Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Memorial Gym 210 25th Ave S Nashville, TN 37240
Year Opened: 1952
Historical Memorial Gymnasium - Vanderbilt Commodores
In the Music City, it only seems appropriate that the gymnasium of the largest university in Nashville was originally built as a basketball arena and concert hall. Vanderbilt University’s Memorial Gymnasium has a long history of being one of the most challenging venues for visiting teams to play in.
Food & Beverage 4
Concessions stands are abundant throughout Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium. Each of the four main lobbies has two concession stands and a beer cart.
Most food choices are found on the main level – fans can choose from Chick-fil-a sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, and nachos. There is also a wide variety of BBQ choices including nachos, mac-and-cheese, and pulled pork sandwiches. Soft drinks come from the Pepsi family of products, while alcoholic options include Budweiser beers, Bud Lite Seltzers, craft beers from Tennessee Brew Works, and wine.
In addition to the concessions at the main lobby level, the mezzanine and balcony levels have smaller concessions stands. Vanderbilt also offers in seat ordering where fans can skip the line, order from their seats, and pick up their food at one of the main level concessions stands.
If making a list of quirky arenas in college basketball, Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium would be right near the top of that list. Given the building’s dual needs, it requires a unique layout.
Memorial Gymnasium is one of the few raised floors in the NCAA; the raised floor allows for a more gradual slope to the main level of seating – the slope of the seating is similar to that of movie theaters.
With the gradual slope and raised floor, the team benches have been moved to the ends of the court. If benches were to be in the traditional location, fans in the first few rows would be looking at the back of the bench all game.
Each of the four sides of the building is comprised of three tiers of seating: court level, mezzanine, and upper balcony. Given the overhang of the decks above, seats in the back of the first two levels have some rather obstructed views of the full arena and center court scoreboard. However, Vanderbilt has tried to minimize the impact of this with large video and scoreboards on the corner abutments around the gymnasium.
When buying tickets, try to stay toward the front of the sections of the A-E levels – these areas have fold down seats, rather than the bench seating that is in much of the arena. Also, the further to the front, the more of the full arena you will be able to see. Fans of the visiting team typically sit in any of the F levels of seating.
One of the big draws of Nashville is its vibrant nightlife; the epicenter of the excitement has been dubbed the “Honky Tonk Highway”, and is within 2 miles of Vanderbilt’s campus. Here visitors can take in Nashville’s famed juke-joints and bar scene. The historic Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, is the centerpiece of this downtown neighborhood.
If looking to pair a visit to Vanderbilt with other local sporting events, the Nashville Predators are less than 2 miles away at Bridgestone Arena. The home of the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, Nissan Stadium, is just across the Cumberland River from downtown.
While Nashville’s most popular tourist attractions are a quick rideshare away, Centennial Park and the Greek Parthenon replica are immediately across the street from Vanderbilt’s campus. The Hillsboro neighborhood directly bordering Vanderbilt also has many shops and quality restaurants.
If the one-of-a-kind nature of Memorial Gymnasium is not enough to create a special experience, Vandy fans add to the aura of basketball here.
Whether it is the acoustics of the building, the passion of the fanbase, or a combination of both, the energy throughout Memorial Gymnasium shoots through you as if you’ve been struck by lightning. A great deal of the credit for this energy goes to the student section – students show up in large numbers and make themselves part of the game atmosphere from the moment the Commodores take the floor. Basketball at Vanderbilt is a special experience, and much of that can be attributed to the students due to the school spirit and enthusiasm they display.
Getting to the Vanderbilt campus, as with most metropolitan areas, is dependent on the traffic. While not much more than a mile off Interstate-65, weekday games can be impacted by the headaches of gridlock in major cities.
Parking is available at several decks around Memorial Gymnasium, the most convenient being the 25th Street garage. Prices fluctuate depending on whether it is a conference or non-conference game, and if parking is purchased in advance or not. Non-conference parking runs $5, while for conference games it is $10 if bought ahead of time; buying the day of adds $5 to the cost.
There are 10 entry points around Memorial Gymnasium. For first time visitors, there might be a bit of importance to entering through the gate associated with the section of the seat – the entry level of the arena contains a maze of hallways, so it is easy to get turned around in the wrong direction if you don’t enter too close to your assigned seat.
Return on Investment 3
When talking Power 5 schools, you are typically going to pay a premium when it comes to ticket prices. Ticket costs are going to be higher in a conference like the SEC, but it doesn’t have to be a deterrent to attending a game. Non-conference games typically have lower priced tickets while providing a similar experience.
Vanderbilt utilizes flex pricing when it comes to their tickets. For example, tickets against rivals Kentucky or Tennessee are three times the rate as the get-in-the-door price for Alabama. While the overall experience can be worth the expense, it can be a bit cost prohibitive, so scout the schedule ahead of time to find the most reasonable ticket prices.
There are many points of interest that just add to the experience of Memorial Gymnasium. First, the practice gym is home to Vandyville, a carnival of photo ops, face painting, and inflatables to help keep the younger fans entertained during pre-game, or if sitting down for the entirety of the game becomes too much.
The lobby areas also provide fans with live action game statistics, so while fans may not directly be able to see the action while getting some food, they can keep up with the score and any statistics they might be missing.
Vanderbilt features the history of its men’s and women’s programs around the arena; the most impressive among past Vanderbilt basketball players, who have also won conference awards and played professionally, is their 1984 Olympian, Jeff Turner.
Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium is definitely an arena that is a must-stop for stadium enthusiasts. Beyond the rarity of the raised court and the quirks of the building itself, the whole experience of a basketball game at Vanderbilt is extremely fan friendly and a great college basketball atmosphere.