- Lloyd Brown
Hooper Eblen Center – Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles
Photos Courtesy of Golden Eagles
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Hooper Eblen Center 1100 McGee Blvd Cookeville, TN 38501
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles website
Year Opened: 1977
Golden Eagles Soar at “The Hoop”
Tennessee Tech University (TTU) is a 12,000-student state university located in Cookeville, Tennessee. Founded in 1915, it does put a major emphasis on engineering and technology-related fields of learning. Its largest majors by enrollment are Mechanical Engineering, Computer Sciences, and Chemical Engineering. However, it does offer degrees in education, liberal arts, agriculture, and nursing, as well.
TTU competes in the NCAA Division I level of competition, as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. The sports teams are known as the Golden Eagles, and the school colors are a very majestic purple and gold combination. Virtually every sign and store in town will incorporate these colors into their architecture in some way.
The Golden Eagles basketball program calls the 9,852-seat Hooper Eblen Center its home nest. A majority of locals and students refer to the facility as simply The Hoop. The Hoop has gone through numerous renovations and expansions since being built in 1977. The basketball arena portion of the center is designed in a two-tiered seating arrangement, featuring cushioned chair back seats. It has the third-largest seating capacity in the OVC.
The color scheme for the court, the lobby, and the signage are consistent in carrying out the purple and gold colors of the school. Tennessee Tech has made two NCAA tournament appearances, in 1958 and 1963. They appeared in the NIT in both 1985 and 2002.
In addition to basketball, the Eblen Center also houses the volleyball program, two indoor tennis courts, and a student fitness center featuring handball courts, a pool, and a weight room. The Center also serves as the campus concert venue and hosts graduation ceremonies in the event of inclement weather.
Food & Beverage 3
The food and beverage stands are numerous and are well-placed throughout the external concourse. Each stand has two TV monitors showing the game's action, and the play-by-play feed by the team’s radio announcer is piped into the area so you will not miss anything. The student section, known as the Eagle’s Nest, has its concession area inside the arena area.
The Hoop features Pepsi products, with all soft drinks priced at $3. A small coffee goes for $2 and a large coffee is $3. The food offerings are fairly broad and are priced well. A sampling of the items available includes pan pizza ($5), cheese bread ($4), hot dogs ($3), nachos ($3), popcorn ($3), and chips ($1).
When you step into The Hoop’s inner court area, you will be struck by two things: 1) This does not look like an arena constructed nearly 40 years ago, and 2) it is a truly impressive facility for a mid-major conference. The athletic administration has done an admirable job in updating the facility to keep pace with, and in most cases, exceed its fellow OVC schools.
The first thing to catch your eye will be the scoreboard, which provides a 360-degree view of the action on its video screens in HD. The graphics and images on the screen are crystal-clear. The school limits the advertising on these screens, preferring to focus on the game action, fan participation activities, and upcoming athletic events.
The colors permeating the arena are also visually appealing. The seating areas are black, which makes the gold and purple of everything else pop out. There is a huge Golden Eagle at midcourt and the school name on the borders of the baselines.
The basketball program does a great job of keeping the fans entertained throughout the game and also during breaks in the action. Timeouts usually feature a fan participation game, recognition of a special student, or a performance by the cheer squad and dance teams. During the half, the team stats are shown, as well as highlights from the first half.
The seating area is extremely well designed, as there is truly not a bad seat in the house. No bleacher seating here… all comfortable, cushioned seats. The inner concourse allows people to navigate around the facility with relative ease. Tennessee Tech has “engineered” a very impressive fan experience… win or lose.
The Hoop is located on the Tennessee Tech campus, which is adjacent to both the historic downtown area of Cookeville and the Westside District. The downtown area has a thriving retail district and is well-known as a regional antiquing center. A majority of the entertainment and dining hot spots are located in the Westside Cultural District.
Some of the more popular eateries in town are Crawdaddy’s, Blue Coast Burrito, and Mauricio’s. After your meal, make sure you stop by the Cream City Ice Cream Shop for some very unique flavor choices. A majority of the lodging options are found at exit 287 of I-40, which is just five miles from the campus. The hotels fall within the moderate/discount cost range, so it is very affordable for families.
Cookeville finds itself halfway between the major market of Nashville and all of its professional and college sports to the west and the Vol Nation to its east in Knoxville. That does not mean that its fans do not share the same passion as its neighbors.
We first need to recognize the student body at TTU, who fill one end of the court in their designated Eagle’s Nest seating area. Most of the time they are on their feet, and they are loud. The next set of fans is the alums, who attend the game in large numbers. They are easy to find in their gold and purple attire.
The townspeople of Cookeville, whether they attended TTU or not, see the Golden Eagles as “their team” and form a large contingent of the audience. It is an hour or more, through some major traffic, to see a sporting event elsewhere.
TTU also is preparing the next generation of Golden Eagles through its Hoop Troop program aimed at youth, who for a very low price get season tickets, a t-shirt, and perks like serving as ball boys or participating in some on-court activities.
Tennessee Tech does a masterful job of stirring up its fans through coordination between its cheer squad, dance team, and the IT team running the electronics. A simple cheer of DEFENSE reaches a whole new level when the scoreboard/sideboards, the cheer/dance squads and the fans all come together in a choreographed way.
Getting to Tennessee Tech is very easy via I-40, the main east-west interstate in Tennessee. It is located off the Cookeville exit (exit # 286). You will then head north into Cookeville, following the numerous Tennessee Tech University directional signs. Once on campus, you cannot miss the Eblen Center, as it will be the first building on your left as you enter through the main gate.
Free parking is available immediately in front of “The Hoop” in the athletics parking lot. The nearest airports to Cookeville are Nashville International Airport (located 79 miles west of TTU) and Tyson-McGhee Airport in Knoxville (100 miles east of TTU).
Once inside the Eblen Center, you will find its design to be very fan friendly. The closest entry from the parking area is through the lobby located at the front of the building. It is quite spacious and several gate personnel will be available to guide you to your seats.
The lobby also features ticket purchase windows, as well as trophy cases filled with awards earned by the various Golden Eagle teams. The concourse encircling the outside of the court area is wide and provides frequent concessions stands, and restrooms. You should not encounter any long lines as a result. Once inside the arena, you will be pleasantly surprised to find very comfortable seating, as Tennessee Tech seats are wider than those found in most arenas and they also provide excellent legroom.
Return on Investment 5
Tennessee Tech provides an excellent return on investment for a family. Tickets are $8, with discounts available to students and members of the Hoop Troop. Prices at the concession stands are very reasonable and the parking is free.
The athletic department often schedules doubleheaders, with the women’s team playing the early game and the men’s game as the nightcap. So your $8.00 allows you to see two games for the price of one. Historically the women’s teams at TTU have been a powerhouse, going to many more NCAA tournaments and OVC championships than the men’s teams.
The scoreboard at Tennessee Tech far exceeds anything you would expect to see at a mid-major school
The Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame salutes the Golden Eagles of the past with displays throughout the outer concourse. One of the more unique offerings at a traditional engineering school is the Appalachian Center for Craft. This facility uses technology to create art in such media as glass, ceramics, metal, and wood.