- Sean MacDonald
H.O. Clemmons Arena – Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions
Photos by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
H.O. Clemmons Arena 1500 L.A. Prexy Davis Dr Pine Bluff, AR 71611
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions website
Year Opened: 1982
Fine Stuff at Pine Bluff
In 2010, the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions won the opening game in the NCAA Tournament, the last time it was played before the First Four was introduced. The Lions went on to lose their first round match to eventual champion Duke and returned to relative obscurity in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), widely considered to be the worst of the 32 conferences in Division I basketball. That doesn’t mean they should be ignored though, and although we at Stadium Journey left them as one of our last college basketball venues to review, they are definitely not the least.
The Golden Lions play in H.O. Clemmons Arena, part of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Complex on campus. Built in 1982 and renovated in 2006, the arena is named for Hubert O. Clemmons, who served in the university’s athletic department in various capacities for 56 years. He coached the basketball team from 1957-77 and was responsible for bringing them back into the SWAC in 1997 after a 20-year absence. Although Clemmons Arena is a typical campus facility, it offers the dedicated sports traveler a unique experience and is worth a visit for those who might be in the area.
Food & Beverage 2
There is a single concession stand with a plastic menu listing standard options. The most expensive items are $4, including all-beef hot dogs, Polish sausage, Frito pies, and small nachos with cheese. Judging from what I saw, the nachos should be avoided, as they do not seem to be filling, but the other choices are acceptable. I tried a hot dog and found it to be better than average. Add chili to any order for $1.
Other snacks include pickles for a dollar, popcorn and jumbo cookies for $2, chips for $1.50, or peanuts for 75 cents. Being a campus venue, no alcohol is for sale, but you can have bottled water or bottled soda for $3.
The court has large stands on both sides that are set back about 15 feet from the sideline, so seats slightly off the floor are a better option. One side has about eight rows of dark seats with chair backs, which seemed to be reserved, while the rest are general admission benches. The most important thing is to sit on the side closest to the main entrance as the speakers from the scorer’s table across the court are pointed in that direction and if you sit on the other side, you will not be able to hear the announcements very well.
During the media timeouts the 80-member band that takes up the baseline benches will often strike up a tune and there are dancers on the benches next to them who have an interesting routine. There are also your typical cheerleaders, some of whom can do about 15 consecutive backflips in what is an impressive display.
One thing I like is that the P.A. announcer gives updates on other UAPB athletic events as well as SWAC basketball games taking place. It’s a verbal out-of-town scoreboard if you will.
Pine Bluff is a rural community about 40 miles south of Little Rock. There is not much near campus, which is surrounded by a residential area and several churches. The closest attraction is the Arkansas Railroad Museum, which is open from 9 am to 2 pm from Monday to Saturday.
In terms of eateries, the Colonial Steak House is just two miles south of campus and gets very good reviews, while Gino’s Pizzeria seems more suitable for those on a budget.
If you are visiting on a weekend, make sure to get your beer on Saturday, as Arkansas doesn’t allow alcohol sales on Sunday.
There was a crowd of over 4,300 at the game I attended, a great turnout for a school with an enrollment of about 3,300 students. Many of the fans are long-time supporters who know each other and there is camaraderie apparent as many fans greet friends throughout the game. The student body is well represented, but not particularly interested in the game itself. Early in the second half a sizable group left after some angry words were shared. Many others followed anticipating some fisticuffs perhaps, only to return minutes later disappointed as “nothing happened.” Not something I have seen before or want to see again.
UAPB’s campus is just north of downtown along University Drive, with the HPER building on the west side along L.A. “Prexy” Davis Drive. Do not use the 1200 University Drive address that you might find online, that is the general university address. Parking is free and there is a lot right next to the arena, and another, more open one at the corner of Watson and Davis. You can ignore the warning signs threatening you with a towing, as the lots are not checked during the evening.
Inside there are two entrances to the gymnasium with one right next to the main entrance and the other hidden in an opposite corner. As mentioned, use the first one and sit on that side to hear the speaker.
Should you prefer muffled sounds, you should not cross to the other side inside the gymnasium but exit the gym and find your way to the second entrance.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets were listed at $15, quite high for this level, although that included two games as the Lady Lions played before their male counterparts and I was charged only $10 for the men’s game, typical for low-level Division I college hoops. Of course, the SWAC is not great basketball, but it is still Division I and you won’t regret your outlay here.
I’m giving a point for the band which had 80 members and kept the crowd entertained during the breaks as well as the eight dancers next to the band who were very energetic in their sparkling silver uniforms.
As well, a point for the banner celebrating the 2010 opening game win which is the largest in the entire gymnasium.
H.O. Clemmons Arena is not a place that most sports fans are going to put on their list of must-see venues, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. The crowd is lively and the game is probably the most interesting thing going on in Pine Bluff. If you are in Central Arkansas and the Golden Lions are at home, consider a visit and back the SWAC.