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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

Hawkins Arena - Mercer Bears

Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Hawkins Arena 1400 Coleman Ave Macon, GA 31207

Year Opened: 2004 Capacity: 3,200


Home of Mercer Bears Basketball

Mercer basketball was one of the darlings from the first round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament when the #14 seed upset the #3 seed Duke Blue Devils. That upset and the publicity Mercer received following that win is predominantly displayed at the home of the Mercer Bears, Hawkins Arena.

Hawkins Arena, originally opened as the University Center on January 8, 2004, with the Bears playing their first game in their new home game against Gardner-Webb. The Bears’ new basketball facility replaced the 500-seat Porter Gym, which had been Mercer’s basketball home for 70 years.

Food & Beverage 3

Hawkins Arena features one concessions stand tucked into the corner, next to the main entrance. The food available is what you’d expect from most any basketball concessions stand, e.g. hamburgers, hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, and candy. One item that is a bit unique to appeal to the vegetarian/vegan crowd is the veggie burger. Unlike Mercer’s football stadium, though, alcoholic beverages are not available for purchase at Hawkins Arena; non-alcoholic beverages include Coca-Cola products.

While there is just one concessions stand, there are two areas set up around the concourse where fans can grab either Marco’s Pizza and a drink or Zaxby’s chicken tenders.

One of the unique benefits of having the arena as part of the University Center is the food court that is a short walk down the hallway from the basketball arena. It’s nice to have so many options, just steps away from the arena.

Atmosphere 3

Hawkins Arena is a part of the beautifully designed University Center building. Twin spires bookend the entryway where fans are welcomed into the Mercer Sports Hall of Fame. The interior of the foyer is walled with large windows that look out into the venue.

Fans enter above the orange-clad seating and make their way toward court level to their seats; the black-perimetered court compliments the orange seating. A wide walkway rims the seating bowl but does not completely encircle the arena. Premium court side seating is also available, as is a grouping of suites along the roof line.

Dead ball timeouts are filled with entertainment – most have either an on-court competition or fan interaction shown on the scoreboard. While it is fun and does keep fans engaged, at times it is also nice to be able to have a break from the constant sensory input.

Neighborhood 4

Even though Mercer is situated in a city of over 150,000, it still has a college town feel to it. Downtown Macon is adorned with Mercer Bears banners from many of its light posts, and features several billboards promoting Mercer athletics.

Around campus there are two separate areas where fans can grab a meal or drink on their visit. Mercer Village is a small area just north of Hawkins Arena that offers several choices of food – Margaritas Mexican Grille, JAG’s Pizzeria, Nu-Way Wieners, and Francar’s Buffalo Wings are all options in Mercer Village, while just south of campus there are Amici Pizza and the Library Taphouse. All of these choices are less than a half mile from Hawkins Arena.

Those coming to town for an extended stay are in luck with two hotels, Courtyard by Marriott or TownePlace Suites, right at the south end of campus.

Fans 3

While early season, non-conference games tend to be lightly attended, conference games typically have Hawkins Arena close to two-thirds to full capacity.

Fans are actively engaged in the game and respectfully jeer opposing players. The students section seats have an “Assignment Sheet” taped to them that encourages students to “give the other team a hard time, but to be cool with it.” Students, along with the band members, do keep their rowdiness civil. One of the fun things to see are the oversize props used to attempt to distract opponents while they shoot free throws.

The cheer squad has a clever promotion during free throw attempts, as they entice the crowd to “get loud” in exchange for a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for the loudest fans.

Fans at Mercer basketball games do a great job remaining in the game and making things as uncomfortable as possible for the visiting team.

Access 4

Located less than a half mile from Interstate-75, getting in and out of the Mercer campus is pretty simple.

The parking lot is a little bit of a walk, but there is a shuttle bus if you choose to use it. Otherwise, while the lot is not directly next to the arena, the walk is not significantly further than it would be at a large university.

As fans approach the arena they are greeted by a large inflatable Mercer bear tunnel at one of the entry ways. Other points of entry into the arena are located just around the side of the building, in proximity to the ticket office.

Return On Investment 4

With free parking and ticket prices as low as $10 for general admission, the cost of tickets is extremely affordable. Mercer also does a good job at enticing families to come out to the game by offering children’s tickets for just $5.

Concessions prices are very affordable as well – none of the entrée options, i.e. burgers and hot dogs, cost more than $6 while all the snack foods like popcorn, candy, pretzels, frozen lemonade, and sodas are available for $4. Nacho chips are $5, but they do come with cheese or jalapeno cups, which frequently cost extra at other venues.

Much as other sports at Mercer, tickets and concessions are both very reasonably priced, and they do a good job at making it affordable to bring a family to games.

Extras 3

Mercer does a great job at highlighting not just their basketball history, but the history of their entire athletics program throughout Hawkins Arena. From the Mercer Sports Hall of Fame in the main lobby, portraits and banners of the men and women who have had their numbers retired, along with banners of the NCAA and conference successes of both programs, Mercer takes visitors on a walk through the history of their athletics programs from their very early days up to the present.

The role the pep band plays in helping to create that college basketball atmosphere, to the feel of a collegiate event, is the role the pep band plays at games. During pre-game, timeouts, and halftime, the band does a great job at bridging the gap between not relying on piped in music while still playing current, popular music.

The ticket offers that Mercer provides for $5 are great offers; it’s not just the price but the conscious effort to make the game accessible to kids and families.

Final Thoughts

Hawkins Arena is a beautiful facility and does a great job at showcasing not just the Mercer Bears basketball and volleyball programs, but they do a great job at telling the history of Mercer athletics – the athletics history walk in the lobby gives a fascinating look at the Bears programs. It does feel, though, as fans are constantly being asked to have their attention focused on either the game or what ever in-game contests or activity is happening.

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