Cintas Center – Xavier Musketeers
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X Marks the Spot in Cincinnati
After debuting in 2000, the Cintas Center is finally making its mark as one of college basketball’s toughest places for opposing teams to play. Tucked into the school’s campus in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Evanston, frequent sellout crowds of 10,000+ pack the place to see the Musketeers square off against old rivals like Cincinnati and intense Big East competition.
The arena received a $5 million worth of renovations in 2017 that included LED lighting system, a new LED digital 360-degree fascia videoboard, improved WiFi, updated HD cable system in the premium seating and hospitality areas, and new HD crystal, clear TV screens throughout the main concourse.
Courtside seating was also expanded and renovated, the club above the lower bowl end zone turned into a “Living Room” section with all-inclusive food and drinks and the major addition “The Lookout,” built above the student section where an elevated walkway used to sit.
Xavier basketball possesses an impressive winning percentage at home since the arena opened, making it one of the top five home court advantages in all of college basketball. The Musketeers have also filled capacity at 100.3% in recent years making it one of the paramount sporting events in town and where X marks the spot in the Queen City for basketball.
Food & Beverage 4
The food choices are mostly traditional stadium fare with prices in the $4-$8 range. A recommended find is the “Prime Time Player,” a smoked sausage topped with fried onions, pulled pork and barbecue sauce from local favorite Montgomery Inn.
Beer is sold across the main concession areas, with domestics on draft for $7. You can find a wider selection and a great view of the action at D’artagnan’s Deck, at the top of the upper bowl behind Section 200. There’s a rotating selection here with a number of local brews available.
Even with the usual sellout crowd, concessions don’t appear overwhelmed with the lines flowing somewhat smoothly. The arena’s wider concourses in these areas definitely help keep the flow of arena traffic moving, even with long lines.
Cintas Center is actually a multipurpose facility, with a conference center butting up against the arena and various athletic and campus functions tucked into space. With the steep pitch of the seating bowls and the short distance from the floor to the back row, the sight lines are great from nearly every spot. Multipurpose setups like this can easily end up feeling sterile, but Xavier has avoided that with good design and the school’s continued investment in the game experience.
Hosting Big East programs at Cintas has brought a new age of competition to campus. During the 2015-2016 season, the Musketeers defeated #1 Villanova in front a Cintas-record crowd. They continued their rivalry with Butler and defeated every other Big East member here, except for Georgetown. This is a new era. Led by Coach Chris Mack, Xavier is slowly but surely shedding its mid-major tag and fans are getting the opportunity to see some of the top competition in the country.
As for the rivalry with Cincinnati, after the fight and the off-kilter neutral site games, the tradition has returned with alternating annual games back to the campus venues (Xavier hosted and won in 15-16). The Crosstown Shootout feels whole again.
The University Station development near Cintas Center has finally filled in. The mix of campus housing and street-level retail has brought some life to what was long an empty lot at the gateway to the university area. It does feature a number of food options, but since it is aimed at the college crowd, most are quick service shops like Starbucks and donut bakeries along with a Gold Star Chili.
There are a number of restaurants just off-campus including Betta’s Italian Oven, a popular pregame spot near the corner of Cleneay and Montgomery Road. A short drive north on Montgomery will lead you to Gordo’s (4328 Montgomery), featuring one of the city’s best burgers along with a creative beer list.
Across the street from campus is one of the city’s best microbreweries, Listerman Brewing Company. The small, unassuming building offers everything from pale ales and IPA’s to peanut butter porters and vanilla and cinnamon stouts. A great place to meet before taking in a Musketeers game.
Xavier fans are diehard. They are led by the student section and generate a great amount of noise to help make this a formidable place for foes to have to come into. Being the smaller of the city’s two fan bases imbues a die-hard quality for Xavier fans and they turn up and pack Cintas Center.
If you’re coming to the area via the Dana Avenue exit off I-71, it’s best to give yourself some time as the road toward campus can back up before big games. If coming from the north, you may find an easier path by taking SR-562 (a.k.a. the Norwood Lateral as it runs between the city’s two north-south interstates) and exiting at the US-22 (Montgomery Road). Then head west and turn left onto Montgomery. Follow this for a mile and you’ll encounter signs for the large basketball parking lot.
Return on Investment 5
Xavier’s play through the 2015-2016 regular season was unprecedented, with school record-setting rankings in both the AP & USA Today Coaches Poll. In a competitive Big East that sent five teams to the 2016 tournament, the Musketeers posted a 14-4 conference record to finish second. As further evidence of the intimidating atmosphere at home, Xavier went 15-1 at Cintas. A talented, competitive team and a great fan experience make a game worth the expense.
Points for the continued improvement of the Cintas Center. The craft beer bar up top and new courtside seating are already in place, now as part of a seven-year project, renovations will touch all facets of the athletic experience. Initially, the focus will be on improvements for the university’s student-athletes, including strength training upgrades and a new academic center. The focus will then move to the fan experience with new seating options.
An evening at the Cintas Center is everything one would expect from college basketball at this level. A talented team, die-hard fans, improved technology and guest services, and capacity crowds create an experience at a Musketeer basketball game worth the expense.
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Hyatt Regency Cincinnati
151 W 5th St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
150 W Fifth St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
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