John Paul Jones Arena – Virginia Cavaliers
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A New Classic
When it was announced that the Virginia basketball program would migrate away from the famous University Hall, many college basketball fans cringed. Whenever a historical arena is replaced, there’s always the fear that the successor will be a soulless and bland cash grab for the school. Imagine the delight of Cavalier fans when they saw the new John Paul Jones Arena. The new venue perfectly blends a modern arena with the tradition and character that the proud fans of UVA basketball deserve.
Food & Beverage 3
The food at JPJ Arena is what you’d expect from a stadium, with a few more options. The main concession stands offer your typical chicken fingers, pizza, and cheeseburger menu. There’s not much to mention here. The difference is the other stands on the concourse. One of the more enticing specialty stands serves fresh wraps, a healthy alternative to the typical stadium fare. Finally, you can never go wrong with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, served from their stand, complete with a freshly made waffle cone.
Frankly, this rating would be much higher, but the pricing is rough, even for a stadium. A basket of chicken fingers and fries is $8. Adding a small drink costs $4, bringing your total to $12. It’s tough to justify spending that much on food, especially considering the other great options down the street.
This isn’t a big arena, by any means, but as any college basketball fan will tell you, bigger does not mean better. Capacity sits a little under 15,000, but you could easily mistake it for more than 20,000 when the fans get up. Everyone is extremely passionate and loud.
JPJ Arena may be one of the most vertical venues I’ve ever been to. Bring your walking stick, because it’s a steep climb up to the second level. This only means fans at that level have a better view of the game.
You will never go uninformed at a Virginia game. There are screens everywhere you turn, with live stats for different players, as well as team stats and trends. Accompanying the screens are the numerous banners from the long history of success.
Charlottesville is the epitome of a college town, which almost always translates to a great neighborhood. Since basketball is in the winter, the walk from JPJ to downtown Charlottesville will probably be a little chilly. I’d suggest driving and parking on the street or in a garage. Either way, the campus (or grounds) of UVA is stunning and something you have to experience. The Corner is where the bulk of the shopping and dining are located. There’s so much to do here, and I’ll highlight a few of the favorites.
Littlejohn’s New York Deli is home to some truly fantastic subs. Complete with the New York style and attitude, this is a great stop before or after the game.
For a more typical sports bar, try Boylan Heights just up the road. Recently named one of Stadium Journey’s best college basketball bars, Boylan Heights has become known for its burgers and local beer. Boylan’s is simply a great pregame or postgame hangout.
Finally, stop into The White Spot for a signature Gus Burger, which comes topped with a fried egg. If you’ve already had dinner, come for the donuts grilled and served with ice cream. It’s a typical college town diner, with so much good food.
I came into this game ready to give the UVA fans a handicap on their score. It was over winter break, and the majority of UVA students live outside of the immediate area. I was shocked to find John Paul Jones Arena nearly full for the early January contest. It just proves that UVA fans are committed, both the students and the alumni. With the seating being so vertical, this place gets pretty loud. The students stay in the game and provide a great home court advantage.
Unless you live in Charlottesville or the surrounding area, you’ll have a tough time getting to the arena. Assuming you’re arriving around game time, there’s a long line at the I-64 exit for the arena. Once on the grounds, arena lots are for season ticket holders, and parking near the arena will cost you. You can park down the road for free, and walk or take a bus to JPJ.
Inside, you’ll find the concourse is a little nicer than what the average fan is used to. Carpet, brick walls, and other elements bring a distinct feel to the hallways and lobbies of the arena. It can get a little tight around halftime and at the end of games, but not so bad that you can’t move.
Return on Investment 3
Depending on when you buy and who the opponent is, tickets for the upper level are inexpensive. But if you’re looking for something lower level, you’re probably out of luck. Those tickets sell out quick and re-sell for upwards of $100.
That being said, this is one of the premier college basketball venues in the country and one that college basketball fans should definitely visit. If you’re looking for a deal, try attending games early in the season or over the school’s Christmas break.
Virginia’s mascot is Cav Man, a costumed Cavalier who’s a little taller than the average person. Being mostly human, he is quite mobile and very interactive with the fans.
Behind the student section is the UVA basketball hall of fame. You can see jerseys and other memorabilia from the largely successful history of Virginia basketball. With such an extensive history, any basketball fan simply must visit this part of the arena.
The pep band sits directly behind the basket, but can easily be heard anywhere. As usual, the pep band members double as some of the rowdiest fans in the arena.
Finally, UVA offers fans in the arena a delay-free radio feed. For fans that enjoy hearing commentary during the game, 91.5FM is the same commentary from the radio, but without that annoying delay.
If you’re a fan of college basketball, especially of the ACC variety, John Paul Jones Arena has to be on your bucket list. It’s a perfect mix of yesterday and today. It may be a little expensive to get there, but you won’t regret it if you do.
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