Photo Courtesy of Austin Peay University
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Winfield Dunn Center Marion Street & Drane St Clarksville, TN 37040
Year Opened: 1975
Austin Peay State University, named for former Tennessee Governor Austin Peay, who served from 1923-1927, was founded in 1927 and has a current undergraduate enrollment of nearly 10,000 students, with close to another 1,000 in post-graduate programs.
APSU basketball has a history and tradition that’s rich enough to justify relatively high expectations. Legendary head coach Dave Loos has been in that position since 1990 and has led the Governors to three NCAA Tournament bids. The program has a total of six trips to the Big Dance.
Dave Loos has been at Austin Peay so long that his signature is literally scribbled in large letters on the Dunn Center floor. The basketball court was named Dave Loos Court in the fall of 2007.
The Governors won their 350th game at Dunn Center in a 93-57 victory over Dalton State College on December 30th, 2013.
Three of the OVC’s all-time greatest players wore Austin Peay colors. James ‘Fly’ Williams (1972-73), Charles ‘Bubba’ Wells (1993-1997) and Trenton Hassell (1997-2001) help put this school in the national conscience, but no one player did more to make Austin Peay a nationally recognized school than Fly Williams. Williams’ immense success in two years in Clarksville is the reason behind the Dunn Center — The House That Fly Built. Austin Peay broke ground in 1973 and opened The House That Fly Built in 1975.
The Dunn Center is a multi-purpose arena and seats 7,257. Most sports fans know it as the home of Governors basketball, but the Harlem Globetrotters have also played at Dunn Arena, visiting in early 2014. In 1976, Lynyrd Skynyrd brought their immensely popular Southern Rock show to Dunn Arena. Musical acts of all genres have played the Dunn Center since its 1975 opening, proving it’s a great concert venue, as well.
Food & Beverage 3
Other than the option to purchase some of MC’s Sweet Roasted Nuts when you first enter the main atrium area of Dunn Arena, you will find the standard menu board of concession sustenance. I give a bonus star for the ability to buy two hot dogs and two sodas for well under $20.
The game presentation is traditional without being boring. It’s also creative, while at the same time paying homage to small-college basketball. Intimate, yet grand enough to be intimidating if the building is full.
Sprawled across a white wall are big, block red letters spelling “HALL OF FAME,” and under those letters are plaques alongside glass cases containing jerseys and relics of ‘Peay legends James “Fly” Williams, Charles “Bubba” Wells and Trenton Hassell, who appear to motion you over to greet them upon entering the glass doors to the small front atrium of the Dunn Center.
In this same small area you can order freshly roasted nuts from MC’s Sweet Roasted Nuts or stop off at the concessions for a hot dog and soda (or Coke, as us Southerners universally refer to any drink with a concoction of carbonation, caramel color and corn syrup) before entering a second set of glass doors to the lower level of the Dunn Center arena. Actually, if you have your head turned in conversation, you may walk right into the pep band and trip right onto the court under the basket within ten steps of walking inside the arena, so pay attention, will ya? If you are paying attention, a quick left once entering the Dunn Center will lead you to a set of stairs that will wind its way to the second level of the arena, providing great sight lines to enjoy the action.
There are doors on either side of the Hall of Fame wall that lead to the arena, so if you choose the right side, heed the above advice, only take a right to hit the stairs to enjoy the second level views.
The pep band is fun and entertaining. They slap the bass, pound the drums and blow the horns in perfectly loud harmony to remind you that you are at a college basketball game. There’s no sound quite like that of the pep band’s music and loud snare drum ricocheting off the walls of a basketball arena/gym.
The creative side of the game presentation shows off for the first time when the visiting team’s lineup is announced and The Who’s “Who Are You” blares from the speakers. The pep band gets involved and yells sweet nothings at the innocent players dressed in the wrong color jerseys as each name is announced.
The home team is announced with the house lights down and a number of spotlights shining brightly and dancing with the thumping beats of bass as the overhead scoreboard shows highlights of high-flying and rim-rattling jams from previous games.
The student section really does a good job at filling its seating in the lower level bleachers on the left side of the arena (direction based on the description of entering from the Hall of Fame atrium). The students are noisy, but not offensive. That’s more than can be said for some boisterous student sections across the country.
During the course of the game, the more veteran fans encourage each player by his first name like a parent, aunt or uncle that comes to every game to support their family member.
The Dunn Center’s atmosphere has enough creativity to keep you entertained, but the entertainment of the non-game portions of the evening does not overwhelm the simplicity and tradition of the game, such as the thump of each dribble hitting the floor or the squeak of each player’s sneakers as they run up and down the floor.
Oh, and the unofficial official cheer is “Let’s Go Peay!” So yes, this is the greatest cheer of all time and the makers of Flomax could really do some damage with a little creative product placement.
Clarksville, Tennessee has many faces. There’s the mall section of town right off Interstate 24’s Exit 4 on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard. There’s the car dealership portion of town at the end of Wilma Rudolph Boulevard and portions of Madison Street. There’s the more neighborhood-centric section of Clarksville arteries like 101st Airborne Division Highway. Clarksville is only a 15-minute drive to the northwest from the Fort Campbell military post, hence the road named for the 101st Airborne. There’s even a Riverside Drive which – you guessed it – rides parallel to the Cumberland River.
My favorite part of Clarksville, however, is nestled in the heart of the city. This portion of town is shared by downtown Clarksville and Austin Peay University’s campus. You’d be hard-pressed to find a chain or franchise restaurant in this area.
Two local treats you must absolutely taste when visiting are Blackhorse Pub & Brewery and Looking Glass Restaurant and Bakery. Blackhorse is in the downtown district, while Looking Glass is actually off of 101st Airborne Division Highway on Warfield. Both are relatively easy to find now that most folks have smart phones with navigation or a navigation system in their vehicles.
Nothing stands out about the fans, but that’s okay. What I enjoyed most was the look and sound of disgust with the first half performance of the team. I walked back to the main atrium to take a closer look at the concessions and Hall of Fame when I heard fans complaining. “What are they doing out there?,” one guy asked his friend in frustration as they waited in line for something to eat. The first-half performance from the home team was not great and the fans were grumbling. They didn’t boo the players. They grumbled amongst themselves.
Complaining fans indicate high expectations and high expectations indicate past success. The Govs have been to a total of six NCAA Tournaments, with three of those coming under head coach Dave Loos.
The product on the floor is not great for the time being, so the excitement level is not high, and I give the fans that were in attendance credit for doing their part to affect the outcome of the game and cheer the Govs to victory. Unfortunately, in order to get a higher ranking, the energy of your fan base has to make it difficult to decipher if the team on the floor has a 15-0 or 0-15 record.
Clarksville is very easy to access off Exit 11 of Interstate 24 if you’re driving in from Nashville or Exit 4 if you’re coming in from the northwest. Once in Clarksville, you can follow the signs to campus with relative ease.
Restrooms and concessions inside of Dunn Arena can be reached without much fuss, but you will have to walk down near the court to get to a restroom if you sit on the lower level. In other words, you feel like you’re in high school again when you would walk the entire length of the court to get to the restroom and it never failed that a thumping hip hop jam would be bumping from the P.A. which made you feel even dorkier, because you ended up walking to the beat and you were scared everyone was pointing at you saying, “Look at the dude headed to restroom. He’s really into this tune.”
Maybe I was a little anxiety-ridden and was the only one that felt that, but if I’m not the only one, then you will want to sit on the side closest to the glass doors to the atrium, because you know the APSU game-presentation team would decide to crank out Nuthin’ But A Gangsta Party just to see how the crowd likes it.
Return on Investment 5
The price of admission ($10 for adults, $8 for youths) versus the product on the court still makes for a great ROI, even with the team not reminding anyone of the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
Blackhorse Pub & Brewery
Per LocalEats.com review — Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, a welcoming restaurant and brewpub in historic downtown Clarksville, has weathered it all since opening in 1992, including a devastating 1999 tornado. Craft beer and gourmet pizzas are the calling cards, although the Blackhorse has a surprisingly diverse menu. Try the beer sampler on your first visit … or go straight for their signature Barnstormer Red Ale.
Serving lunch and dinner daily
Open late on Friday and Saturday night
Personal Endorsement and Recommendation – Any pizza on the menu. Pick one. It’s hard to mess it up.
Looking Glass Restaurant and Gourmet Bakery
Per LocalEats.com review — At the Looking Glass Restaurant and Gourmet Bakery, everything behind the doors belies its modern retail-center exterior. It’s whimsical, artsy and eclectic in atmosphere, complete with a Zen garden dining patio. It’s the only place in Clarksville where you can have lavishly prepared waffles and omelets for breakfast … and a romantic dinner at night. The dessert selection is nothing short of incredible, including Oh-My-Gosh Chocolate with Ganache icing.
Beer and wine available
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday – Saturday
Closed on Sunday
Personal endorsement and recommendation — The cafe is as good as the food. They have a hot drink that somehow has the flavor of a Snickers bar without having to chew. It’s magical. It’s more of a dining experience than it is just a place to sit down and eat. Looking Glass is great for those who love an upscale and elegant dining experience without the intimidation and stuffiness of a white table cloth establishment. It’s where upscale and elegant meet warm and casual.