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  • Marc Viquez

Wellness and Events Center – NJIT Highlanders


Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.14

Wellness and Events Center

100 Lock St.

Newark, NJ 07102

NJIT Highlanders website Fitness and Wellness Center website

Year Opened: 2017 Capacity: 3,500

 

Impressive New Digs for NJIT Hoops


For several years, NJIT has waited for a new venue that befits its status as a Division I basketball team. The Estelle & Zoom Fleisher Athletic was barely adequate, seeming more like a high school gym in some respects. Finally, in 2017, the Wellness and Events Center was opened and it is certainly a shiny new addition to the campus. Not only is it the home court for the Highlanders men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as volleyball, it contains several other facilities for the student body at large. But Stadium Journey is only concerned with the experience as a men’s hoops home. So how does it compare to its predecessor? We went there to find out.

Food & Beverage 1

There is a single tiny concession stand with bags of chips and candy (M&Ms, Hershey bars, Starburst, Sour Patch Kids, etc.) for $2, and hot dogs for $3. Bottled soda (Pepsi products) and water are $3. As this is a campus venue, no alcohol is served.

Atmosphere 3

The building, with its silver siding over tinted windows, dominates a significant portion of the city block on which it lies. The main entrance is located at the corner of Lock and Warren Streets and upon entering, you will walk up a long hallway to get to the box office, with large windows on the left providing a view into a large gym below. After picking up a ticket, you walk through a set of doors into the court, which seats 3,500.

There are reserved box seats lower down on both sides of the court, and each end zone has single-seat benches without a back, along with a couple of rows of box seats. There is an upper section of metal benches on one side of the court, which is not sold but is open to sitting in if you prefer some space to yourself. Red dominates the scene, with all lower-level seats displaying this color.

The concourse is carpeted and encircles the entire seating bowl, though there is nothing to see as you make your way around. There is a team store near the concession stand.

Before the Highlanders are introduced, a nice promo video is played that gets the crowd going. During the breaks, there are a few contests and of course, the dance team and cheerleaders perform. There is no band, however.

Above one end is a large video scoreboard that is quite impressive, while the other side sports a smaller digital board.

The hashtag to use here is #ProtectTheWEC, which is mildly creative.

Neighborhood 2

The NJIT campus is just west of downtown Newark, but there is little around the actual venue. Rutgers-Newark campus is just down the road, and the Prudential Center is about a 15-minute walk, but that would not be advised, at least at night, as Newark is known as one of the most dangerous cities in the country. If you do decide to venture on foot, there are a couple of bars that are nearby, though both were mysteriously closed on the Saturday night I was in town. McGovern’s Tavern has been around since 1936, while Kilkenny Alehouse has a College Night on Thursdays and both looked inviting, though doors were locked. There is also a pub on campus, but that seems more suited for college kids. If you are looking for quick eats, Smashburger has a location just a block east on Warren Street, while Pizza Hut is a block north of Warren.

Fans 2

NJIT was the lone remaining independent in Division I hoops until they joined the Atlantic Sun conference in 2015. Despite having newfound conference rivals, the team doesn’t draw particularly well; with just over 600 announced for the game, I attended, meaning that fans who wanted a section to themselves got it. Those fans in attendance did watch the game and make some noise at the appropriate times, but it would be much more interesting if the team was able to rely on a stronger following.

Access 4

Getting here from NYC is quite easy – just take the PATH train from World Trade Center or NJ Transit from Penn Station to Newark, and then walk up Raymond Street if you are brave enough. If not, hop on the light rail to Warren Street; the 4-minute ride will cost $1.60. Note that weekend trains are only every 20 minutes.

Inside, you can walk around the concourse with no issues, and there are no ushers checking tickets. With so few fans, there are no lines anywhere.

Return on Investment 3

Tickets here are $10 for general admission, which is all you need as you can sit pretty much anywhere. In fact, you might be able to get in for free. After purchasing my ticket, I went through the door into the gym, looking for someone to scan or tear the ticket, but nobody was there.

NJIT is a mid-major school and they play entertaining basketball in a stadium that is maybe 20% full. If you like having space to stretch out and watch the game, this is the place for you.

Extras 0

There is nothing related to the history of the program on display at the WEC. There were displays at the Fleisher Center, which is still standing, so perhaps they will be moved at some time.

Final Thoughts

The WEC is a nice, new building that deserves more fans and some history on display to make it a more compelling destination for sports travelers who want to get off the beaten path in the New York City area.

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