Liacouras Center – Temple Owls
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Temple Basketball at Liacouras Center
The Temple Owls are one of the oldest college basketball teams in the nation, having been formed in 1894. At the end of the 2017-18 season, they had registered 1,886 wins, good for fifth overall behind powerhouses Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, and Duke. They have also dominated the Big 5 competition that features four other schools in the college hoops hotbed of Philadelphia, taking 27 titles, though defending national champ Villanova is quickly catching up. Despite this storied history and playing in the American Athletic Conference, the program isn’t that well known nationally, and their home venue, the Liacouras Center, doesn’t have the same cachet as Rupp Arena or Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Food & Beverage 4
There are several concession stands along the single concourse, each with ties to the Philadelphia area. Chickie’s and Pete’s (Crabfries with Cheese for $11), Tony Luke’s ($10 cheesesteaks), and Broad Street Dogs ($6.50 for Italian Sausage and $4.50 for hot dogs, which should be avoided) are three highlights.
Hack-a-Snack is more generic but makes up for it with an amusing name; you can get popcorn or a pretzel at most stands for $4.50. Other options include shawarmas and falafels for $10 at Pita Chip and boneless wings at PK Whelihan’s. Scoops and Hoops serves a variety of ice cream treats.
In a rarity for a campus venue, beer is available for $7. If you prefer non-alcoholic beverages, Coke products are served here, with bottled soda going for $5 and bottled water 50 cents less, while coffee is $2.75. A great variety here but the low quality for the hot dogs (a poor choice on my part no doubt) costs a point.
The Liacouras Center is a multi-purpose facility with a single concourse that leads to two seating levels on three sides of the court (the upper level on one side is replaced with a frightening mural of owl eyes). Seats are bright red and legroom is sufficient.
There are seating zones behind each basket, namely the Cherry Zone (which is for the students) and the White Zone, after the school’s colors.
There is a four-sided scoreboard above center court that shows detailed replays. There are also banners in the rafters celebrating the past accomplishments of the squad, and a Ring of Honor was inaugurated in 2016.
The band and cheerleaders add to the proceedings, but overall, things are relatively sedate for a program as storied as this.
Located in the improving North Philadelphia area at the intersection of Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, the Temple campus is surrounded with good bars and restaurants. My recommendation if you like cozy neighborhood establishments is Pub Webb on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, which has a good afternoon happy hour. The Draught Horse just south of the arena is larger and better for families.
In terms of eateries, as you would expect near a college campus, there are plenty of fast food options such as Wendy’s and Jimmy John’s, but try something else as there is good variety here. Although first-time visitors are not required by law to have a cheesesteak, you will become the laughing stock among your friends for not doing so. To avoid this embarrassment, try Tony Luke’s at the southeast corner of the main intersection.
For a more relaxing experience, Champ’s Diner gets good reviews, as does Pazzo Pazzo pizza.
Temple fans have a great reputation, but I attended a game on a Sunday afternoon against a weaker non-conference opponent that drew just over 5,000 of them. Those that were there were well behaved and cheered appropriately, but it is hard to give a higher score when the facility is not even half full. When a Big 5 opponent visits, the situation is supposedly much different, so keep that in mind if you are in town for one of those games.
Getting here from downtown is easy as the Philadelphia subway stops at Cecil B. Moore, eight stations from City Hall. From here the arena is just a half a block north on the west side of Broad Street. If you do decide to drive, you should be able to find street parking in the vicinity, though keep in mind that this area is not conveniently located close to any highway. There is a parking garage right here too, but at $17, it is a bit pricey for this level of college hoops.
Inside, the concourse is spacious and the small crowd ensured that there is no problem getting around, nor is there any issue with the washrooms.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets vary depending on the opponent. For a non-conference foe (or even a lesser team from the American), the good seats start at $35, while those in the upper deck are $15. Expect to pay $5 more for when a more compelling team is visiting. Coupled with the food, this is a reasonable investment and one worth making.
Statues of coaching legends Harry Litwack and John Chaney highlight the spacious lobby.
Along the concourse is the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame that is worth a quick look. There is also an inflatable hoop to distract unruly kids.
A point for the mural of owl eyes behind the Cherry Zone.
A final point for the banners in the rafters going all the way back to 1939, as well as the banners in the ceiling of the concourse for the other AAC schools.
Liacouras Center scores well on our Fanfare scale, as it is located in a great area with easy access and good food options inside (not to mention beer). The main problem is the relative calm in the crowd, but I am sure that this is more exciting when the Owls play a big-time school. If you are in the City of Brotherly Love, consider a visit here to help cheer on the Owls.
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