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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Burr Gymnasium – Howard Bison

Photos by Gregory Koch , Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

Burr Gymnasium 2400 6th St NW Washington, DC 20059

Year Opened: 1963

Capacity: 2,700


Basketball at the Burr

Burr Gymnasium is located on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. and is home to the school’s men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams. The arena opened in 1963, seven years before the Bison joined the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) as a charter member.

Howard University is a private, historically black university (HBCU) in Washington, D.C. The school has over 70 undergraduate programs. The main campus is located in northwest Washington, D. C. Howard University is considered the “Mecca” because it is one of the elite HBCUs.

The Howard Bison compete in the NCAA’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and are members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). The school sponsors teams in eight men’s and eleven women’s sports. The school’s nickname is the Bison and recently they changed the logo so that it no longer used the copyright of the Buffalo Bills.

Although “The Burr” is a small arena, at just 2,700 seats, and Howard is much less-known than other regional teams such as Georgetown and Maryland, a visit to Howard is an experience not to be missed for any college basketball fan on a trip to the nation’s capital.

Food & Beverage 3

.There are two places to buy concessions at Burr Gymnasium, one on each side of the bleachers. A window on one side offers a basic menu - sausages ($8) and hot dogs ($5) are the only meal options, but you can also buy jumbo pretzels, popcorn, candy, chips, and drinks here. On the other side of the concourse, you will find a table operated by a local restaurant. This offers a more extensive menu, with items like shrimp, chicken, and fried fish for around $10 each, or $2 extra if you want fries. Cheeseburgers and hot dogs are also available here, as are homemade lemonade and fruit punch (many fans prefer a 50/50 mixture between the two which is available despite not being listed on the menu.) The lines here do move slowly so we recommend purchasing your food before the game if possible.

Atmosphere 5

Walking into Burr Gymnasium will put you in a small lobby, which will take you to a concourse covered in murals honoring Howard athletics. This isn't some generic arena - it really feels like the home of the Bison. The nice thing about an arena as small as this one is that there are truly no bad seats. Every seat is within a dozen or so rows of the court, so you’ll always be close to the action even up top. All seats in the arena are chair backs and are reasonably comfortable. This is always a plus as some smaller venues have bleachers which can be uncomfortable to sit in for two hours. Two new videoboards were recently installed, one on either end of the court, and they also show player stats.

For most games, the Howard band will be in the arena playing music before and during the game. As they play, they will dance along to their own music, as will the cheerleaders, dance team, and the fans. There may be few early-season games where the band is not present, but when they are here, there is a raucous atmosphere from start to finish. Although the Howard band is better known for their performances at football games, they really add to the atmosphere for basketball as well.

Howard Bison band, Photo by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Neighborhood 5

Howard University is located amidst a number of historically African American neighborhoods in Washington. Shaw, U Street, and Columbia Heights, each of which have their own history in the African American community, surround the college. Ben’s Chili Bowl, located about a 20-minute walk away in the U Street neighborhood, is not just an outstanding restaurant but a historic landmark as well. The chili, hot dogs, half smokes, and burgers are renowned throughout the area, but keep in mind there is often a long line to order due to the popularity.

And, of course, you’re in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, and there’s plenty to do throughout the city. The best part is that most of it’s free. Whether it’s taking in the many monuments on the National Mall or visiting one of the numerous museums, there is so much you can do here. All government-run attractions are free to the public, but some of the privately-run ones are not. Just keep in mind if you want to tour the White House or Capitol, you will need to book that in advance.

Fans 4

Although some early season games are sparsely attended, once the MEAC season gets going, Bison fans will pack the Burr. Many games are sold out or nearly so, with almost every seat in the building filled and some fans forced to sit in the aisles because there is no place else to go. They cheer for the Bison throughout the game and it can get very loud in here at times. The small arena traps the sound in and it can feel every bit as loud as a power conference arena despite having a much lower capacity.

As noted above, the fans love to dance along with the band's music and they serve to enhance each other. It is not uncommon to see groups of fans spontaneously break out into elaborate dance routines during breaks in the action. The experience with the crowd will vary widely depending on the game, but for a contest against a conference opponent after football season ends, it will usually be something special. However, this rating gets knocked down a star because it can be quite different for early-season games.

Access 3

Howard University is in a tricky spot to get to. It’s just far enough from the heart of downtown that it isn’t easily accessible via public transportation, and just close enough that it’s hard to drive there. The closest Metro stops are Shaw and Columbia Heights, but each is about a 20-minute walk away. You can try parking on Gresham Place or one of the other side streets near the arena, but this may not be possible or even permissible depending on the time of day and day of the week. Be sure to obey all posted street signs, as the police will give you a ticket or even tow you if you don’t.

Websites like SpotHero may help you find a guaranteed place to park, but this may cost $50 or more, depending on the day. It will, however, be significantly less expensive on weekends most likely, closer to $10 or $20. There is a lot right next to the arena, but it is for permit holders only.

Depending on how far away you are coming from, your best option may be to take a rideshare like an Uber or Lyft, which has the benefit of letting you off right outside the arena. This may not even cost much more than parking, although it will be far more expensive than taking public transit.

Return on Investment 3

For a typical MEAC doubleheader, tickets are $20 each for general admission, although this will get you into both the men's game and the women's game before it. Most non-conference games are not doubleheaders and may have different ticket prices. Concessions are reasonably affordable, but getting to the arena, whether by paying for parking or taking a rideshare, may cost more than everything else combined so that does take this rating down a bit.

Extras 4

The Hoard band deserves extra recognition, as they really contribute to the atmosphere when they are here. So do the jerseys of notable past players hanging from the rafters, which go several rows deep. One more star for the several murals dedicated to Howard athletics throughout the concourse. And one last bonus star for the fact that most home games are doubleheaders, allowing you to get two games for the price of one.

Howard Bison Mural, Photo by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Final Thoughts

Although Howard doesn’t get the recognition or media coverage that Maryland and Georgetown do, Burr Gymnasium is a great venue to watch a basketball game. Be sure to visit when the band is here as it is a much better experience with them present than without them. Therefore, we suggest visiting either for a MEAC game or for the annual Martin Luther King Day game against a non-conference opponent, as the band is typically there for those. Throw in the possibility to see two games for the price of one and it can make for a full day of hoops in an intimate setting.

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