George Gervin GameAbove Center – Eastern Michigan Eagles
Photo Courtesy of Eastern Michigan Eagles Athletics
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
George Gervin GameAbove Center 799 Hewitt Rd Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Year Opened: 1998
East of Ypsi
Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center opened in time for the 1998-1999 season, tipping off with a 23 point loss against the nearby Michigan Wolverines. The venue has a capacity of 8,824 and is a comfortable spot to watch Division I college basketball.
The Convocation Center is the home of Eastern Michigan men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the volleyball team. The venue has also hosted numerous concerts from artists such as The Killers, Jay-Z, and Jason Mraz.
Prior to the 2012-2013 season, EMU installed a new center hung video scoreboard. The screen is 15.7×11.5 feet and adds to the overall experience of an Eagles game.
Eastern Michigan has been a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) since 1972. The team has made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament (1988, 1991, 1996, and 1998) with their best finish coming in 1991 when they advanced to the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed under the leadership of coach Ben Braun.
Note: The venue name changed in Dec 2021 from Convocation Center to George Gervin GameAbove Center.
Food & Beverage 2
There’s not much of a selection, but enough to provide for a snack or a drink if needed. The small concession stands offer pizza ($3.50 a slice or $15 for a whole pie), Johnsonville brats ($4), and hot dogs ($3.25). Snacks include popcorn ($2.50), nachos ($3.25), or a pretzel ($2.75). The prices are below what you would normally see at an arena, but the selection is certainly disappointing. I’d recommend saving your money and having a bite before or after the contest.
Pepsi is the soda provider of choice here. A small will cost you $2.50 and a large 32-ounce goes for $3. Hot chocolate or coffee are available as well on a cold winter Saturday ($2). Once again, the prices are a little lower than expected, but not very interesting.
There are some positives about seeing a game at the Convocation Center. Almost all of the seats in the arena have chairbacks, with the exception of the upper sections behind each basket, which are bleacher seating. The first seven rows are folding seats, and are a little less comfortable, so try to sit in the eighth row or higher.
Tickets for the upper deck seats are not sold until the lower bowl is sold out, but you can move into the upper section if you prefer a better view of the flow of the game. Seats provide average leg room, but no cup holders.
They also have a pep band, the “EMU Basketball Band” with 30 or so members, which is utilized throughout the game.
Outside of those niceties, the atmosphere is pretty stale. The arena seems about the right size for the university and their conference affiliation (the MAC), but the reality is that emptiness is a hard thing to overcome. Specifically, the student section is severely lacking.
They do the turn off the lights thing during pregame for the home team introductions, something that feels a little out of place when there isn’t much of a crowd.
There are several options within a short driving distance from the Convocation Center. For really good food and a terrific beer selection, then make the trip to the Wurst Bar before or after the game.
In the neighborhood known as Depot Town, you’ll find Aubree’s Pizzeria & Tavern, a bar that has an outstanding selection of draft beers, including several local options. They have plenty of activities to keep you entertained including a pool table and trivia game. The food is decent, but nothing special. I tried their pizza as well, it has a buttery crust and a comforting greasy quality. This is a good place to go if you are looking for some fun either before or after the game.
Across the street is Sidetrack Bar & Grill. This place is known for its outstanding burgers, and was once named as one of the top 20 burgers by GQ Magazine. The burgers are very good, as well as their deep-fried pickles, a huge basket of beer-battered spears. The beer selection offers 16 interesting beers on tap, including some good local options. This place is a little less sports-focused than Aubree’s, but the food is better.
You may also want to check out the Hudson Automobile Museum or the Michigan Firehouse Museum, both located in Depot Town.
The student section has gotten better in recent years, and works well with the pep band to provide some atmosphere. Otherwise, the crowd seems pretty ambivalent except for the occasional threat of catching a t-shirt thrown by a member of the cheerleading squad after a three point basket.
The issue at Eastern Michigan comes down to a lack of attendance. The low point occurred when the team hosted a game for the College Insiders Tournament in 2014, and only 373 fans showed up. This was for a postseason home basketball game! The Eagles drew fewer than 1,000 fans for the 2013-2014 season, and similar unspectacular numbers in 2015.
Parking is free, and there is plenty of it. Concourses are wide and easily handicap accessible. Bathrooms are small, but there are plenty of them so you shouldn’t expect a line, even if they do get a crowd (which they probably won’t).
Traffic shouldn’t be a problem, and you are within a couple of miles of both I-94 and M-23. Overall, this is a very accessible venue.
Return on Investment 4
Eastern Michigan University is doing a good job of doing everything possible to attract fans to the Convocation Center. Parking is free, concession prices are very reasonable, and tickets are cost effective. Tickets are only $12 each, with youth (12 and under) only $7.
The fact remains that the Eastern Michigan Eagles have not been in the NCAA Tournament since 1998, and have been consistently bad. However, while the experience is by no means memorable, it is worth the price you will pay.
One extra point for the efforts that the school is making to attract fans, including a beautiful new scoreboard, free parking, and other reasonable price points.
An additional point for the retired numbers for George “The Iceman” Gervin, Earl Boykins, and Grant Long. All had significant college and pro careers.
It’s a shame that more people don’t see games at Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center. It is a fine, but empty facility. A winning team usually cures all. Hopefully the Eagles can find their way back to postseason success and fans can enjoy their basketball arena.