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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

McDonough Arena – Georgetown Hoyas

Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

McDonough Arena 37th Street NW Washington, DC 20007

Year Opened: 1951

Capacity: 2,500


A Visit to McDonough

McDonough Arena is located on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and is the home to the Hoyas’ women’s basketball team. Although the men play downtown in Capital One Arena, the women play on campus in McDonough, in a much smaller, more intimate setting. McDonough Arena opened in 1951 and is named after Reverend Vincent J. McDonough, who was also the Hoyas athletic director from 1916 to 1928.

According to legend, McDonough was asked what he wanted for the 25th anniversary of his priesthood in 1939, and replied “You give the boys a new gym and I’ll be happy.” Although the Reverend did not live to see it, construction on a new arena began in 1950 and it opened the following year.

Rather confusingly, the event space where basketball is played is called McDonough Arena, while the whole building, which also includes training facilities and offices, is called McDonough Gymnasium.

Food & Beverage 3

There is one concession stand at McDonough Arena, located at a small window off the lobby to the right side of the main doors. The exact menu varies by game and can be found on a hand-written menu. However, it will typically include chicken tenders, hot dogs, burgers, and fries along with assorted snacks such as chips. Soft drinks (Coca-Cola products) and bottled water are also available. Prices are a bit on the high end, with chicken tenders going for $10, or an extra $2 for fries with that. Burgers and hot dogs are $5.

Atmosphere 4

Walking through the front doors of McDonough Gymnasium will put you in the lobby of the building, from which you can check out trophy cases commemorating various athletic accomplishments, pick up a program, or buy your tickets at a table if you don’t already have them. From there, you will need to walk through another set of wooden doors to get into the arena itself.

All seating is located on the two sidelines and consists of beige risers without backs. However, fans who sit in the top row can lean against the wall. All seats are close to the action and provide an excellent view. Hoyas fans wishing to sit behind the team bench should sit in sections 110 or 111, while fans of the visiting team can sit in sections 115 or 116 to be behind their bench.

There is an overhead scoreboard above the middle of the floor, as well as two smaller scoreboards in the corners. All scoreboards are rather basic and show the score and time. The board in the middle also shows team fouls and timeouts remaining. Unfortunately, it can be hard to keep looking up at it, especially for fans in the lower few rows. There are what appear to be small video boards over the two corner scoreboards, but they were not functional when we went.

Before the game starts, the Hoyas are introduced as the lights go off in the arena and flames shoot from the floor. It does a lot to get the crowd hyped up and in the spirit of things. During the game, the cheerleaders and pep band provide a lot of energy to get the crowd into it (except during winter break when a DJ takes their place while the students are away), and entertainment like t-shirt tosses and contests keep the fans engaged during breaks in the action.

Neighborhood 5

Cooper Field is located in the middle of the Georgetown campus, and you’ll probably have to head off campus to do anything. However, the Georgetown neighborhood (which lends its name to the school, not the other way around) is one of the best in D.C. There are numerous restaurants ranging from casual sandwich shop Booeymonger’s to luxurious upscale restaurants such as 1789, and everything in between.

Georgetown Cupcake sells exactly what its name implies, Clyde's of Georgetown is a locally popular American pub and bar, and Chaia is known for its fancy vegetarian and vegan tacos. All of this is located just a short walk or drive away from the University.

If you’re willing to head downtown to the National Mall area, the District has so much more to offer, and the best part is that most of it is free. Whether it’s taking in the sights and monuments on the Mall itself, or visiting one of the many museums such as the various Smithsonians, there’s something for everyone. All of the government-run attractions are free, but some of the private ones are not. Just keep in mind if you wish to tour the White House or Capitol, you will need to book in advance.

Fans 3

The crowd at a Georgetown women’s game is decent enough, given the size of the arena, but unfortunately is only a small fraction of what the men draw downtown. Most of the people in attendance are families with young children, and some of the kids get pretty into it, but others seem more interested in their phones or other electronic devices. The adults in the crowd can get into it too, especially after big plays by the Hoyas.

Most fans sit in one of the three center sections on either side of the court, which can make the arena seem fuller than it is, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as it enhances the atmosphere.

Access 4

The Georgetown campus is located just across the Francis Scott Key Bridge from Virginia. Fans coming from that direction should turn left on Canal Road after coming across the river, and the campus is just up ahead after that. Coming from Maryland isn’t quite as easy, but still is pretty simple. However, if coming to a weeknight game, you’ll probably be traveling during rush hour. D.C. traffic is among the worst in the country, so allow a lot of extra time if that’s when you plan to come. Traffic on weekends and the occasional weekday afternoon shouldn’t be as bad.

Once you’re on campus, parking is available in the Southwest Garage. There is ample space available, but some of the spaces may be tight, especially for drivers of larger vehicles. Parking is free on Sundays but can cost up to $20 the rest of the week depending on what time the game is and how long you are staying. When exiting the garage, you will turn left and walk past the football field.

You can then enter through the front doors of the John Thompson Athletic Center, the training facility attached to McDonough Gymnasium, and walk through there to get to the arena lobby. The Thompson Center entrance is right next to where you come out of the garage, assuming you use the right elevator. Alternatively, you can walk around the building exterior to the front doors of the arena and enter through there. Either way, it is only a couple minutes of walking. Take your garage ticket with you and pay at the station in the elevator lobby when you return.

Restrooms are available in the lobby, with the men's room to one side of the arena doors and the women's room to the other side. You will need to leave the arena properly to access them but will be allowed back in without an issue.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets to most games are just $10 each, which is a great deal. However, concessions are a bit on the high end and parking may cost you more than everything else combined. That being said, a Georgetown women's game in McDonough Arena is still a good value.

Extras 3

Be sure to check out the various trophy cases in the lobby honoring not just Georgetown’s basketball achievements, but their championships in other sports as well. Once inside the arena itself, be sure to check out the Georgetown men’s team’s championship banners hanging on the wall, as well as banners honoring women's accomplishments. There are free posters available at a table in the lobby, which is worthy of a third and final star in this category.

Final Thoughts

Although interest in women's basketball is steadily growing, Georgetown women still do not draw nearly enough attendance to justify playing at a larger arena as the men do. Although they do occasionally play games with larger expected attendance at the Entertainment & Sports Arena (also home of the Washington Mystics of the WNBA), for the most part, they continue to play their home games here on campus. While one hopes that they will eventually outgrow this small gym as the men did long ago, for now, McDonough Arena is an enjoyable place to take in a basketball game in a historic setting.

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