Joseph J. Gentile Arena – Loyola Ramblers
Photos by Jonathan Michel and Various, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Joseph J. Gentile Arena 6525 N Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL 60626
Year Opened: 1996
The Gentile Center Keeps Rambling on the A -10
Built in 1996, Joseph J. Gentile Arena plays home to one of college basketball’s most recent mid-major powerhouses, the Loyola Ramblers. The 4,963-seat arena sits on the northwest corner of Loyola’s campus in the Rogers Park neighborhood, 10 miles from downtown Chicago. It makes it one of three NCAA Division I basketball venues (the others being DePaul’s Wintrust Arena and Illinois-Chicago’s Credit Union I Arena) close to the heart of the city.
Given the recent success of the team, which has reached the Sweet 16 twice since 2018, the arena is smaller than most would expect, but its intimate size fits the size of the school and makes life hard on any opponent who visits. Since the 2017-18 season, when the Ramblers made a miracle run to the Final Four, the team has posted an astounding 66-9 record at Gentile Arena.
Loyola, which is moving from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Atlantic 10 Conference starting in the fall of 2022, gave the arena a massive renovation in 2011. The upgrades included new seating in the lower bowl, revamped concessions, restrooms, and new video boards that feature a 360-degree screen on the bottom of the main scoreboard, a fairly uncommon sight in mid-major basketball.
Food & Beverage 4
The concessions at Gentile Arena are about what one would expect from a traditional sporting venue, such as hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, popcorn, etc. The Vienna Beef Polish sausage is tasty and a fitting purchase if you are attending a Chicago sporting event. Drink options are average, as well, but a bonus is that the building does serve alcohol until the 10-minute mark of the second half.
The best part of the fare at Gentile Arena is that fans don’t have to wait in long lines to order because multiple kiosks allow for convenient ordering and quick pick up.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Gentile Arena is how tight it feels. There are no bad seats in the house as there are two levels of seating with nearly equal the amount of rows, separated by a concourse.
The highest row of seats sits not far from the roof of the arena, preventing crowd noise from getting lost in a cavernous void. If you prefer an experience closer to the floor, courtside seats are available, but one would have to buy them before the season starts, as they are sold on a season basis and typically go fast. Seats in the upper corners of the arena do not have chair backs, so that may be helpful to keep in mind.
Loyola’s beloved team chaplain, Sister Jean, read a pregame “prayer” from her wheelchair at center court, which was a nice opportunity for those to get a glance at college basketball’s favorite nun and television icon.
The intro video before the game was energetic and well put-together, and that same energy continued into the game, with large amounts of crowd noise reverberating off the walls of the intimate arena. At times, one would think it’d be impossible for opposing teams to think straight in a game coming down to the wire.
The area surrounding Loyola is about as busy as you would expect it to be, given that it is 15-20 minutes away from downtown Chicago. There are a wide variety of places to eat within walking or short driving distance from the arena, from fast food to ethnic restaurants to authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza.
Rogers Park is a diverse neighborhood that is pretty safe for the most part, but it is Chicago after all, so you can never be too cautious when walking around. Most entertainment and food options around Loyola and Gentile Arena are located on Sheridan Road.
Giordano’s is a Chicago staple that serves tantalizing deep-dish pizza and has a location on Sheridan one mile north of the arena. There are Jamaican, Asian, Mexican, and Ethiopian restaurants within a mile of the arena as well, so you’re in good hands if you’re down to try something new.
Oasis (6809 N Sheridan), Bruno’s Lounge (6562 N Sheridan), and Cunneen’s Bar (1424 W Devon Ave.) are some of the most popular bar options near Loyola’s campus. Bruno’s is a small dive bar that is the closest of the three to Gentile Arena. Following a game, there will be some students if it’s a weekend but usually not too many. Oasis and Cunneen’s are typical pubs that will get the job done as well.
Loyola fans are never hard to spot, as at least half of them typically sport maroon and yellow striped scarves at all basketball games. Many Ramblers enthusiasts are passionate about their team, and that is evident during games, although some fans were a little too passionate and boisterous. One student was ejected from the game after repeatedly yelling at a referee. There are a lot of students engaged in the game yelling, “You let the whole team down” after opponents’ missed free throws.
For a first-time visitor, accessing Gentile Arena is not the easiest. The location of Loyola’s campus is not close to any interstates or major highways, so be prepared to deal with downtown Chicago traffic unless you are coming from the north side of town. However, there is a Loyola station for the “L” train’s red line, which can make the trip easier.
There is a parking garage that is a 3-5 minute walk from the arena, and that is likely the best parking option, unless you want to park on neighborhood streets. If you choose the latter, always be sure to check the signs to ensure that you are not parking illegally. Parking at the garage isn’t exactly cheap for an on-campus garage at $10 for men’s basketball games, but it’s not surprising given how much parking costs in Chicago. The concourse at Gentile Arena was also a bit confusing to navigate at first.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for Ramblers men’s basketball games are separated into three levels: gold, maroon, and gray, and each home game is given a designation as to which level it is. “Gray” games are the cheapest and average around $20, while “gold” games are in the ballpark of $30. Upper terrace chairback seats are located at the top of the seating bowl and provide good value, given how cozy the arena is.
Seven sections of Gentile Arena are reserved for students, so be sure to buy tickets in advance if you plan on attending a marquee game. Concession prices are reasonable, and parking isn’t outrageous.
Loyola’s campus is beautiful, so if time allows, take a walk around, and you’ll be treated to wonderful views of Lake Michigan. Gentile also earns bonus points for Loyola’s solid pep band and the wraparound scoreboard for those sitting close to the court.
If you attend a game at Gentile, it may be pricier compared to some other programs in their conference but be ready for a fun and energetic night of basketball in one of the best environments in the Atlantic 10.