January 25, 2020
Beeghly Center (Capacity: 6,300)
Youngstown State Penguins vs Green Bay Phoenix
Final Score: 98 – 94 (OT)
After seeing football in the fall, I made a winter trip back to Youngstown State to finish seeing the school’s main athletic facilities. Anchoring the Mahoning Valley in Eastern Ohio is this Rust Belt city. Y-Town has really struggled since the fall of the steel industry as they have lost more than 60% of their population over the last several decades. The city hasn’t really recovered as only small pockets of economic success exists. Youngstown State is a big part of the city as this public research university has 15,000 students, many of them considered commuters. Their sports teams have the nickname “Penguins” and while they’ve done well in football, it has been the opposite in basketball. Following a successful period a level below, Youngstown State has only had 8 winning seasons out of their 38 in Division 1. After some initial conference jumping, the Penguins have settled into the Horizon League, where they are still looking for their first NCAA Tournament berth. The team plays in the Beeghly Center, a multi-purpose facility that opened in 1972.
Prestige Ranking: 3 out of 5
YSU is located within the city and the tight-on-space campus is just a bit north of downtown. That downtown area is generally quiet, but it does have some activity along a section of West Federal Street. Youngstown’s limited attractions are centered on museums and their locations are in a good spot as there are multiple ones both within and near to YSU. Running through campus is Wick Ave, where you can find the well-regarded Butler Institute of American Art. The Museum of Industry and Labor is right where YSU begins to give way to downtown. The Beeghly Center is in the northeast part of campus, within a cluster of athletic facilities. Food around the stadium stinks as it consists of a McDonald’s across the street and other fast food joints nearby. Around the center of campus are college eats. The best option is a 15-minute walk to the east, where the historic restaurant “MVR” is located (open ‘til 12 AM).
Location Ranking: 5.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Being between Cleveland and Pittsburgh means good interstate access. I-80 and I-76 are the major nearby highways with I-680 going into the city. The arena is next to 5th Ave, just off the Madison Ave Expressway (Route 422). Two parking areas are nearby with the M-70 surface lot being the better option because the M-60 garage is ridiculously tight (clearance is only 6’3”). Traffic coming in was non-existent, while leaving wasn’t bad either as there are multiple options to get you back to a highway.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 7.5 out of 8
Because the Beeghly Center includes more than a basketball arena, the building is elongated and not in a traditional arena shape. With a light-colored brick and a concrete top, the design is dull, reminiscent of the architectural era it was built in. There is no sign for the name on the façade. The floor to ceiling windows in the main foyer makes the exterior a little nicer.
Exterior Ranking: 2.5 out of 10
The first steps in are confusing because the ticket windows are actually these huts right next to the doors. Not only is it unclear that this is where to get tickets, but there are also are no signs for Will Call. That leads to a lot of employee questions and the space is tight too because people with tickets are trying to come in. Once past that oddity, a main foyer acts as a gathering area and the place for food. From here, fans can walk further to enter the arena at floor-level for the reserved seats. The other option is to climb a set of stairs, pass through a well-done hallway of displays and enter at the General Admission level. This same sort of set-up is mimicked on the other side of the building (you have to walk through the arena to get there). A couple of different turns will you lead down a hallway that may feature a weight room, swimming pool or basketball office. Bathrooms are not clearly marked and each one is quite small on space.
Concourse Ranking: 2 out of 5
The Main Foyer features a pretzel cart and a food stand with a few more items than I expected. Among the burgers and hot dogs are Pepperoni Rolls, Apple Pecan Chicken Salad and a Caesar Salad. There was no pizza or French fries. They did have beer, including locally-produced Penguin City.
Food Ranking: 3.5 out of 8
Seating is separated between sidelines and ends as wall protrusions separate the two (though with a nice shade of red and a Penguin logo). On the sides, the lower half is made up of red chairbacks and despite being tight and cramped, they offer the best perspective and comfort within the gym. Further up are wooden bleachers that are loosely attached. Each time someone walks up or down the makeshift stairs, the subsequent motion makes it feel like there is an earthquake. Seats are hard and you definitely don’t want to be up here if there ever was a full house as the numbers on the benches would make for a tight squeeze. Obstructions are limited to the first few rows and also higher up, where an overhanging ceiling blocks the scoreboard. End seating is elevated higher than normal above the court and these are also bleachers, just not so high school like.
Interior Ranking: 5.5 out of 14
The square scoreboard is hung over center court and it is on the larger side. Despite arriving seven years ago, it has an older look given the fixated positions at the bottom for score info and the sides for player stats. The video screen in the middle is adequate, but the ESPN+ simulcast is a bit grainy. School wordmarks grace the top and corners.
Scoreboard Ranking: 3 out of 4
Veterans Plaza in front of the building on the outside makes for a poignant entrance. Along with a circular memorial, are touching honors for those with Youngstown ties that served in the military. After passing an interesting statue of a coach and athletes forming a tree, the bulk of the inside displays can be found a level above the main entrance. Centered by the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame, the beginning and end feature an inset honoring both Men and Women’s basketball. It’s a beautiful piece outlined in wood and illuminated by spotlights. Plaques, statues, retired jerseys and trophies really do both teams justice. Lacking is historical detail, but that’s nit-picky. Walking around further, you’ll see spots that are spruced up as the block “Y” and team color is prominent. For traditional honoree banners, YSU does that well too as they can be found above the end where the band sits. Most are for the Mid-Con titles that the women’s team won in the 90s.
Displays Ranking: 5 out of 6
Tickets are $10 for the bleachers and $14 for the seats with backs (they go up $2 the day of the game). This compares favorably with the rest of the Horizon League. Parking is $5 and programs are $2. For food, it is $6 to get a cheeseburger, $3.50 for a hot dog and $3.50 for a water. A 16oz Penguin City beer runs $7.
Cost Ranking: 7.5 out of 8
Attendance isn’t great with my estimates being between 1,000 and 1,500 for this Saturday afternoon affair. More could be expected of a big school in a mid-sized city, however this is typical of the Horizon League. In fact, YSU is actually in the top of half for league attendance as they fall in a category below the normal stalwarts (Wright State, NKU, Oakland). Editor’s Note: The Penguins finally had a good season in 2022-2023 as they won the league title and the fans really showed out with a couple sellouts. The Quarterfinal home game was packed, something that does not often happen with mid-majors (even #1 seeds).
Fan Support Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
The crowd interaction was better than expected for the attendance number. They clapped after each basket and they had some good pops for charges and other hustle plays. As YSU made a comeback, the fans really responded. The arena got loud after big baskets and many in the lower sections got to their feet. There was certainly some enthusiasm and passion nearing the end of the game and that is not always seen in this league. While student turnout was weak, the huge pep band more than made up for it. This energetic group entertained with their playing before the game, while during the game they made their presence felt when the opponent went to the free throw line. It wasn’t the usual scream and wave their hands…no, they sang songs and did other distracting chants.
Atmosphere Ranking: 9 out of 14
Did you know that Youngstown State is the only Division I school with the nickname “Penguins”? Their mascots are Pete and Penny……The facility is named after Leon A. Beeghly, a contributor to the school……Green Bay’s coach (Linc Darner) was a lunatic. Many college coaches are, so it’s not unusual. Every play, good ol’ Linc would have to scream out where his players should be and what they should be doing. Let them play coach!
This one from the get-go looked like it would be good. Both the Penguins and Phoenix were high scoring and they both sat mid-table in the Horizon League. It was close much of the way until UWGB broke open an 11-point lead with 8 minutes to play thanks to field goal shooting over 60%. YSU went on a 14-5 run to make it a game and the final minutes were highly entertaining as the teams traded baskets. Green Bay had the last say, but could not convert at the buzzer. For a second straight game, we go to overtime and Darius Quisenberry made an acrobatic layup with 11 seconds left to give the Penguins the lead 94-92. GB then turned it over and YSU sealed it at the line as they won by 4. Quisenberry finished with 24 while JayQuan McCloud had 30 points for Green Bay.