Photos by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Hynes Athletics Center 715 North Ave New Rochelle, NY 10801
Year Opened: 1974
Striving to Keep Pace in New Rochelle
The Iona Gaels, a perennial power in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), took a hit last spring when legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino decided to bolt for St. John’s University. Most of Iona’s roster departed following Pitino’s exit and only one player returns from a year ago. The Gaels won the MAAC regular season and Tournament Championship in 2023 which included the automatic NCAA bid, but have been able to keep grinding in 2024 under new coach Tobin Anderson.
Anderson led Fairleigh Dickinson University to a Cinderella season in 2023 as the 16th seed stunned top seed Purdue in an opening-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Anderson brought in several highly touted recruits and even a few that were supposed to follow him to Teaneck New Jersey made the trek north to New Rochelle.
Despite a slow start, the Gaels are moving up the MAAC standings and another title and tournament bid are not out of the question. Iona has won 7 of the last 10 tournament titles. The Gaels, an original league member, have won 14 MAAC championships since the league was founded in 1982. Siena and Manhattan are next with five. Iona, Manhattan, St. Peter’s, and Fairfield are the only original MAAC schools remaining in the now 11-team conference.
For Iona, the only disappointment has been the lack of buzz at Hynes Athletic Center as attendance was off by 10% from last season in early February. The Gaels have only topped 2,000 twice this 2023-2024 season.
Food & Beverage 3
The one drawback is fans have to go downstairs for the main concession stand and bathrooms. There are also two vending machines. Head down there early if you don’t want to miss any of the second half because the line is quite long. Hot dogs are $3.25, chicken fingers and fries $8. Water, soda, large pretzels, and snacks are also available.
On the plus side, there is a small concession stand in the left corner as fans enter with snacks and drinks including candy, popcorn, chips, water, soda, Powerade, and apple juice. Soda and Powerade are $2.75. Popcorn and water are the cheapest items at $2. Coca-Cola products are the beverage of choice.
The arena is a non-descript low-lying building from the outside. Once inside it looks like a typical mid-major facility.
The gym is the home of Iona University's volleyball and men's and women's basketball programs. The Hynes Center underwent major renovations during the summer of 2019 that provided significant improvements to a building that opened in 1974. The court was flipped and used to be a north-south configuration but now runs east-west. There were no seats behind the baskets in the original design.
The well-lit arena features an intimate setting with only 12 rows on each side of the court and 15 rows behind each basket. The chairback seats are only on the left side of the arena away from the team benches. The proximity to the court allows fans to hear much of what is going on and there is not a bad view from any seat.
The arena has 4 large LED boards in each corner of the arena that give real-time individual player and team statistics and provide highlights and replays. The sound system is solid and the PA announcements are clear. The PA announcer provides enthusiastic announcements and often provides the score and how much time is remaining.
There is also an in-game MC who fires up the crowd with announcements and contests during timeouts. The cheerleaders and band add to the excitement. There are also two dance teams called the Iona University Dance Team and Iona BSU (Black Student Union) Dance, which perform at all home games. The problem with college basketball these days is most timeouts are reserved for promotions which do not allow ample time for the band to shine. The band was more noticeable in the last 10 minutes of the game.
The area is safe and offers several restaurants within walking distance and there are more options in the New Roc City Area.
Just outside the entrance on North Avenue, sits the long-standing Beechmont Tavern (since 1928), Mister Taco, The Mirage Restaurant, AJ Burger’s, Smokehouse Tailgate Grill, and of course Subway, McDonald’s, and Dunkin within walking distance.
Fan support is decent but could be better. On this visit, student presence was lacking. There was a good amount of alumni and local fans including families. The crowd was engaged but did not seem to respond to the cheerleaders. Not a single “Let’s Go Iona” chant was heard throughout. The school has an undergraduate enrollment of just over 3,000 so the University does need to promote the team to attract more local fans and sell season tickets.
The campus is easily accessible. It is on North Avenue which is close to I-95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway and traffic is usually minimal. There is a Metro North and Amtrak stop at New Rochelle station which is just 1.2 miles from the gate. The campus is small and it is less than a 5-minute walk from the entrance to Hynes Center.
Return on Investment 4
All the seats offer a great view of the action. Students get free admission. Seats range from about $30 for a chairback seat to $21 for reserved seats along the sidelines with no backs. Seats behind the basket are general admission and sell for $16.25. Seats are $11.15 for children for either baseline or on the side. The box office and arena open one hour before game time. There is a parking garage with free parking and ample spaces.
The Gaels have an MC who pumps the crowd up before the game and during time-outs. The dance team, founded in 1998, is well respected and appreciated by the loyal fans.
There is also a small Arrigoni Hall of Fame (the redesign was made possible by a lead gift from Edward F. Arrigoni '56) along the wall just to the right of the main entrance and a trophy case before the stairs leading to the concessions and bathrooms.
Richie Guerin, Iona’s all-time leading scorer, is the only retired number hanging from the rafters. The guard played for Iona from 1951-54 and played in the NBA from 1956-1970 with the NY Knicks and the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks. The late and legendary coach Jim Valvano is also honored with a banner. Valvano coached the Gaels for five seasons (1975-80).
The mantle has been passed and it is up to Anderson and his staff to keep Iona at the top of the conference. Anderson is a fiery coach who is often yelling encouragement and constantly teaching his players. The Gaels should remain a power in the MAAC and hopefully more Iona students will take notice and come to the cozy confines of Hynes to enjoy the ride.