- Sean MacDonald
Albert Gersten Pavilion – Loyola Marymount Lions
Photos by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Albert Gersten Pavilion 1 LMU Drive Los Angeles, CA 90045
Loyola Marymount Lions website
Albert Gersten Pavilion website
Year Opened: 1981
The Pride of Loyola Marymount
In 1987, the Loyola Marymount Lions basketball team began an improbable three-year run to new heights, reaching the NCAA tournament each season. Coached by Paul Westhead, the team featured Hank Gathers, who led the country in scoring and rebounding in 1988-89, and Bo Kimble running a high-octane offense that saw them average 122.4 points per game in 1989-90, a record that still stands today. Sadly, Gathers died after collapsing during a WCC tournament game that season, with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy the cause.
Inspired and driven, the Lions went to the Elite Eight that year with Kimble leading the way, but since then, the program has fallen on hard times. Last season, the team made the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational, so maybe things are looking up at Hank’s House, the unofficial nickname of Gersten Pavilion, where the Lions play.
Regardless of the team’s future, Gersten is an overlooked gym in star-studded Los Angeles, and this review is here to show you that should most definitely not be the case.
Food & Beverage 3
There is a single concession stand located in the spacious atrium between Gersten and the Burns Recreation Center. In addition to easing the flow inside the facility, having the concession outside allows fans to stretch and mingle during halftime, while enjoying the weather. There is a scoreboard that lets you know how long until the second half resumes, so you won’t miss a second of the action.
In terms of food, there is a decent amount of choice here, with a combo (hot dog, beverage, and choice of chips, churro, ice cream, or a candy bar) a good deal at $10. Dogs are $5 otherwise, and there is an $8 featured dog that varies every game, though as I attended during the winter break, they didn’t have one that night. Other options include nachos for $6 ($4 more for the ultimate variety), street tacos for $2 (add a buck for the featured option) and pretzel bites with bacon and cheese for $7, while a regular pretzel is $5.
The “Grab and Go” section includes a couple of sandwich varieties (chicken salad, turkey), a chicken Caesar salad, and a ham & cheese sub, each for $7. Snacks are typical, with popcorn, Red Vines, and ice cream at $4, while chips and king-sized candy bars are $3.
Coca-Cola provides non-alcoholic beverages, with a bottled soda, PowerAde, or Smartwater all $4. Fountain sodas are a buck less; tea, hot chocolate, and coffee (iced and hot) can also be purchased for $3 or $4.
They even sell beer here, with season ticket holders and students getting free suds, with a limit of 2. This isn’t just your generic swill, but craft beer provided by Santa Monica Brew Works. If you are not a member of either group, you will pay $9.
Gersten Pavilion is part of LMU’s athletics complex in the middle of campus, right next to the Burns Recreation Center. This is a surprisingly formidable looking combination of buildings, with the space between them an eerie outdoor atrium that looks more like a Star Wars rebel base than a college rec center.
Opened in 1981 and named for Albert Gersten, father of LMU regent Albert Gersten, Jr., the facility used to be the occasional practice court for the Lakers and was the site for weightlifting at the 1984 Olympics. It has a capacity of 4,156, which has been exceeded on nine occasions.
Inside the main entrance is a long hallway with the Spirit Store the only inhabitant. There are doors directly to the court from here, but those are restricted to courtside seat holders. Other fans will have to choose between the two staircases at either end of the hall.
Inside, the gym is quite colorful, with one wall in blue and the other in red. This motif extends to the floor itself, where one key is red and the other blue; a good way to utilize both of the school’s colors. There is a clever transition between the two colors along the sidelines as red stripes get larger and blue stripes get smaller towards center court, and then reverse on the other side. There are also palm trees on the court, making it a unique floor in college hoops. It demonstrates that someone in the athletics department has a good sense of design and that is reflected throughout the venue.
Banners are located in the rafters on each side of the court, again in blue and red. Retired jerseys, including Gathers’ #44, are on the north wall. The logos for the other schools in the WCC are tastefully displayed in white against an off-white background on the south wall, divided into two groups of five.
In terms of seating, the west side lower level encompasses Sections 101-105 and each seat is a chair back with a cupholder in the armrest. Across the way in Sections 301-305, there are individual bench seats. The upper levels on both sides (201-205 on the west, 401-405 on the east) are wooden bleachers, but all seats are reserved. There are 4 rows of individual benches behind one basket but these are generally not available to fans; there is a DJ who sets up shop here and plays tunes before the game and at halftime.
The scoreboard is two-sided and hangs above mid-court, while stats boards can be found directly behind each basket. The visitors are introduced to the Imperial Theme from Star Wars, while there is an inspirational video featuring Gathers before the home team is brought out. There are typical promos during timeouts such as tossed t-shirts and shot contests that keep fans entertained.
The LMU campus is located in the Westchester neighborhood, just north of LAX. There isn’t much within walking distance of the venue, though Benny’s Tacos & Chicken Rotisserie is at the corner of Manchester and Loyola Boulevard, and seems like a popular late-night spot for students. Just west of here is Lincoln Boulevard, which has a few chain options, as well as Kanpai, a sushi joint. If craft beer is your thing, try Three Weavers Brewing Company a few blocks east on Manchester.
If you are an aviation enthusiast, the in-N-Out Burger at Sepulveda and Westchester is right next to a park where you can watch planes landing at LAX. Across the street is the Melody Bar & Grill.
Any of the hotels next to LAX is a good spot to stay if you are only in town for the Lions, but if touring is your goal, you will probably want to stay closer to downtown. Of course, this area will undergo dramatic change over the next few years with the 2020 opening of SoFi Stadium, which lies about 5 miles east of Gersten Pavilion that will be home to both the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams.
I attended a weekend game during winter break when only 670 fans showed up. It is not fair to base the ranking on that, so looking at ticket sales for upcoming matches and relying on past reviews, I see that LMU has a strong fan base, and a particularly strong student section, known as The Roar. Toward the end of the game, The Roar chants, “THIS IS HANK’S HOUSE,” another classy tribute to Hank Gathers.
Most fans drive but be aware that there are parking charges until 8 p.m. on weekdays. The first 40 minutes is $3, and every 20 minutes thereafter is another $3, to a daily maximum of $15, in other words, 6 bucks for the first hour and 9 for the second. You can find street parking in the residential area nearby if you happen to be attending a weeknight game, but as always, check signs.
There are transit options: the #6 Culver City Bus costs $1 and plies the route from the LAX City Bus Center to UCLA, dropping you off on Sepulveda, from where you can walk about a mile and a half, or take a #3 bus to Benny’s and walk the remaining 10 minutes.
Once inside the venue, there should be no problem getting around, as the atrium allows for fans to move outside during the break. Restrooms are small and there will probably be lineups during a sellout, but there were no issues on the night I attended.
Return on Investment 4
Prices for all sections vary depending on opponent, as an example, the cheapest bleacher seats are $9 for San Diego, but these are $24 when #1 Gonzaga comes to town. This is still a good deal and with food reasonably priced, an affordable evening out. Of course, parking can add a bit, but there are options to avoid that charge.
These staircases do have a few photos that are worth checking out; I liked how they are cut to match the bannister below. There is a Hank’s House plaque on the south wall, a nice touch for what is an unofficial nickname. A statue is also being funded and is expected to be revealed in the spring 2020 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Gathers’ passing. The overall design of the court deserves a point; it is something that I have not seen elsewhere in college hoops.
LMU lacks the national profile of other LA-based schools, but their gym is creative and different in many respects. Don’t overlook the Lions next time you are in LA, as they provide an equally entertaining alternative to some of the bigger college programs in the city.