- Jared Goodman
Schar Center - Elon Phoenix
Photos by Jarred Goodman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Schar Center 542 N Williamson Ave Elon, NC 27244
Year Opened: 2018
Tucked into the Piedmont region of North Carolina is the quaint college town of Elon, home to the university of the same name. About a half-hour east of Greensboro, the ACC’s stomping grounds, this mid-major Colonial Athletic school is constantly living in the shadow of the state’s bluebloods.
The men’s basketball program at Elon christened the Phoenix, has never won a conference tournament – let alone earn a berth in March Madness – since joining the DI ranks in 2001. But recent developments on campus may be the catalyst for success that the program has been waiting for.
In 2018, the university debuted a brand-new, 160,000-square-foot venue to replace their old home, an aging Alumni Gym. Elon played for 68 years in this little arena before moving to their new digs at the sparkling Schar Center. This relocation will perhaps allow the Phoenix to do what Phoenix does best: rise from the ashes.
Food & Beverage 4
You’ll find a great variety of concession items at Schar Center, as several community favorites are represented alongside the traditional staples. Among the local choices, there’s Biscuitville ($5 chicken biscuits), Smitty’s Ice Cream ($4.50 for a small cup, $5.50 for a large one), and Walking Taco ($8).
The classic options include cheese nachos ($5), pizza ($3), hot dogs ($3), giant pretzels ($5), candy ($3), chips ($2), and popcorn ($3). One specialty that you may want to consider is the “Phoenix Dog” – for $6, you get a dog topped with pulled pork, sauce, fried onions, and slaw. To wash it all down, grab a bottle of water or a Coke product for $3.
Schar Center opened in 2018, meaning it hasn’t had much time to develop character. The layout of the venue is well thought-out and the 360-degree concourse gives visitors a clear view of the action from most points. Although the general atmosphere of the building itself is quite sterile, the gameday presentation is very professional and high-quality.
There are two large LED video boards located over end zones, providing fans with stats and updates from every angle. During the pre-game and the player introductions, songs like Cascada’s Every Time We Touch (a tradition at nearby Duke) and Kevin Rudolf’s Let it Rock are blasted over the speakers.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix doesn’t have many traditions unique to their school as it relates to basketball. At times, it feels as if you could be in any college gym in the nation, seeing any mid-major program. Note that the atmosphere may be a bit better for women’s games, which are also held at Schar Center.
The singing of the national anthem can also be a bit awkward, because the venue’s American flag is located on the wall behind the largest part of the seating bowl, rather than being hung from the rafters. Having a flag in this location forces everyone in that part of the bowl to turn completely around. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is weird.
Elon is the definition of a college town and the beautiful campus that goes along with it. While Schar Center is located in a newly-developed field surrounded by parking lots, the rest of the university campus is quaint and even a bit historic. The grounds even feature a picturesque lake.
Nearby downtown Elon has several cool little shops and interesting restaurants. Burlington, a larger town next door, has an even greater number of entertainment options. And there’s always a bigger fish: Greensboro is just thirty minutes to the west and has most of the trappings of a mid-sized city.
Schar Center seats over 5,000 people, but it’s rare to see a crowd of that size at Phoenix home games. The result is weak support from the stands, as the die-hards and player families are usually the only ones cheering on Elon. The long-term success of the program on the court may lead to a fuller arena in the future, which is the school’s hope. Right now, it appears as if the men’s program is overshadowed by a far more successful women’s team. Fan turnout is probably slightly better for the lady Phoenix, who claimed the CAA Tournament Championship in 2017 and 2018 – earning them back-to-back bids in the Big Dance.
Elon is located just off Interstate 85/40, about a half-hour from Greensboro and forty minutes from Durham. It’s essentially equidistant from the Piedmont-Triad and Raleigh-Durham International Airports, which fly to destinations across the country.
Since the Schar Center is located on a newly-developed lot, there are large and flowing entrance and exit lanes that lead to the parking area. The Hunt B lot is where visitors are allowed to park during home games, and there’s no charge to leave your car here. As a bonus, it’s located right near the main entrance to the arena.
Once inside the gym, you’ll likely find that the upper tier of seats in the main bowl is roped off, as it is for low-attendance games. Otherwise, there’s absolutely no issue moving around on the concourse. It’s wide and spacious with lots of standing room if you prefer to watch the game that way.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to Phoenix home games are $20 a person, a bit on the pricey side for this level of hoops. Thankfully, there’s free parking and the concessions are priced very fairly. Overall, anticipate forking over around $30 for a night out in Elon.
Tucked away beyond one of the end zones is a neat hangout area equipped with a cluster of televisions, some of which broadcast live games and some that are hooked up to video game consoles. There are also some arcade-style games, a basketball hoop, and some plush couches to finish off the man-cave-type space.
Behind the other end zone, there are a few large windows that look down onto the team’s practice courts. Here, you’ll often see some club or youth players shooting hoops during men’s games.
The Phoenix is still on the hunt for their first-ever conference tournament championship in Division I play, as well as their first dance in the NCAA tournament. As the newest member of the CAA, having joined in 2014, hopefully, these dreams can be realized during their tenure at the sleek Schar Center. As a modern venue that gives its tenant plenty of room to grow, this gym will surely be the site of many great Elon moments shortly.