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  • Richard Smith

Finneran Pavilion - Villanova Wildcats


Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey


Finneran Pavilion FANFARE Score: 4.43

Finneran Pavilion 113 N Ithan Ave Villanova, PA 19085

Villanova Wildcats website Finneran Pavilion website

Year Opened: 1986 Capacity: 6,500

 

A Renovated Classic in Philly

In 1985, under the direction of coach Rollie Massimino, the men's basketball team won the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament in the first year of the 64-team field. The final game, against defending champion and ten points favorite Georgetown, is often cited among the greatest upsets in college basketball history.


The Wildcats won its second national championship in dramatic fashion again in 2016 when Kris Jenkins sank a buzzer-beater to defeat North Carolina 77-74. It was another incredible victory in the championship game of the Final Four and brought sought out championship back to Philadelphia. It was no surpise that the team would win another championship not too long after.


One year after that first dramatic NCAA victory, the Pavilion was opened. The Pavilion arena was originally called the John Eleuthere du Pont Pavilion. When that namesake was convicted of the murder of Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dave Schultz the current name came into usage. Du Pont is the subject of the 2014 film Foxcatcher, in which he is portrayed by Steve Carell and Dave Schultz by Mark Ruffalo. Channing Tatum is also in the movie as Schultz’s brother Mark.


The Pavilion replaced the Villanova Field House as home to Villanova basketball. That building still exists just next door and has since been renamed the Jake Nevin Field House. The Pavilion was closed between 2017-2018 for a major remodel. In 2018 the newly remodeled and renamed Finneran Pavilion open again.


The Wildcats had been part of the Big East since 1980. DePaul University, Georgetown University, Marquette University, Providence College, Seton Hall University, St. John's University, and Villanova University chose to split from the football playing schools in order to focus on basketball. In 2013 these schools retained the existing Big East Conference name, logos, and men's basketball tournament site while adding Butler University, Creighton University, and Xavier University. The football-playing members of the old Big East formed the American Athletic Conference. Much of the pre-2013 history is shared between the two conferences.


Villanova University is a private university located northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The school is named after Saint Thomas of Villanova and is the oldest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as it was founded in 1842. It is part of the Order of Saint Augustine within the Catholic church.


Food & Beverage 4

There are some very good food options at Villanova games. There are a few concession stands around the arena but there are also a few located at the new entrance to the arena. The options range from the regular arena standards to more creative tacos and other craft items.


Atmosphere 5

Not all Villanova games are held here at the Pavilion. They move a few Big East games a season to the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Philadelphia. That is a bit of a shame as the sound and atmosphere here are pretty fun. The on-campus arena just does not hold enough people for the biggest of games, even after remodeling. There is only so much space to go along. Finneran Pavilion is a very strange building. The ceiling itself is unique with its hyperbolic paraboloid roof providing some unique angles. The seating concourses are split between four direction-based stands.


The remodel effort took the best of the quirky facility and added more modern amenities and offerings. That along with the new, better main entrance has taken a very cool facility and made it into one of college basketball's best. There are cheerleaders, a good pep band, and mascot. All the usual college atmospherics is in place here. And the crowd can get quite loud. The concourses are still small in parts and shockingly way too wide also at parts. It is a fun place to wander around, but it is strange too.


Neighborhood 4

Villanova is part of the Main Line in Philadelphia. This area has some of the wealthiest towns in the country, including Lower Merion, Radnor, and Gladwyne. There are many food options in and around the area. Peace a Pizza (4 Station Road, Ardmore, PA) has good pizza by the slice, often with some unusual options. 333 Belrose Bar & Grille (333 Belrose, King Of Prussia, PA) is worth a bit of drive for high-end dining. Kelly's Taproom is the closest within walking distance and has many good food and drink options.


Wayne, PA is another popular area to explore before games. Pipeline Tacos and Teresa's Next Door are good options for food and drink respectively.


Of course, the city of Philadelphia is close by so many options exist in that large city. May I suggest Philip's Steaks at 2234 West Passyunk Avenue for traditional Philly cheesesteaks?


Fans 5

Villanova fans take the game pretty seriously. The student section is pretty lively and the general stands are filled with proud Wildcat fans.


All games are essentially sellouts, so the fans attend and do their part pretty well.


Access 3

Villanova University is located on Route 30/Lancaster Avenue, not very far from I-76 (Schuylkill Expressway). Route 30 is busy but is usually not a problem to drive on. Parking is plentiful around the stadium, although you may want to plan ahead a bit. There is no parking charge for basketball in general, but that will depend on the lot you choose.


Public transportation is close by as you can take a SEPTA train from 30th Street Station in downtown Philadelphia to the on-campus Villanova stop. Check the schedules for night and weekend games.


Return on Investment 5

Villanova basketball tickets at The Pavilion are sold out on a season ticket basis. Occasionally, individual tickets are available depending on the opponent.


Usually, you'll have to find tickets on the aftermarket. Depending on the opponent the prices will vary dramatically. Because of the arena size, it is no wonder they move some games into the larger venue downtown. If you can score a ticket to Finneran Pavilion it offers a great value, even if it is on the surface fairly high.


Extras 5

The roof of the Pavilion and the unique concourse system is worth a trip alone. It can be a bit frustrating to get from one area of the arena to another because of this unique setup. It is also a bit strange to see the seating sections arranged in such a dramatic setup.


Right inside the main entrance are many areas that commemorate the Villanova past along with their three national championships. The cool displays and the nice large entrance are worth a few extras by itself. The unique stands are also a great extra.


Final Thoughts

Finneran Pavilion is one of the most unique looking arenas around. It offers a great place to see some very high-quality basketball in a fun environment. In a world when some basketball arenas are getting larger and more corporate, it is good to know there is a building in Philadelphia that is a true classic hoops hall.

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