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  • Lloyd Brown

Pete Mathews Coliseum – Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Pete Mathews Coliseum 700 Pelham Rd N Jacksonville, AL 36265

Jacksonville State Gamecocks website

Pete Mathews Coliseum website

Year Opened: 1974

Capacity: 3,400


Gamecocks Show Their Grit

Jacksonville State University is a member of the Alabama University System and has a student body of more than 8,600 students.

The basketball program at Jacksonville State University has been a strong one, with a Division II National Championship (1985) to its name. During its Division II era the Gamecocks were regulars in the NCAA Tournament, making eight visits in that period. JSU moved up to the Division I level in 1995, first as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference and since 2004 as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). In 2017 the Gamecocks won the OVC Championship and went on to the NCAA Tournament.

Pete Mathews Coliseum is the basketball home of the Gamecocks. Known to locals as simply “The Pete,” it opened in 1974 and seats 3,500 fans. In 2015 it went through a major renovation, totally replacing the original wooden bleacher seating and the basketball flooring. It looked like a brand-new arena… until disaster struck. On March 19, 2018 an EF-3 tornado packing 135 mph winds scored a direct hit on the Jacksonville State University campus and the surrounding community. Two buildings were destroyed, and nearly every building on the campus suffered at least some damage. Pete Mathews Coliseum did not escape the storm’s wrath, as its roof was torn off, allowing rainwater to flood into the facility and doing extensive damage to the basketball area, but also creating havoc to the support facilities. Fortunately, the school was on spring break and the basketball team had concluded its season, so no one was inside of the coliseum at the time, Overall, no lives were lost in the storm, but a massive recovery lay ahead… both for the community and the facilities at JSU.

Food & Beverage 3

There are two concession windows in the main lobby of the coliseum. They sell your typical arena fare, including hot dogs ($4), nachos ($4), pretzels ($4), popcorn ($3), peanuts ($3.50), chips ($2) and candy ($2). Beverage selections include Coca-Cola brand sodas ($4), frozen lemonade ($4), bottled water ($3.50) and coffee ($3).

Atmosphere 4

Less than seven months after the tornado struck, the atmosphere at “The Pete” has gone from one of doom and gloom to one of new beginnings. The university has done an unbelievable job in bringing back the campus to its pre-storm self. The construction and recovery are not complete, but the progress is impressive.

Visitors to Mathews Coliseum will see little or no evidence of the mass destruction when they enter the basketball facility. Instead, they will be greeted by a brand new basketball floor which proudly displays the Gamecock logo at mid court. The court is surrounded by a seating area decorated in shades or red, gray and silver… Jacksonville State’s team colors. The side seating features new plastic chair back seating, while the end zones feature permanent bench-style seating for the student body. The storm destroyed most of the electronics in the building and a brand new scoreboard has been installed over mid court.

Neighborhood 4

“The Pete” is in the northwestern corner of the Jacksonville State University campus. It is a short distance from the Jacksonville town square which is full of shops, restaurants and entertainment options. Two popular dining options are the WOW Café and Effina’s Tuscan Grill. The closest hotels to the campus are the Hampton Inn Jacksonville and the University Inn. The Anniston Museum of Natural History is just south of Jacksonville and is well worth a visit.

Fans 5

Gamecock fans are known for their loyalty to the university’s athletic program through thick and thin. This has been especially true during the tough days since the tornado. The sports activities at the university have been a rallying point for the community, as they provide a break from the recovery efforts and create a sense of normalcy after the storm. Though JSU has been known more as a “football school,” you would not know that when you look at an arena filled with the red-clad Gamecock faithful. The student area, known as the Cock Pit, does everything it can to distract the opposition’s free throw attempts and celebrates wildly with every three-pointer made by the home team.

Helping to lead the cheers is Cocky, the team mascot. He is assisted by members of the Marching Southerner’s pep band and the Gamecocks cheer squad.

Access 4

Jacksonville and JSU are in eastern Alabama, about 15 miles north of I-20. To reach Jacksonville from I-20, take the Anniston/Oxford exit (#185) onto Highway 21 North. Proceed north for 15 miles to the Jacksonville City limits. As you enter the town square, go to the fifth red light and turn left onto Rudy Abbott Highway (Highway 204). Go one mile and Pete Mathews Coliseum will be on your left.

The parking area for Pete Williams Coliseum is just outside the northern entrance to the building.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets to Gamecocks basketball games are $8 for general admission tickets in the end zones and in the upper seating areas and $13.50 for reserved seating on the sides. Parking is free of charge. The concession prices at “The Pete” are quite reasonable

Extras 3

On March 19, 2018, an EF-3 tornado directly struck the Jacksonville State University campus, destroying many buildings and homes located near the campus. The football team and the entire athletic department organized and spent countless hours working to clean away debris and assist the members of the community in any way they could. The first extra must go to #JacksonvilleStrong for the amazing job it has done in less than a year after the tornado. Much work is left to be done, but the community is well on its way back.

Pete Mathews Coliseum also serves as main concert venue in the region. It has hosted concerts by Alabama, Billy Joel and Jimmy Buffett.

Recovery efforts at JSU were supported by a benefit concert by Alabama, the Charlie Daniels Band and Shenandoah. The concert was held in JSU’s football stadium.

Final Thoughts

Gamecocks are a breed of bird known for their fierceness and competitive spirit. In the wake of the devastating tornado and the damage it caused on the JSU campus, that competitive spirit has played a major role in the community’s recovery. The returning of Pete Mathews Coliseum to service less than seven months after the storm is a symbol that #JacksonvilleStrong is not just a slogan… it is a fact.

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