Chaifetz Arena – St. Louis Billikens
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Witnessing the Bills Brings Thrills in St. Louis
The latest venue for the Saint Louis University basketball to call home is the Chaifetz Arena, named after one of the largest contributors to the institution, a former graduate. It is slowly getting a reputation as one of the finest entertainment values in the Gateway City and the ever-expanding area filled with restaurants and businesses only adds value to the experience.
Opening in Midtown in time for the 2008-09 season, it is a right-sized venue, not too small, not too big. The intimate atmosphere, pitch in the rows and close proximity to the court make you feel like you were shoe-horned into your seat. The arena is on the southeast edge of the campus footprint and the growth is to the west and north. Make sure you take in more than just the game.
The Billikens have had mixed success in recent years, but they are sure to compete in the Atlantic 10 and be at the top of the standings soon. There are lots of things to enjoy the game. Until regular success on the court comes, though, just know you are in for a treat when you attend one of the Billikens home basketball games.
Food & Beverage 3
Inside the Chaifetz Arena, there are six very large and well-staffed fixed concession stands so you shouldn’t encounter a long line even at high points during the most popular games. Each of the concession stands has different offerings, although it seems the three distinct offerings per location are available in two places so as to minimize the walk of fans from their seats.
There is nothing spectacular here to eat, just normal stuff. A jumbo hot dog is $4.50, the jumbo pretzel is $6.50, souvenir cup soda is $6.50 and a pizza slice is $5.75.
Despite being on campus, alcohol is available. Local bottled beer is $8.50.
If there is anything worthwhile to eat or drink here, it is in the form of local breweries (Schlafly on draft, $8.75, Urban Chestnut, and no, not Anheuser-Busch) and the loaded nachos (at $9.50 includes beef or chicken).
There is a restaurant at the lower level, but it is reserved for boosters and those who pay a membership. You will also see special food areas in rooms, separated from the main concourse with a glass wall. These, too, are reserved for boosters and those with memberships.
After several recent episodes of St. Louis getting bad publicity (i.e. Ferguson riots, Rams football team leaving), there is much to love about the city. A trip to Chaifetz Arena will help show off just how fun a visit to the city can be. And there is so much more to enjoy than basketball.
Begin planning your trip to see an SLU Billikens game with determining where to sit. There is an aisle which splits two sections, 104 on your left and 103 to your right. Incidentally, the Billikens logo, is upside down from where you are standing.
The SLU bench is directly in front of section 114 while the visitor’s bench is in front of section 115. The SLU bench is the furthest of the two benches from the student section and band, known as the “World’s Greatest Pep Band.” Wow, they are good!
One of the nice touches at Chaifetz is that there is no center scoreboard, a staple in most arenas. It has given way to four, enormous scoreboards fixed in the top corners of the seating area. Digital ribbon boards are affixed between the scoreboards in view at the lower edge of the upper deck.
The lower level seats in the 100 sections have 17-20 rows in them while the 200 sections contain 12-15 rows. As you are facing the court, seats are numbered 1 through the end of the row right to left, meaning your aisle seats is seat #1 while the seat to your left is #2, etc. Any seat in the arena is worthwhile, but some are better than others. For instance, avoid the top corners where the four enormous scoreboards are located. Sitting here will cause you to feel removed from the action and definitely in the dark.
Seats in the middle sections are padded while all of the others are blue plastic. Traditional bleachers fill the student section as their youthful vigor allows them to withstand a game by not relaxing in a chair back or because they are always standing, cheering and being appropriately raucous. Know that outside of those last rows of seats, it will seem like you are right on top of the court no matter where you sit. The arena’s acoustics add huge points to the atmosphere and are fantastic. My guess is the absence of a center scoreboard aids in this benefit.
The students and band, together between sections 118 and 122 in the west end, might be regarded as small in size, but they are mighty in sound. Do not count on lulls in the experience because these groups fill the void. As the game enters the second half, you will find some unique tunes belted out by the band. They clearly have an influence on the experience, something that is often overstated at events. The sea of blue is impressive.
For the money, the best seats are 200 level on the sidelines, facing the bend at the top of the section, row 1. Specifically, section 205 where you face the SLU bench (or section 202 if you want to face the visiting bench). You are close the street level concourse and there is enough overhang to keep you feeling like you are right on top of the action for $20 a ticket.
The corners of the main concourse are viewed from wider openings than what you find in most section entrances, thus closing off, but not completely, the view of the court while working the main straightaway. Inside, check out the Hall of Fame, near section 121-122 and learn more about the mysterious mascot and the team’s long athletic history.
The Midtown section has grown due to the steady and ambitious growth of the beautiful campus. There are increasing numbers of places to enjoy a pre-game meal or drink.
Consider Syberg’s on Market Street (known for their shark chunks), award-winning Pappy’s Smoke House and their sister business, Southern (get the fried chicken) just to the east. The latter two are down Lindell Blvd. At first glance, prices might seem high, but believe me when I say you get what you pay for.
The seating area is built to accentuate the noise, with a high pitch in the rows and an interior which allows for sound to bounce throughout the interior. It gets loud, as it should. Even with a crowd less than capacity, you would not know the building was less-than-full if your eyes were closed. That the rows are right on top of the court add to this intimidating sensation for visiting teams.
The fans never seem to do much cheering, but after a bucket or rebound, there is a thunderous roar of applause that resounds through the building.
SLU has one of the highest average attendances in the Atlantic 10 Conference and since the Billikens are the only D-I option in the Saint Louis area they are unanimously supported, even though there are many loyalties to the relatively nearby Missouri Tigers (two hours west) and the Fighting Illini in Champaign, Illinois (three hours northeast).
Most fans are seen wearing the classic blue, SLU apparel and you will walk in and see immediately what it means to enjoy Midwest hospitality. You might find yourself witnessing the experience of being welcomed and friendly people at a new level.
While St. Louis is known for a knowledgeable baseball fan base, they are no slouches when it comes to basketball.
There are six permanent concession stands in the upper level and several in the very lowest level where those in the lower courtside seats enjoy. The number is good enough for fans even during games which are near sellouts. Restrooms are plentiful and always clean.
The nearest light rail stations (Civic Center Station and Grand Station) are a mile from Chaifetz and neither are easy walks. It costs $2.50 each way for a regular fare and lesser for students and seniors.
Parking can be a bit of an issue. Street parking is available through an electronic meter. You can do so until 7 pm. After this time, the meters are free. You won’t find any free parking on the street. Don’t try to push the issue as you will get pinched.
Consider the peace of mind of paying a $5 fee and then walk three blocks away. Several lots surround the venue, but they cost $15 and $25. Across the street to the east, the Harris-Stowe University lot directly across from Gate D costs $15. The parking garage to the North and across the beautiful pond and softball fields are for subscribers/ticket holders.
There is one ticket office, located just inside Gate B on the north side of the arena.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets run between $14 and $30 which is about average for Division I basketball. Concessions are reasonable. Assuming you go for the cheap seats two tickets will cost you $38, add that to $20 for a sandwich and drink, and $5 parking. That is $63 for two people, just about right for A10 action. It’s a great arena and you will have a good time.
Proud of their rich history in education as well as athletics, make sure to walk the main concourse and look high on both sides for images and dated benchmarks which express the pride the school has in pioneering higher education and promoting achievements.
Then, just outside section 121-122 and connecting to the outer wall of the main concourse is the Hall of Fame. There you can read more about what a “Billiken” is and other interesting facts about the school’s athletic history. They used to have a football team. And, did you know the SLU Billikens used to hold the record for the most attendance in an NCAA hockey game? The team played at the St. Louis Arena, former home of the NHL’s Blues for several years, and set the mark during the latter part of their tenure. Set aside 20 minutes just to look at this row of artifacts and historically significant pieces.
Free programs are available and they are a quality publication providing everything you need and of a smaller size, which is perfect for fans in the modern sports entertainment environment.
Get dialed in without using your data plan by connecting with the SLUFest free wireless connection. It provides a strong signal in most areas inside.
I love buildings without center-hung scoreboards. The amount of space opened up is remarkable and whether it be hockey or basketball, the difference is incredible. The four nicely-angled video boards in the high corners provide replays and updated statistics. You will not miss what you might be used to from typical arenas.
Chaifetz Arena is a first-class arena inside and out in a wonderful city that has a lot to offer. The Billikens have a proud, rich history that is on display throughout the building that is a perfect way to spend a night at a sporting event in a major city.
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