Jones Convocation Center – Chicago State Cougars
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.43
Jones Convocation Center 9501 S King Dr Chicago, IL 60628
Year Opened: 2007 Capacity: 7,000
The Jones Convention Center is the Cougar Den
The Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center is a 7,000-seat multi-purpose arena home to the Chicago State University Cougars basketball program. The $47 million used to construct the venue was allocated from the State of Illinois treasury by then-Senate President Emil Jones. It is an impressive facility that stands proudly on campus adjacent to its baseball field.
The Cougars men’s program has the distinction of being the easternmost team in the Western Athletic Conference. The school joined the program in 2013 and its closest rival school is UM Kansas City followed by UT Rio Grande Valley. Before moving to NCAA Division I the program operated in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The Cougars won the Great West Conference Tournament championship in 2013 to earn an automatic bid to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The team had also appeared in three NAIA Tournaments placing third in 1984.
Before the JCC was built the Cougars played at the 2,500-seat Dickens Athletic Center that was built in 1971. The basketball program began in 1966 when the school was still called Chicago Teachers College before adopting its name the following year.
Food & Beverage 2
The food and beverage consists of one concession stand serving nachos, hot dogs, and chips. The food looks as if it was prepared off-site and brought in by aluminum serving plates. There are more concession areas but they were closed during the game. However, the facility has a piece of paper with beverage options that include Bud, Miller, and Coors products for $5 along with spirits: Hennessey, Malibu, Bacardi, and Courvoisier for $8-$9.
It’s hard to generate much of an atmosphere in a 7,000-capacity facility with well under 150 people watching the game. It’s a beautiful facility with great seating dimensions and plenty of room to move around that one could only wonder, when full, what that may be like. However, it appears that many games at home offer a similar feeling as was the case for this afternoon’s contest.
Many other teams play under similar conditions–I was at one last month–but with enough time to ponder around the nearly soulless arena, there are many key elements to a great college basketball game that are missing. There is no presence of a band, a team mascot, or a dance or cheer squad anywhere in sight. A student section, which could add a lot of noise all by itself, is also missing from the contest.
Several banners are hanging from the rafters that add a nice touch and its video board hanging from above center court is first-rate. The building itself, from its interior, is impressive but several of its doors were locked making several attempts to get inside the main lobby. The lobby is spacious and features a curved ramp leading to the gym's upper levels.
What you will get at a game like this is the option to sit wherever you like and be as close as possible to the action on the court. You’ll hear all the players, the squeaks of their sneakers, the bounce of the ball against the court, and the chairs from the bench. Also, the fans that are in the stands make you appreciate how hard they cheer and desire their home club to win.
The campus is at Roseland University. There are many restaurants within a few blocks of the university and including The Caribbean Jerk Palace, The Crazy Crab, Jack’s Famous Chicken and Subs, and Ware Ranch Steak House.
Argus Brewery is nearby and offers tours on Saturdays including all you can drink while you venture around its impressive brewery and building. Another brewery is about 5 miles from campus called Horse Thief Hollow. Downtown is about a 20-minute drive or 45-minute ride on the Red Line presenting access to Millenium Park, the Magnificent Mile, the Theater District, and other spots in the area.
The die-hards at the game cheer every basket and every defensive stop possible during the contest. They show unbridled passion unmatched because they are here for the primary purpose of supporting the players in hoping that the Cougars can find a way to win. There is nothing more but the game itself leading them to today’s contest.
The campus is right off I-57 but one has to exit before getting to the campus and driving through the neighborhood that features road conditions that can use repairs. The same could be said once you enter the campus but once inside one should have no trouble finding their seat, bathrooms, and the one concession stand.
Return on Investment 2
Floor seats for all home games are $20, general admission prices are $10, and senior citizen tickets are $5. The parking is free and there is plenty around the building but when games are attended by just a few fans Chicago State Cougars game is merely for the die-hard college basketball fan.
The gymnasium itself is very beautiful and impressive for the college. It’s a perfect venue if the team could ever attract 5,000 fans to the game and maybe one day they will and we’ll look back at these times as the early pioneering days of Chicago State basketball.
Any building that can supply banners hanging from the rafters earns a point for me and this arena has a few of them to add a nice touch to the proceedings.
The Jones Convention Center – it’s a beautiful building and could be a wonderful place for basketball once the college program develops a fan base and a following throughout the area. Those days are not there yet and attending a game is merely for the true basketball fan. In a city where there are plenty of other sporting event options, including college basketball, the Jones Convention Center may not make the top of your list.