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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

G. B. Hodge Center - USC Upstate Spartans

Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

G. B. Hodge Center Hodge Dr Spartanburg, SC 29303

Year Opened: 1973 Capacity: 878


This is Spartan Country

In a time when college athletic facilities has become a race of who can build the biggest, most technologically advanced, extravagant facility, G.B. Hodge Center on the campus of the University of South Carolina-Upstate has kept simplicity at the forefront.

With a seating capacity of 878, G.B. Hodge Center is the smallest venue in NCAA Division I basketball.

USC-Upstate made the jump from NCAA Division II to Division I in 2007, becoming members of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Spartans would stay in the A-Sun until the 2017-18 season, when they would leave for the Big South Conference, which is more concentrated throughout the Carolinas. While Upstate has not earned a trip to the NCAA tournament since joining the highest level, they have appeared in post-season tournaments in six of their seventeen seasons in Division I.


Food & Beverage   3

A small concession stand in the lobby gives fans everything they would expect at any large arena – hot dogs, personal size pizzas, soft pretzels, popcorn, and nachos with cheese dipping sauce, along with chips, candy, and the ever-popular pickle are available. And as Georgia is to Coca-Cola, Pepsi is to the Carolinas; soft drinks here are from the Pepsi family of beverages, along with Aquafina and Gatorade.

While the inside concessions might not be all that eye popping, BBQ plates from the Greenville-based Big Dave’s All American BBQ are sold outside the arena.


Atmosphere   3

G.B. Hodge Center is a rather non-descript building, which would be a bit difficult to pick out if you weren’t sure what it is you were looking at. Its ability to blend into the surrounding campus buildings is part of the charm of G.B. Hodges Center.

Once into what is considered Eddie and Anne Payne Arena, the walls of each end of the floor display a large videoboard showing a live feed of the game, along with individual player point and foul totals, as well as team field goal and 3-point shooting percentages and rebound totals. An accompanying more traditional scoreboard provides game time, score, and team foul totals.

Despite the closeness of the primary seating area on both sides of the court, USC-Upstate has found room along the sideline of the parquet court for a row of courtside seating.

Throughout the game, fans are entertained by updates of Spartan athletic accomplishments and appearances by Upstate student-athletes, but it is the game entertainment crew that deserves a lot of credit for the amount of on-court contests and engagement they have with fans.


Neighborhood   3

The USC-Upstate campus is on the outer reaches of Spartanburg, in a bit of an isolated area with not much by way of restaurants or other points of interest. Downtown Spartanburg is less than 5 miles from Upstate’s campus, and provides visitors with a wide variety of restaurants, shops, hotels, and the typical points of interest of downtown areas. The campus of the Southern Conference member Wofford Terriers, as well as Division II Converse University, are also in Spartanburg, just 4 miles away – this could give visitors many more options in planning a full day of sports in Spartanburg.

Those looking to experience more of what the city of Spartanburg has to offer might just be interested in taking a walk around the downtown area. Morgan Square is a lovely small park surrounded by several locally owned restaurants, and downtown Spartanburg also has a very vibrant art scene, with several public displays and sculptures throughout downtown.


Fans   3

Despite being the smallest venue in D1 basketball, it doesn’t take away from the passion of fans that fill G.B. Hodge Center. The Spartans typically draw well compared to their Big South counterparts when considering their gym is typically half to two-thirds filled for conference matchups. Expect larger crowds for contests against other schools from the area; Gardner-Webb, Winthrop, Presbyterian, and High Point tend to draw some of the larger crowds.

A large number of fans definitely is a good indicator of the level of fan support behind a program, but the numbers themselves do not tell the whole story. On nights when the Spartan Army fills G.B. Hodge Center, it can be every bit the homecourt advantage as some of the largest arenas in the nation. Spartan fans are a supportive group; it is just the consistency of filling the gym that seems to be the challenge.


Access   4

USC-Upstate is conveniently located two miles off I-85 from North Pine Street, as it transitions to the I-585 bypass. G.B. Hodge Center is situated toward the front of Upstate’s campus, separated from the remainder of the athletic facilities that are concentrated at the back of campus.

A relatively large parking lot sits in front of the arena, making accessing the entrance rather straightforward. The lobby is well laid out for fans needing to purchase tickets, or simply needing their tickets scanned for entry before moving into the gym.

Accessing seating is not the most convenient set up, as limited space around the court requires fans to get to their seats on either side of the court via the lobby area. Fans are not able to cross along the baseline.

The front row of seating can also create challenges when navigating the walkways. When factoring in the legs of spectators and fans coming and going to their seats, congestion can make traversing the walkway a bit of a challenge.

Given the size limitations of the gym, passing from one side of the court to the other does require fans to return to the lobby.


Return on Investment   5

With tickets starting at just $8 and court-side seats available for $20, it would be hard to find a better deal in Division I basketball. Parking lots are typically free, with the exception of homecoming, when there is a $10 charge for the lots adjacent to G.B Hodge Center; concessions are kept to a reasonable rate as well.

All-in-all, the basketball investment at USC-Upstate is worth the minimal financial commitment required.


Extras   4

A display featuring Stadium Journey’s recognition of G.B. Hodge Center as the # 15 best college basketball experience in the NCAA’s Division I definitely garners recognition and credit as an extra feature of G.B. Hodge Center.

Casts of spartan warriors line the walls above each of the seating areas – this goes a long way in supporting the University’s “Spartans” nickname.

While there is not a lot on display by ways of looking at the history of USC-Upstate basketball, the wall behind the team bench does proudly showcase the 1982 NAIA Championship banner.

Following the game, children 12 and under are invited to the floor to get some shots up. This is a small gesture that on the surface seems inconsequential, but goes a long way in building the hoop dreams of the next generation of Spartans.


Final Thoughts

The beautiful thing about college athletics is that game experiences come in all shapes and sizes, and are special in so many different ways – from the largest arena, Syracuse’s JMA Wireless Dome (35,446), to Upstate’s G.B. Hodge Center with its seating capacity of 878. But, as exhilarating as experiencing games at the largest arenas in the nation can be, the arenas at the other end of the spectrum can be just as spectacular for their own reasons.

What G.B. Hodge Center lacks in frills and extravagance, it more than makes up for in intimacy and the sense of community practically every fan in the gym feels for one another, and even visitors.

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