EagleBank Arena

February 27, 2022
EagleBank Arena (Capacity: 7,860)
Fairfax, VA
George Mason Patriots vs George Washington Colonials
Final Score: 69 – 62

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The second part of a college basketball doubleheader in the region came here in the small city of Fairfax. This place of 24,000 is one of many suburbs that makes up the Northern Virginia portion of the DC Metropolitan area. It is also one of the more desirable areas as it has some character. Within the confines of Fairfax is George Mason University, the largest school in the state with over 40,000 students. This public university was actually founded by the University of Virginia in 1949 and it has become a well-regarded institution. Patriots’ basketball became Division I in the late 70s and it’s been over a decade since they’ve made the NCAA Tournament. Of their six appearances, by far the biggest for the school was in 2006 when they made the Final Four. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of that team (don’t forget what Tony Skinn did to a Hofstra player’s groin in the conference tournament), I remember their achievement vividly. As an almost exclusive follower of low-mid major teams, it was a crowning achievement that I didn’t think was possible and has since been replicated five times. EagleBank Arena has been their home court since 1985 and while it doesn’t have the modern-day amenities, it has an interior built for noise.
Prestige Ranking: 3 out of 5

Location

The center of Fairfax is a couple miles north of George Mason and this area around Main Street has many historic buildings. A couple of them house small museums and around the Old Town Square are several restaurants. Fairfax isn’t exactly an area that can be described as a big, bustling college town, but it is a nice place to go through. Northern Virginia has a good amount to offer as well with Alexandria, Mount Vernon and Manassas being worthy visits. The attractions of DC are about 20 miles to the Northeast.
Location Ranking: 6 out of 10

Accessibility / Parking

Many in the region use mass transit to get around and unfortunately there is not a Metro (subway) station near campus. At least the school does offer a shuttle bus from the Vienna station. Otherwise, if you don’t get stuck in the notorious area traffic, I-66 and I-495 make for fairly easy approaches to Fairfax. Route 123 brings you to campus and finding the arena in the southern section is quite easy. Multiple large lots are available for parking and on weekends, this is a cinch. Weeknights are more difficult, because this mostly commuter school has many of the lots used by students.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 6.5 out of 8

Exterior

EagleBank Arena is a nearly perfect hexagon and from the outside, it has two looks: a brick bottom half and a white paneled upper half. The facility name is boldly put on each panel where there is an entrance and I appreciate the directional naming of the gates as it helps when you are trying to meet someone or find the box office. Corner pillars have a rounded 50th anniversary GMU logo. Rocks, trees and shrubbery surround the facility, obstructing it in spots, but making for nice aesthetics.
Exterior Ranking: 6.5 out of 10

Concourse

The concourse circles the arena and entrances into the seating area put you into the middle of the bowl. I love all the green and yellow-ish/gold throughout as the look is very appropriate. Tall walls really make it stand out since they are all painted that gold-like color. Ceilings are tiled and the floor is bronze which help contribute to the clean design. Space is adequate thanks to the fairly wide entranceways as these help to space things out. The one area that is crowded is a make shift spot for the Patriot Club. They block it off with curtains, which not only makes it look cheap but also congests the walkway. Bathrooms are fine, while concession lines are long because not many are open.
Concourse Ranking: 3.5 out of 5

Food

They’ve tried some different things for food that haven’t come back after past attempts and it leaves a menu featuring basics with multiple variations. For example, there are five different chicken sandwiches with different toppings or sauces. Same things for the burger. Beer and wine are sold now at the games and the most popular stand on this afternoon was the ice cream one, especially those looking for a Brownie Sundae.
Food Ranking: 5 out of 8

Interior

EagleBank Arena has an intimidating look if you enter from a visiting team perspective. Sections alternating from green to gold include rows of seats that go from the floor to the ceiling. With nearly 8,000 seats…that is a ton of rows! One will surely lose their breath if hiking from the bottom to top as it is steep too. That makes for great sightlines from pretty much any perspective as the arena goes around in a rounded rectangle. Closer to the baseline, corners are partially open as a couple sections of pullout bleachers are used for end sections that still include an individual chair. For the rest of the bowl, there is good spacing between the rows, while the chairs are a little tight and hard, but not uncomfortable. Luxury seating is noticeably absent, a surprise for a school of this size and stature. The ceiling is low and lighting is on the darker side during gameplay.
Interior Ranking: 9 out of 14

Scoreboard

The arena bowl is so cavernous that the center scoreboard actually looks swallowed up by it, in spite of it being an average size. It is made up of four video screens and they put game information in a row at the bottom of the live picture. I had no problem seeing what I needed and the live / replay action was seen well on the clear board. An EagleBank Arena sign is unobtrusively on top of the main scoreboard. In a very high spot in each end of the arena is a very tiny scoreboard that features green numbers for the score. A relatively new addition is the video graphic above each concourse opening. There’s a lot of them and most feature the same message. During the game, the corner concourse ones have player stats, while the middle ones have an advertisement.
Scoreboard Ranking: 3.5 out of 4

Displays

Outside the South entrance is an interesting sculpture called “Man Awakening To His Consciousness”. Man, I really don’t get art. Inside, a mural of the ’06 Final Four team is located above the South Entrance wall. It is large enough to make it a good honor, but something like that I thought would a get a more elaborate display. There were a few player honors with past achievements above each section entrance. Overall, I was underwhelmed. The rafters of the arena feature the years of each NCAA and NIT appearance on one side and league banners on the other. The former is a little plain jane. The end of the arena gets a large Final Four logo for that achievement.
Displays Ranking: 2.5 out of 6

Cost

Parking was surprisingly free and tickets were fair given the product and area. Seats can be had for $15 while the ones with the best sightlines went for $25 or $45 (excluding a good amount of online fees). You can easily buy the cheapest one and then move around. Curiously, I had difficulty buying single seats as the online website was making you buy them in pairs, which I don’t understand given the plethora that was available. Concession prices were out of whack with a Hot Dog costing $7 and a simple Cheeseburger going for a mind-boggling $13. Water was $7 and Beer was $11.
Cost Ranking: 6.5 out of 8

Fan Support

This Sunday Afternoon game had a pedestrian turnout as not even half of the building filled up (my guess is 2500-3000 in attendance). Talking to season seat holders, it does seem that the Covid period has had an impact on attendance as prior years had better crowds. Being a part of the DC pro market and near to Maryland/Georgetown, it certainly is a challenge to attract dedicated followers beyond alumni and students. Within the A-10, Mason is middle of the pack when it comes to fan support. Student turnout is a mixed bag as this daytime game featured a disappointed smattering of the college kids. They sat the whole time as appearances by the more organized, louder and standing G-Force is sporadic (though everyone will certainly show for the VCU game).
Fan Support Ranking: 5 out of 8

Atmosphere

The crowd had a solid ebb/flow to it. They were notably irritated as shots continued to rim out. However, as the Patriots made their late game run, they got louder and several stood during the big buckets. It is more of a family atmosphere / “GMU is not my main team” sorta vibe, but they still brought an OK atmosphere. The architecture of the building has so much potential to be deafening and I’m sure in the glory days of the Colonial, it occasionally reached that level. One thing that does enhance the atmosphere is the Green Machine. More than a pep band, this collaboration features musicians, dancers and singers as they are led by the exuberant Doc Nix. The sound is certainly edgier than a regular band, but they entertain and add to what a Mason game is all about.
Atmosphere Ranking: 8.5 out of 14

Other Stuff

It’s interesting that the school only goes with “Mason” in their logo as the “George” part is missing. Not sure if there is a reason to that…..Annual rivals include James Madison and VCU, which date back to their days in the Colonial. VCU in particular is a heated game that draws a big crowd each year. A newish rival since moving to the A-10 is George Washington as it has been dubbed the “Revolutionary Rivalry”. The Athletic Departments play for the Tri-Corner Hat Trophy each year……The arena was known as the Patriot Center until 2015 and it is also a frequent host for concerts.

Game

Turnovers and missed shots held back GMU for much of this game as they started an incredible 1 for 20 from beyond the arc. GW built a ten-point lead in the second half, however the shots finally started falling at the right time for the Patriots. Down 62-56 with 5 minutes to play, Mason went on a 13-0 run to close out the game and make the comeback for the win. Josh Oduro had 27 points and 13 rebounds.

Stadium Experience Ranking: 65.5 out of 100

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