- Richard Smith
Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena – UMBC Retrievers
Photos by Richard Smith and Gary Butterworth , Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
UMBC Event Center 1000 Hilltop Cir Baltimore, MD 21250
Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena website
Year Opened: 2018
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County is most commonly referred to as UMBC. Located about 15 minutes west of Baltimore between the suburbs of Arbutus and Catonsville, the university has just under 15,000 students. Sciences and Engineering are some of the highest-profile programs at UMBC, although there are over 50 undergraduate majors and more than 60 graduate programs in total.
The university began in 1966 and is a sister college to The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as well as Towson University and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
Freeman A. Hrabowski III has been the charismatic president of UMBC since 1992. Born in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, Hrabowski has a unique surname for an African-American, as his family gained that name from his great-great-grandfather, Eaton Hrabowski, who was a Polish-American “slave master.” He is the co-author of the books, Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males and Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Women. UMBC has risen from a small, largely unknown commuter college to one of the region’s most innovative universities.
Sports have not always had great success at UMBC.
Lacrosse and soccer are the biggest sports, along with the amazing chess team. Chess has won the Pan American Chess Tournament 9 times between 1996 and 2009. Former team captain Alexander Onischuk went on to become the United States Champion in 2006. Lacrosse is a usual fixture on the scene and is a common sight in the NCAA tournament. Men’s soccer made the Final Four of college soccer, the College Cup, in 2015, eventually losing on the biggest stage around.
Basketball came behind a few other sports on campus. But on March 16, 2018, the Retriever team became the first 16th seed to knock off a number 1 seed, Virginia, in the NCAA tournament’s history. Now UMBC and the Retriever name is well known to many sports fans.
The UMBC Event Center was opened just a couple of months before that historic win and it replaced the Retriever Athletic Center (RAC).
Food & Beverage 2
The UMBC Events Center really has subpar food offerings. There are a couple of concession stands offering no real variety. The concourse is open and has plenty of space for additional offerings.
The arena still seems very new. It also seems to be designed for concerts and events just as much as being a sports venue.
The seats are designed in a horseshoe shape with a wall on the east end. UMBC has a video board on that end, but no scoreboard over the court. That seems weird to see, but is obviously a nod to the concerts and events also held here.
The college is often known as a commuter college. They have had more students living on campus in recent years, but students still do not show up in large numbers.
The upper deck is often not used, except for bigger games.
There is no neighborhood around UMBC. The campus is located between the Arbutus and Catonsville neighborhoods of Baltimore County. Downtown Baltimore is roughly a 15 to 20-minute drive down I-95.
Fans may want to stop into some of the shops and restaurants that line Frederick Road in Catonsville for pre-game activities. Taneytown Deli (807 Frederick Rd) and Duesenberg’s (10 Mellor Ave) both have limited hours but they are the best bets for stopping before afternoon games. Peace-A-Pizza at 15 Mellor Ave offers some very unique pizza options in a family friendly environment. For adults, Jennings Cafe (808 Frederick Road) is a nice neighborhood bar. A great Chinese takeout called China Kitchen is located in Arbutus at 4642 Wilkens Avenue.
That quick drive to Baltimore opens up a world of activities and dining options. One of my favorite in the city is, the Abbey Burger Bistro, near the Cross Street Market at 1041 Marshall Street. The beer selection is good and they offer a large array of burger choices, and all are likely to satisfy.
The crowds are pretty loud for the medium size numbers that they draw. Over time, this new arena and the fans it will draw in will be a good boost to the team.
The UMBC campus is easy to access, as it is located off of the Route 166 / Exit 47B of I-95. You will be routed directly into the campus without even going onto any surface streets.
Weekday games, while school is in session, may involve looking a bit harder for parking spaces, although it is doubtful this will be much of an issue.
If you venture around through the nearby towns of Arbutus and Catonsville, you will use area roads like Wilkens Avenue, Frederick Road, and Rolling Road. You may need a GPS, as these roads tend to ramble a bit.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets are generally under $20 and have a good value.
Free lineups are a nice extra.
The best extra is the signage celebrating their historic win over Virginia.
The Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena is a major improvement over the old RAC and is a good home for this mid-major program.