ($3), nachos ($4), candy ($2), chips ($1), popcorn ($2), fries ($3) and chicken tenders ($7). I would definitely encourage you to visit one of the many fast food locations along West Gaines Avenue or those listed in the Neighborhood section for more substantial food offerings.

Atmosphere 3

You will know immediately that you are in the right place as you enter the Lawson Center, as it is hard to miss the orange and green seats surrounding the Rattler’s home court. There is also a huge Rattler graphic covering the mid-court area. More than likely, you will also hear the sounds of FAMU’s Band of 100 tuning up prior to the game for their non-stop performance throughout the contest.

As the name of the facility suggests, the Lawson Multipurpose Center has a much broader role than just athletics. It also serves as a classroom building, a conference center and a place for the FAMU community as a whole to come together, whether for graduation ceremonies, special speakers or special observances. For this reason, it does not have some of the typical features found in a strictly athletic facility. Aside from a prominent display of the school’s members of the Athletic Hall of Fame, there are very few permanent items suggesting the use of the Lawson Center for sports.

This is not meant as a criticism of the Lawson Center, as it is a very nice facility in which to hold basketball games. Rather, it is a statement that Florida A&M makes the most possible use out of its facilities within the limited budget the school has to work with. On game days, the building comes alive with the cheerleading squad, the Band of 100 and the Venom dance team all working together to cheer on the Rattlers.

Neighborhood 3

The FAMU campus forms a majority of the neighborhood surrounding the Lawson Center. Visitors to the campus should definitely include the Foster Tanner Fine Arts Gallery, and the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum on their itineraries. The Archives Research Center is housed in the first Carnegie Library built at a black land-grant college.

FAMU is located just south of downtown Tallahassee in a neighborhood known as College Town (FAMU and Florida State University are only blocks apart). The very popular Cascades Park and Amphitheater helps to tie the two campuses together via a 24-acre linear greenway. The park features running and biking trails, swimming facilities, a waterfall and the 2,000-seat Capital City Amphitheater for concerts. The funky Railroad Square Art Park also borders the campus, with an eclectic selection of art galleries and the very popular Proof Brewery. Three dining favorites located close to the FAMU campus are Cassandra’s, Leola’s Crab Shack and Gaines Street Pies, while Tomahawk’s and The Warehouse are favorite watering holes. Check out the Bradfordville Blues Club for some great blues and jazz music

Fans 3

The alumni and students at FAMU are very proud to be Rattlers, and they show up for games in all manner of green and orange outfits. Unfortunately, much of the green and orange that you see at a Rattlers game comes in the form of empty seats, as attendance has been a problem. It is not unusual to see the Lawson Center only one-third full.

Those who do show up are on their feet and cheering throughout the game. Typically, the makeup of a basketball crowd at FAMU includes members of the Greek community, relatives, and friends of the players and members of the surrounding neighborhood. There is usually a spike in attendance for the Bethune-Cookman game, as they are the other HBCU located in the state of Florida.

Access 4

Getting to FAMU is very easy, as it is in the state capital of Tallahassee. It is about 15 miles south of I-10 and only six miles from the Tallahassee Regional Airport. The campus is directly south of the State Capitol Building on South Monroe Street. FAMU is served by both campus shuttles, as well as the StarMetro public transportation system.

Due to its location in a state capital, and near one of the state’s largest universities, there are many lodging options to fit any price range nearby. These include the Residence Inn, the Comfort Suites and the Econo Lodge Tallahassee.

Parking at FAMU games is available at no charge at the Wahmish Way parking deck or in the football stadium parking lot located next door to the Lawson Center. Once inside the facility, you will experience very little congestion, as the concourses are wide and open to the court so you will not miss any of the action. There are more than adequate restroom facilities for an arena this size. The only area of the Lawson Center where you can definitely expect a line is at the lone concession stand.

Return on Investment 4

A night out at a FAMU basketball game will not break the bank. You will enjoy a night of MEAC basketball, enjoy some great music courtesy of the FAMU Band of 100 and pay very little for the refreshments. The tickets are $10 for general admission seats, and there is no charge for parking.

Extras 3

FAMU’s Band of 100 is famous for its intricate formations, musical talent, and wild dance moves. Many people come for the band performance, rather than the athletic contest. No one leaves their seats at halftime, for fear of missing one of their performances.

Like any state capital, there are many museums to choose from in Tallahassee. Two of interest to the FAMU community are the Museum of Black History, which is managed by the University, and the Black Archives Research Center. This is one of the few genealogical centers in the country equipped to trace the ancestry of visitors back to slave times and before.

FAMU welcomes alumni, supporters, and members of the neighborhood to attend one game a month free of charge, and treats them to a barbecue meal and courtside seating during the game as a gesture of friendliness. They receive a red carpet welcome at the door and greetings from the Venom dance team. A majority of the neighborhood surrounding the campus is made up of elderly persons and they show their support by cheering on the Rattlers at athletic events.


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