Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
McKenzie Arena 720 East 4th Street Chattanooga, TN 37403
Year Opened: 1982
McKenzie Arena – University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs
Just off the banks of the Tennessee River sits the campus of the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga. Since 1982, UTC’s McKenzie Arena has proved to provide Mocs basketball with a definitive home court advantage, winning more than three-fourths of their home games.
Nicknamed “The Roundhouse,” a building that services locomotives, the moniker is not just in recognition of the outward appearance of McKenzie Arena, but also pays homage to the rich railroad history of Chattanooga.
Food & Beverage 3
Food at McKenzie Arena is pretty much what you would expect to get at most basketball games. There is not a ton of variety; pizza, hot dogs and nachos are the highlights on the menu. Each of the three can be paired with chips and a drink for $10 or less. Concessions also offer several snacks familiar to concession stands – popcorn, candy and pretzels. Soft drinks include Coca-Cola products.
Beer is the only alcohol option. Regardless of the size or type of brew, beer will set you back $12. Selections include 25 oz cans from the Budweiser family of beers and seltzers, Bold Rock cider, and a selection from the local craft Hutton & Smith Brewing Company.
While beer prices seem to be a tic on the expensive side, it is not overly egregious when it comes to the overall experience at McKenzie Arena.
Note that the concessions stands are cashless, so be prepared to pay with a debit or credit card.
In the name of complete transparency, McKenzie Arena is in the midst of a $34 million facility upgrade. From the outside things may seem to be in a bit of disarray, but it is all in the name of progress.
Fans enter the arena between court level seating and the upper level. While the arena undergoes enhancements, just the court level seats are available. An initial thought might be closing part of the seating would negatively impact the experience, but in actuality it brings fans closer to the action and concentrates their energy. Since McKenzie Arena does host concerts and other large events, the upper level does make sense, but for basketball the court level seating is just fine.
A large four-piece scoreboard is suspended above center court and provides fans with live action feeds of the game, and is also used for on-court contests and advertisements during stoppages in play. More traditional scoreboards hang above two of the court level tunnels which provide fans with the typical time-score-fouls information, as well as running player foul and scoring totals.
The Mocs do a lot to keep fans engaged throughout the game. Including the aforementioned on-court games, the school’s pep-band is highly active in not just bringing a touch of the traditional college atmosphere, but the band members also do a lot to lead the student/fan involvement of chants, cheers, and good-natured ribbing of the visiting team players.
When thinking of the destination locations in Tennessee, Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Gatlinburg quickly come to mind. Often overlooked is Chattanooga, which might be one of the best kept secrets in the country.
Just blocks from downtown Chattanooga and a short walk across the pedestrian bridge from the Northshore area is Chattanooga North, the area around McKenzie Arena which provides a full weekend’s worth of activities, all within a mile to perfectly complement a basketball game.
The Riverfront district that neighbors UTC’s campus has all a visitor could ask for – bars, restaurants, museums, and miles of trails. Some of the most popular attractions in the downtown area are the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum, both of which are a mile from McKenzie Arena. Given the relatively mild winters of the south, taking advantage of Chattanooga’s riverwalk could also be an option.
Chattanooga is home to an endless number of quality restaurants. One plan of attack might be to start the morning with breakfast at Bluegrass Grill, take the pedestrian bridge across the river to pick up lunch at the River Street Deli, and finish up with a late-night meal at Aretha Frankensteins in the nearby Hill City neighborhood.
With its proximity to downtown Chattanooga, hotel options are plentiful.
While the construction currently going on at McKenzie Arena creates some inconveniences when it comes to parking and entry points, it does help with the role fans play in the game. The closing of the upper level of seating concentrates fans more around the court, in turn making the court much louder.
Attendance for Mocs games typically sits around 3,000 to 4,000, which given the current seating capacity is about three-fourths full.
The interest of the fans seems to ebb and flow throughout the game. At times, the Mocs fans fill the role of a 6th man, but often seem to be more reactionary instead – there never seemed to be much involvement in getting loud to help create the next defensive stop.
The student section, along with the pep-band, situated behind the basket at the home end of the court, does a good job at bringing a degree of controlled rowdiness, that is always good to see at college sporting events.
The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga is easily accessible from Interstate-24 to Tennessee Highway 27, which feeds into downtown Chattanooga. AT&T Field, home of the Chattanooga Lookouts is visible at the 4th Street exit, welcoming you to the downtown area. 4th Street leads directly to McKenzie Arena and the surrounding parking lots.
Three lots are located across from McKenzie arena. At $10, the proximity does make the convenience well worth the price.
With one of the three entrances into the arena currently closed due to the ongoing construction, lines tend to get a bit backed up entering the building. Once in the stadium, fans will have to navigate a bit of a narrow concourse to their seats.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to Mocs basketball can be purchased for as low as $10 for seats behind the basket, and up to $20 for padded seats along the sidelines. Ticket prices increase the day of the game by $2, so purchasing tickets ahead of time can save a couple dollars.
With all the seating at court level, there really is not a bad seat in McKenzie Arena. Sitting behind the hoop will always create obstructions because of the basket, unless you are close to the floor, but any other seats would be just fine.
While the current McKenzie Arena renovation won’t add a lot to the typical fan experience, it will improve the outside ascetics of the arena.
McKenzie Arena’s open concourse allows fans to make their way to concessions, restrooms, or any other features away from the court while staying connected to the game. While the action on the court is not visible from the concessions stands, fans can see the floor as they walk to and from their seats.
A small, but very useful feature, are the phone charging stations around the concourse. Fans can get a quick charge of their device while still keeping the court in view.
It’s hard to go wrong with a game at McKenzie Arena. While the structure itself has not undergone significant upgrades since it opened in the early 1980s, enough has been done to maintain the arena so it doesn’t feel like an archaic relic.
The Mocs take the traditions of college basketball, and couple them well with fan entertainment. Pair the work the gameday staff does with the exciting, high scoring brand of basketball the Mocs play, and it all comes together for an entertaining college basketball experience.