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  • Eric Moreno

Alice P. McDermott Convocation Center – Incarnate Word Cardinals


Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Alice P. McDermott Convocation Center 4301 Broadway St San Antonio, TX 78209

Incarnate Word Cardinals website

Alice P. McDermott Convocation Center website


Year Opened: 1989

Capacity: 2,000

 

UIW Cardinals – McDermott Convocation Center

As the largest Catholic university in Texas, with a student body of over 9,300, the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) has a long and storied history. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, the school’s athletic teams are known as the Cardinals. They began the school’s basketball program in time for the 1980-81 season.


After much of their existence in the NCAA’s Division II, where they made the postseason tournament in 2002, 2009, and 2010, they moved up to Division I and are now members of the Southland Conference. Since that time they have made it to one postseason tournament, the Collegeinsider.com Invitational Tournament (CIT) in 2015.


Since 1989 the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as UIW volleyball squad, has called Alice P. McDermott Convention Center their home. The venue’s namesake, the late Alice P. McDermott, was a longtime supporter of education in South Texas and San Antonio – especially UIW. The cozy venue is the metaphorical heart of the Cardinals’ athletics complex.


Food & Beverage 2

When it comes to concessions, there really isn’t much to write home about at McDermott Convocation Center – there is one concessions stand located at the front of the venue as soon as you walk through the main entrance.


The only offerings available here are stadium-style nachos, a hot dog combo, kettle corn, candy, and bottled sodas and water. Beer is also available for purchase. Everything is relatively low-cost, with a hot dog combo running you around $7. It’ll do in a pinch, but if you’re looking to really get your grub on, you’d be better served to eat prior to the game, or wait until afterwards.


Atmosphere 3

The venue has the feel of a high school gymnasium, and that helps out with the atmosphere somewhat. Since just 2,000 fans can fill this place to capacity, even a fraction of that seems like a good-sized crowd. The design of it also helps acoustically, as the crowd noise just seems to be bottled up, which makes it louder than it should be.


Inside the venue there are banners hanging from the rafters denoting the Cardinals postseason success. Flanking each side of the concessions stand there are trophy cases, one highlighting the overall success of UIW athletics, and the other being the Cardinals Hall of Honor.


The main draw, in terms of atmosphere, is the aesthetic and beauty of the campus. UIW is truly a beautiful university, with its tree-lined walkways and bridges that span the headwaters of the San Antonio River. There is also a lot of public art interspersed among the many red-brick buildings; I would advise anyone taking in a game at McDermott Convocation Center to make time beforehand to spend some time on the campus grounds.

Neighborhood 5

McDermott Convocation Center, as mentioned, is the central heart of UIW athletics. It is within eyesight of both Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium and Sullivan Field, home to the Cardinals football and baseball teams, respectively. Depending on when you make your visit, you might be able to double-dip and see an additional game at one of these other venues.


Regardless, the UIW campus itself is located in a great spot in the city, just a short drive up one of the busiest thoroughfares to the Alamo City’s vibrant downtown. Along the way, however, are a bevvy of exciting entertainment and dining options. Starting with entertainment, I highly recommend all visitors to S.A. stop in and see the Witte Museum – the most-visited museum in the city, it chronicles South Texas’ history through exhibits on culture, science, and nature. It has large exhibits on the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team), a science treehouse, and even dinosaurs!


If you’re looking to stretch your legs before your visit to McDermott Convocation Center, plan a stop at Brackenridge Park, home to hiking and biking trails, the oldest golf course in Texas, the Japanese Tea Garden, Sunken Garden Theater, and San Antonio Zoo. There is also a driving range, soccer and baseball/softball fields, and a Starbucks for those in need of a quick caffeine fix.


For dining options, I have a couple of recommendations that are personal favorites. First is Hung Fung Chinese Restaurant – in business for over 80 years, Hung Fung has introduced Chinese cuisine to generations of San Antonians. Hung Fung plays all the hits, such as lemon chicken, beef and broccoli, and sweet and sour pork, and it does them really well. Another recommendation that I’ll offer is Broadway 5050; offering up one of the best burgers in town, the Broadway 5050 is a classic hangout spot. Come for the burgers and beer, stay for the atmosphere.


If you’re looking for places to stay while in town, downtown San Antonio is loaded with options for all price ranges. If, however, you’re looking for something even closer to UIW’s campus, there are options. None are within walking distance, but several are less than five minutes away by car; these include Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites.


Fans 3

As mentioned, McDermott Convocation Center could be considered on the small side compared to other Division I programs. However, the school has a strong alumni base and good representation from the student body at basketball games.


The crowds may not be large, but they are loud and passionate. Also, if you attend a game on the weekend, you’re really going to see a larger crowd than during the week.


Access 4

As mentioned, UIW is in a great location in the Alamo City. With it being so close to Ddwntown, it is centrally located, and since it is located off a main thoroughfare, it can easily be reached from any point in town. It is also located – thanks to a very visibly marked exit sign – off State Highway 37/281. This also puts it at a 14-minute drive from the San Antonio International Airport.


Once on site, parking is plentiful and free in the athletics compound lots. Signage also marks the way to the gym. The city’s public transportation option, VIA Metropolitan Transit also makes frequent stops to the UIW campus for those who don’t want to drive.


Return on Investment 3

Single-game tickets for UIW Cardinals games start at $10 per person and go up to just $15 per person. This is a nice bargain for Division I basketball. Their home schedule doesn’t usually draw in many “blue blood” teams as part of their non-conference schedule, but it is still a good bargain; this is especially true when you account for the low-cost concessions and free parking.


Extras 2

There isn’t much in the way of extras at Cardinals basketball games. They do have contests in between timeouts and toss t-shirts to the crowd periodically, but the venue just doesn’t lend itself to much more. The Cardinal Red Basketball Band does perform throughout the game and the Cardinals Dance Team performs during breaks in the game; that’s about it though.


Final Thoughts

McDermott Convocation Center is a fine venue for what it is. It could give the impression of a high school gym, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The real draw, I think, would be the campus itself. The UIW campus is truly beautiful. If you have the chance to visit and possibly double up with another game, that is something sports fans should try to do. It’s not a bucket list venue, but you will still enjoy yourself in a visit to UIW for basketball.


Follow Eric Moreno’s Stadium Journey on Twitter at @EricMoreno6477. Visit Eric Moreno’s writer’s portfolio site at ericmoreno.contently.com.

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