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  • Paul Swaney

John F. Savage Arena – Toledo Rockets

Photos by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

John F. Savage Arena 2801 W Bancroft St Toledo, OH 43606

Year Opened: 1976

Capacity: 7,300


Rocket Men

In November 2008, Toledo University unveiled the work of $30 million in renovations to Savage Arena, as well as the new Sullivan Athletic Complex. What emerged was an arena with a new scoreboard, new playing floor, suites, loge seats, new sound system and lighting, and a glass-enclosed lounge serving dinner for up to 200 spectators during a game.

The Sullivan Athletics Complex includes the Varsity T Hall of Fame, the Rocket Shop, as well as a new ticket office. The end result is a beautiful facility which makes for a great day of college basketball.

Savage Arena is home to both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the Rocket volleyball team. The venue seats 7,300.

Food & Beverage 4

It’s a fairly typical concession array for a college basketball arena with one notable exception. Savage Arena is unlike the vast majority of collegiate venues in that they serve beer. This includes Budweiser, Bud Light, Yuengling, Coors Light, LaBatt Blue, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade ($6 for a 16-ounce cup). Wine is available as well.

Outside of that aberration, you’ll find brats ($4.50), hot dogs ($3.50), soft pretzel ($3.25), popcorn ($3.50), chicken tenders ($5.50), grilled chicken ($5.50), and pizza ($4). None of these are exceptionally good or bad, and the prices seem to be on par with other similarly-sized facilities. They occasionally also offer BBQ beef sandwiches ($5.50) on a limited basis.

Atmosphere 4

They’ve really done a good job with the renovations at Savage Arena. You enter the building and are greeted with the Varsity T Hall of Fame, with images of the many great athletes that have worn the midnight blue and gold over the years. The basketball team has made only four appearances in the NCAA Tournament, but I take some personal pride in seeing my first cousin, Jimmy Swaney among the Hall of Fame honorees. Swaney guided the Rockets to back-to-back tournament appearances in 1979 and 1980, including their only Sweet Sixteen appearance (1979). You’ll also find a life-size photo of Jimmy and all his afro glory in the concourse.

That one concourse wraps around the arena, winding behind the seating area along the sidelines and within view of the court along the baselines. You’ll notice many banners hanging in the arena, with the vast majority being gold and belonging to the women’s basketball team (including the 2011 WNIT Championship). Blue banners hang for the men’s accomplishments.

The scoreboard is center-hung with four-sided video, and player stats. It is the perfect size for this arena, and gives fans everything they would need to add to the enjoyment of the game. There’s one other small scoreboard above the Toledo student section on the end nearest the Toledo bench.

The student section is bleacher seating, while every other seat offers a chairback with above average leg room, but no cup holder. Loge seats and the front row of courtside do offer cup holders for your drink.

One additional unique touch is the Joe Grogan Room, a restaurant/club area that is available for fans with club seats, loge seats, or suite access.

The pep band is very good, and should be given more opportunity to play.

There is also a nice team shop, Rocky’s Locker, near the athletics hall of fame that is worth your while to visit if you are looking for a souvenir from your visit.

Neighborhood 3

As you approach the University of Toledo campus, you’ll find plenty of chain restaurants, and hotels, including the Ramada Toledo Hotel and Conference Center.

There are several bars and restaurants that are more unique to the area, but they are more likely places you would drive to rather than walk. Jed’s on Campus offers great wings, along with burgers, sandwiches, and wraps.

Fans 3

The student section is interesting in that it is segregated between the two ends of the court. On one end, nearest the opponent bench, the fans stand the entire game and cheer adamantly supporting their Rockets. On the other end, closer to the Toledo bench, the students seem more indifferent, some stand and some sit, and their enthusiasm is based on how the game is going.

The remainder of the arena is engaged as you might expect. Even with a lot more luxury seating options, the arena can get loud when the Rockets go on a run or need a defensive stop.

Access 4

Parking is a breeze. As you enter campus, you will be given the option to either park on your left in the nearby parking garage, or drive forward toward a lot. Both options are $5, but you will want to choose the parking garage on your left. Primarily this is so you won’t have to be delayed by pedestrians when exiting the lot. In either case, parking and exiting is pretty painless. You can expect to be on your way within five minutes of reaching your car.

Inside the arena, the concourse is wide and easy to move around. Bathrooms are large and clean.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets are very affordable with seats going for $7 for an adult seat, or $3.50 for a child. This is a great place to take the family for an athletic event. There is a pesky $1.50 “web fee” for each seat when ordering tickets online that I find mildly annoying, but the overall price is hard to argue with. When you add in parking and concessions, a family of four can easily see a game for around $50.

Extras 3

One extra point for the floor being named Bob Nichols Court. Nichols coached the Rockets for 22 years, including the golden era of Toledo basketball in the 70’s and early 80’s. He passed away in 2013, and the tribute of naming the floor after him is well deserved.

Another extra point for the cool rocket design that is part of the main seating area, adding a great aesthetic component to the arena before the game.

One final extra point for the competitiveness of MAC basketball. There always seems to be great balance in this conference, and it produces great games.

Final Thoughts

I have personally attended a game at nearly every basketball arena in the MAC, and Savage Arena is one of my favorites. The renovations really turned out well and have produced an excellent home for the Toledo Rockets and their supporters.


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