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  • Richard Smith

Jersey Mike's Arena - Rutgers Scarlet Knights


Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Rutgers Athletic Center 83 Rockefeller Road Piscataway, NJ 08854

Rutgers Scarlet Knights website

Jersey Mike's Arena website


Year Opened: 1977

Capacity: 8,000

 

Jersey Mike's RACtion

Jersey Mike's Arena, also known as the RAC, is home to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball team. The RAC (an initialism for Rutgers Athletic Center) is its former official name but is still commonly used. Another former name, the Louis Brown Athletic Center, is never used anymore. Louis Brown was a Rutgers graduate and former member of the varsity golf team, who made a large bequest to the university in his will. Rutgers and Jersey Mike’s Subs announced in 2021 they had reached a multi-year agreement to make the sub sandwich restaurant an official naming rights partner of the university.


The venue has a unique shape which is like no other arena we have seen. It is like a truncated tent with trapezoidal sides. The inside is just as unique and very much outdated. The original architect Robert Hillier said the venue design was not his original choice and that money concerns negated many of the original design choices.


The arena, located on Rutgers’ Livingston Campus in Piscataway, New Jersey, opened on November 30, 1977, with a win against in-state rival Seton Hall. The arena is home to men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, and volleyball. The university will also use it for various concerts, graduations, and other events. The arena also served as the home of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets from 1977 until 1981.


The Livingston Campus is one of the five sub-campuses that make up Rutgers' New Brunswick/Piscataway area campus. Rutgers University itself is one of three regional campuses of Rutgers University, New Jersey's public research university, and is located in New Brunswick and Piscataway. There are over 50,000 undergraduate students at this university.


Rutgers men's basketball has generally had limited success over the last 30 years, but the last couple of years have seen major improvements in the program.


Food & Beverage 4

For being a small venue, there are many good food options along the crowded options. The food options are actually pretty decent for a major sports venue.


Jersey Mike's Subs are not surprisingly, sold in a couple of spots, along with a few other big-name options such as Dunkin.


A popular choice is the tables selling Popcorn for the People which sells popcorn in many unique flavors. They will likely be offering samples for tasting. The Chicago style and chocolate espresso flavors are both great choices.


Atmosphere 5

We checked the archives of Stadium Journey to see the past rankings of the RAC. The last couple of reviews had higher rankings in atmosphere and fans than in older reviews. The support for this venue has dramatically increased since the team has shown better success on the court.


This arena has been dubbed, “louder than a 757 from nearby Newark.” The unique shape of the venue and roof system seems to enhance sound. Frankly, this is currently one of the loudest venues you will experience in sports.


The main stands are very steep and offer only bench seating at the top of the venue. There is a very nice center-hung video board, with some really nice vertical screens in each corner. The band, cheerleaders, and team mascot enhance the atmosphere.


For such a large school, the small size of Jersey Mike's Arena is pretty shocking. The students and general fans have a certain love for this outdated venue and seem reluctant to get a newer venue. It would seem that ultimately a team in the Big Ten Conference will need a larger arena.


Neighborhood 3

Piscataway and New Brunswick are located just under an hour outside New York City.


There are a few options on the Livingston Campus, although many may be just for students. Henry's Diner is close by along Rockafeller Rd and offers all-day breakfast, coffee & sandwiches in a retro setting. The Chimney Rock Inn is another good food option nearby.


RU Hungry is located on the main campus in New Brunswick and is known for its famous fat sandwiches. There are 39 styles, including the Fat Knight: cheesesteak, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, french fries, and marina sauce on a sub roll.


The Bridgewater Marriott is a good lodging option for visitors.


Fans 5

We can only judge by the current situation and not the past, so the fan support seems quite amazing. The loudness of the venue can partially be credited to the unique venue roof, but the fans are very loud and engaged on their own.


The students are close to the court and can create an intimidating presence.


Access 4

Jersey Mike's Arena is located on the Livingston Campus, so you need to set your GPS to the specific lot you are planning on parking. Do not look just for Rutgers in your GPS as it may lead you many miles away.


The lots nearby the arena are plentiful and easy to access. The green, VIP lot is closest with the yellow pre-paid lot just after that. You also use the game day yellow lot for $20.


There is one main entrance on the southeast side of the arena.


Return on Investment 4

The arena is way too small for such a large university. The small size has served the school well on-court success has been limited but this means that most games will sell out quickly. It is nice to sell out but you would think it would also be nice to get more people into the stands. It may next to impossible for visiting team fans to attend games here.


Tickets start at a little under $30, but you will likely have to buy on the aftermarket.


Extras 4

The roof and overall design of this unique venue are an extra all of their own.


There is a Rutgers Athletic Hall of Fame, honoring former Scarlet Knights. You should also check out the display showing off all of the past women's players who have gone onto the WNBA.


The sound of the venue is amazing. It is not just the PA and music, but the loudness of the fans themselves. It is loud.


I think Popcorn for the People may be worth a trip to the arena by itself.


Final Thoughts

Jersey Mike's Arena is outdated and borderline dilapidated, but it's still an amazingly vibrant arena to watch a very high level of basketball action. Should Rutgers have a better, newer, and bigger arena? Probably, but the basketball-watching experience is pretty amazing here.

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