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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Gallaudet Field House - Gallaudet Bison

Photo courtesy of Gallaudet University

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Gallaudet Field House

800 Lincoln Circle NE Washington, DC 20002

Year Opened: 1981

Capacity: 2,000

Bisons Of DC

Gallaudet University was founded in 1864 in Washington, D.C. as the only college in the United States exclusively for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Since then, it has grown to almost 2,000 students. Gallaudet’s athletic teams, known as the Bison, compete in the Northeastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) at the NCAA’s Division III level. Until 1981, the Bison’s basketball team played its home games in Hughes Gym, but they then moved into the newly built Gallaudet Field House, which is also home to the school’s fitness complex.

Food & Beverage 4

The Gallaudet Field House has a surprisingly good selection of food and beverage for a Division III school, all available at a window in the lobby of the building. Prices are quite affordable as well. Meals include hamburgers ($4, $5 with cheese, or $6 with cheese and bacon), veggie burgers ($4), hot dogs ($3), mozzarella sticks ($2), and chicken tenders ($3). Snacks include candy ($1), pickles ($1), popcorn ($2), chips ($1), brownies ($1), and cookies ($1 for 3). Drinks include soda and water for $1 and Gatorade, hot chocolate, tea, for $2 each, and coffee for $3.

Most items are made fresh on site. As you walk in, you will see two employee working a grill to prepare the burgers and hot dogs, and if you time things right, you can grab some cookies or a brownie right as they come out of the oven. All of this is very impressive given the level of play here.

Atmosphere 3

Seeing as Gallaudet is a college exclusively for deaf or hard-of-hearing students, the atmosphere here is certainly unique. The basic layout of the arena is relatively standard, however. All seats are chair backs, and generally, only the seats on one side of the floor will be available unless they are expecting an unusually large crowd. There are two scoreboards, one on each end, which show only the basic information. There are also large closed-captioning boards the same size as the scoreboards themselves which show messages during the game in addition to transcribing announcements if necessary.

However, unless there is an emergency during the game (highly unlikely), the only announcements you will hear during the game are the mandatory pregame ones, such as the standard message on good sportsmanship and the starting lineups for the two teams. This will also be translated by an ASL interpreter at center court so there is no need for closed captioning for that. For most home games, the national anthem will be performed in ASL without musical accompaniment, but when we went, it was not performed at all. During the game itself, there are no announcements over the PA system about players scoring, fouling, etc. like you would at just about any other arena in the country, though this is rather unsurprising given the circumstances. For fans who aren’t deaf or hard-of-hearing, the only sound will be the action on the court.

Neighborhood 5

Gallaudet is located in the NoMa neighborhood of Washington, D.C., which stands for “North of Massachusetts .” Although this wasn’t always the nicest neighborhood, it has improved a lot in the last few years and is perfectly safe. The main attraction in the neighborhood is Union Market, located a short walk away from campus, which is an indoor market featuring a wide variety of food stands. Just about anything you can imagine is offered, ranging from arepas to pizza to Korean tacos to Ethiopian food to an old-fashioned New York-style soda shop.

There are also many other attractions throughout D.C., including many monuments, memorials, and museums. All of the government-run attractions are free, though some of the private ones are not. Just keep in mind if you want to tour the White House or Capitol, you will need to book in advance.

Fans 3

Gallaudet averages a couple hundred fans a game, which is pretty standard for this level. However, considering the vast majority of the fans are themselves deaf or hard of hearing, and all of them except possibly a few for the visiting team are cheering for players who are, the interactions you will see here are certainly unique. While there is some standard clapping, fans will also wave their fingers above their heads in the ASL sign for applause.

Access 5

Gallaudet is far enough away from downtown D.C. that driving is relatively easy. There is a small lot located behind the Field House where fans can park for free. The NoMa-Gallaudet stop on Metro’s Red Line is a short walk away as well. Unsurprisingly, the Field House is easily accessible to fans who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as to those who are not. All arena staff are bilingual and able to communicate in both spoken English and ASL, so fans of all abilities should have no issues in that regard. Restrooms are located around the corner from the arena entrance in the lobby and are of a sufficient size to accommodate the crowds.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets are just $5 each, with children 12 and under getting in for free. Throw in the affordable concessions and free parking, a rarity in this city, and a visit to Gallaudet basketball can be a very good value.

Extras 4

There is a giant bison statue outside the Field House, honoring Gallaudet’s nickname, as well as a Hall of Fame and trophy case within the lobby, around the corner from the arena doors.

A third star is due for the several unique experiences here due to the nature of the school, and a fourth for the high accessibility to fans who are deaf or hard of hearing. While that last point should surprise nobody given where you are, it can often be an issue elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

A visit to Gallaudet basketball is certainly a unique experience. Whether it’s the ASL announcements and anthem before the game, fans applauding in sign language, or just the unique experience caused by a game with no announcements, music, or any other form of PA, all college basketball fans regardless of abilities can have an enjoyable experience here. Of course, the accessibility is a huge plus for those fans who require it, but even those who don’t should check it out if they are in the D.C. area.

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