GSU Sports Arena – Georgia State Panthers
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The Panthers Pit
Georgia State University was founded in 1913 and for most of its existence was a commuter school with predominately night classes. That all changed in the late 1990s, as the school began to construct dormitories and other types of student housing near GSU’s urban campus. Today Georgia State University is the largest school in the Georgia University System, with more than 60,000 students spread over several campuses.
Georgia State’s basketball program did not start until 1963 when the school joined the NCAA. The athletic teams are known as the Panthers, and they have been members of the Sun Belt Conference since 2013. The school has been very successful in basketball during this relatively short period, as they won six conference regular season titles and three conference tournament titles. They have been to the NCAA tournament three times and have been in postseason play for five of the last seven seasons. This success is due to the recruiting and coaching prowess of Charles “Lefty” Driesell and the team’s present coach, Ron Hunter.
Food & Beverage 4
The GSU Sports Arena has concession stands on both the upper and lower levels. They sell an identical set of items. While the choices are rather limited, everything at the stand costs only $1. That is a deal that not even Mercedes-Benz Stadium can meet with its Fans First pricing. Among the items that are available for just a buck are hot dogs, nachos, pizza, candy, chips, popcorn, pork skins and Coca-Cola brand sodas/bottled water. The portions served are not downsized. You may choose to eat before or after a game…. just know that a trip to the concession stands for a family of four at Panthers games will not break the bank.
The home of the basketball Panthers is the on-campus GSU Sports Arena, built in 1974. Due to the nature of GSU’s urban campus, it is the only on-campus sports facility. It hosts both the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the volleyball team. The arena has a capacity of 3,854 for basketball All other sports at GSU play at satellite locations in the suburbs. Like most of the buildings around it, the arena is a multi-story building. The Sports Arena is four stories tall with the basketball court located at the third level and seating on both the third and fourth levels of the building. Over the years the facility has gone through some significant renovations, with a new HD video board/scoreboard installed in 2015 and a new basketball court flooring surface being added in 2016.
There was a time when downtown Atlanta was a ghost town at night and on weekends. That all ended with the 1996 Olympic Games, which set off a reverse migration from the suburbs to the city’s more urban settings. Restaurants, entertainment venues, and lodging options soon followed.
Today there are several good restaurants within walking distance of the GSU Sports Arena. These include Grindhouse Killer Burgers, Sisters and several restaurants located in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
The campus is also just up the street from a national historic park saluting one of Atlanta’s most famous citizens, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The Tabernacle is a very popular music venue for GSU students and fans alike.
The large increase in student housing options has led to an increase in attendance by the student body. Shuttles run between the dorms and student apartment complexes to and from the Sports Arena on game days. They are rabid fans, and the student section is known as the “concrete jungle.” The alumni of Georgia State University also show up in large numbers, due both to the team’s recent success and to the fact that they remember the days when basketball was the only intercollegiate sport the school offered.
Assisting the team in getting the crowd enthused are Pounce the Panther and the GSU Cheer and Dance Squads. Georgia State offers a Music major, and it shows in the area of the pep band. The pep band at basketball games is much larger than you would expect. It fills an entire section of the arena and really does serve as a “sixth man” in creating enthusiasm during the games.
Georgia State University is definitely an urban university located in downtown Atlanta. This means it is subject to Atlanta’s well-known traffic issues. We’ve listed the routes from the main two arteries (I-75/I-85 and I-20) as well as a public transportation option to get to games.
From I-75/I-85 (known as the Downtown Connector): Exit at the Martin Luther King, Jr Drive exit (#204A) and continue to the second traffic light. Turn right onto Piedmont Avenue and continue under the MARTA rail station. The GSU Sports Arena is located on your left at the corner of Piedmont Avenue and Decatur Street. To park for Panther games, turn left onto Decatur Street and proceed to Collins Street. Turn left onto Collins Street and park in the G parking deck.
From I-20: Exit at Capitol Avenue (# 58A), turn right onto Capitol Avenue. Continue past the Georgia State Capitol building. Capitol Avenue becomes Piedmont Avenue. Continue Piedmont Avenue beneath the MARTA rail station and follow the instructions above.
The easiest and most economical way to get to a Panthers game is via the MARTA rail system, Atlanta’s public transportation option. Take the train to the Georgia State University Station on the West Line. Upon exiting the train, go downstairs and go one block to the crosswalk at Piedmont Avenue and Decatur Street. The GSU Sports Arena will be on your left, directly after the crosswalk. MARTA charges a flat $2.50 fare, no matter how far you ride on the system.
Return on Investment 4
A night out at a Georgia State basketball game will not do much damage to your wallet. Tickets are broken down into two tiers: Lower Level (Reserved Seating) for $15 and Upper Level (General Admission Seating) for $10. The most economical way to get to a Panthers game is via the MARTA rail system, at a cost of $2.50 per ride, no matter what distance you ride. Concessions are very inexpensive at the GSU Sports Arena.
In 2003 the basketball court was named for Charles “Lefty” Driesell in recognition of his efforts to bring GSU basketball to national prominence.
The GSU Sports Arena has played host to several non-GSU related sports events. These include hosting the badminton competition during the 1996 Olympics, the ESPN College Slam Dunk competitions in 2002 and 2007 and several performances by the Harlem Globetrotters.
More than 70 GSU basketball players have gone on to play professionally in the NBA or in Europe.
The GSU Arena has served as the primary concert venue for Georgia State University. It has hosted performances by Ludacris, Steve Harvey, The Spinners, Jay Leno, Dana Carvey, Jamie Foxx, and Cheap Trick.
Plans are now underway to move the GSU basketball program to a new Convocation Center being built on Georgia State’s extended campus located at the former Turner Field complex. The Convocation Hall will expand seating to 8,000 for basketball and offer a greatly improved parking situation.
The basketball program at Georgia State University has grown by leaps and bounds under both Coach Driesell and Coach Hunter. The banners are beginning to fill the ceiling and walls of the GSU Sports Arena. With this success, the crowds have grown and as a result, renovations have been made to improve the fan amenities. However, the arena is nearly forty years old and lacks the space for parking, a team store and other services fans have come to expect. The purchase of the former Turner Field and its large adjoining parking area will allow the program to move into a new Convocation Center in the near future. This will benefit both the recruiting of athletes and also provide a fitting new home for Georgia State University’s most successful intercollegiate sport.
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