An expansive winter storm cancelled a basketball trip I had planned last weekend and while I moved that to later next month, I still had a thirst for some college basketball as it has been a long time since I’ve seen it live. So, Tuesday I took a half day and made the drive to Albany for a Siena Saints game at MVP Arena. This large, downtown facility has had plenty of tenants, most notably an AHL team (River Rats, then the Devils) and I actually visited 20 years ago. They never supported this brand of hockey well and when the team moved to Binghamton in 2017, nothing replaced it. Various other minor-league teams have and do play here, like indoor lacrosse and arena football, however, the mainstay has been this small private school with a campus 20 minutes away. They’ve played their basketball games downtown for decades now and they draw quite well for a MAAC school, even though the arena is not great for college basketball.
Before the game, I got to the Capital District a bit early to do some touring. I hate driving into Albany as roads can be confusing, especially around the 787 interchange and that Arterial that loops underground the Empire State Plaza. I’ve explored that area before and went to the State Museum. This time on my visit, I went up the Corning Tower and self-toured the Capitol building. Both were awesome as I am a sucker for overhead views and elaborate architecture. I wish I had more time but I wanted dinner before the game and not concession food. There are several options around the arena, most of which are small, but sufficient places. I went with The Spinning Gyro and I really wanted to like it, yet the gyro platter let me down. Being a Tuesday Night, it was fairly empty downtown. Inside, it did fill up to a respectable level given weeknight low-major basketball and it is a crowd that never is rowdy, but one that is certainly into the game. Siena brings a lot of cheerleaders and a dance team and having their chants/cheers go over the speaker, along with the pep band, helps with the missing “college-feel” in this large arena.
MVP Arena is a bland large building that is in the shape of an oval with a lower deck and upper deck. The second level is curtained off for Siena games, but they don’t block off entry and the curtain begins after the first row of seats. So, I went up there and sat in a little cutout section alone, which was a beautiful elevated look at the game. This was much more preferred because down below, seats are far from the floor and each row is horribly cramped, leading to a rather uncomfortable watching experience despite the cushy seat. The Saints won 73-65 over Canisius as Siena took control not long after going down 6-0 to start the game. Lots of dunks in this one and efficient shooting made this an enjoyable game to watch. Plus, how can you not resist rooting for the home team when this lovable guy comes out on the floor….