Photos by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Dale F. Halton Arena 9201 University City Blvd. Charlotte, NC 28223
Year Opened: 1996
Good as Gold in the Queen City
While the men’s basketball program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte may not perform as well on the court as its parent institution in Chapel Hill, the 49ers have been able to hold their own in NCAA’s Division I since they joined in 1970.
The 49ers started out in the on-campus Belk Gymnasium, but it wasn’t long until the team moved into the much larger Bojangles Coliseum off Independence Boulevard. After a short stint at the Charlotte Coliseum, then-home to the NBA’s Hornets, the Gold and Green returned to campus in 1996 to play at the newly-constructed Dale Halton Arena.
Despite playing in the fairly weak Conference USA, the Charlotte men’s basketball team has been able to survive in a very-crowded region chock full of occasional Tournament contenders such as Davidson and Winthrop. With Halton’s capacity hovering near a bold 9,000, the Niners are able to continually “Pack the Mine” with between 4,000 and 5,000 fans each home game. Those figures vary, of course, during non-conference play depending on the opponent.
Overall, fans of both Charlotte and the visiting team enjoy a fun game day experience and an intimate, yet modern, facility where they can sit back, relax, and watch some hoops.
Food & Beverage 4
Halton Arena’s main concourse is reminiscent of a mall food court. Four corner stands, situated underneath the seating bowl along one side of the concourse, serve up a wide variety of dishes for every palate.
One of these stands exclusively offers Bojangles’, a local chicken and biscuits favorite, but expect prices to be slightly higher than you’d see at one of the chain’s restaurants. A 5-piece supremes basket, for example, is $8.75, while seasoned fries and a legendary iced tea are $3.50 each. Domino’s is another chain that has a counter at Halton, offering pepperoni or cheese pizzas for $6.50 each.
The Pick Axe Grill next door serves up some more unique items. The Jalapeño Bacon Cheeseburger basket ($8) and the Chili Cheese Fries ($4.50) are probably the highlights here. You can also grab your basic hamburger ($6.50) and hot dog ($4), and wash it all down with a bottled water or Coca-Cola fountain drink for $3.50.
Typical arena snacks are available at all of the concession stands, including pretzels, popcorn, nachos, candy, funnel cake and cookies. These items are priced fairly at $3-$4 a pop.
While The Mine doesn’t appear very big when empty, it becomes quite clear during games just how large the seating bowl actually is. Despite decent attendance, the arena often looks only half-full, though that perception can quickly change when the crowd gets noisy.
The center hung scoreboard is large and top-of-its-class as far as mid-major arenas go. The LED screen provides a center-court view of the action to fans, as well as player stats for both teams. A radio broadcast of the game is also pumped into the main lobby area so that fans waiting in line at the concession stands don’t miss a minute of the action.
Chair back seating is present in most of the building, though seats located in the last few rows of the upper seating bowl are typical bleacher-style.
The Niners home court is nestled close to the center of campus, so it’s a short walk if you want to explore anything in the general vicinity. It’s an even shorter drive to the nearby restaurants and shops, which mostly include chain retailers on Tryon Street (the main thoroughfare through “University City”), University City Boulevard and JW Clay Boulevard. The region’s only IKEA store is just a few miles from campus and offers a full restaurant and snack bar in addition to the furniture goods on display.
But perhaps the best perk of Halton’s location on-campus is its proximity to the LYNX Light Rail system, which provides speedy service to Uptown Charlotte, the hip NoDa neighborhood, and the revitalized South End. All three offer a variety of dining and nightlife options just a 20-minute train ride from campus. The nearest stop, JW Clay Station, offers a 5-level parking deck for those wishing to drive, but is also easily accessible on foot via footpaths. From the arena’s front door, it’s just a short 10-minute walk to the light rail platform.
The whole arena seems to be with the team from tip-off, cheering every made basket and jeering the away team at every opportunity. Average attendance is around 4,000 to 5,000 fans, though the actual attendance per game varies greatly on the opponent.
49ers fans are amongst the most loyal in Conference USA. The green chair backs are always filled with fans in green attire, turning Halton into a blinding sea of green. Fans of the away team are usually confined to a very small section and are consistently drowned out by the loud and enthusiastic Charlotte crowd.
Getting to Halton Arena could not be easier. The campus is bordered by several major thoroughfares, including Tryon Street and University City Blvd. Once inside UNCC, it’s a short drive to the West Deck, a multi-level parking structure next to the Belk Gymnasium. Best of all, parking is free and from the deck it’s a short walk down some stairs and down a sidewalk to the arena’s main entrance. On the return trip to your car and off-campus, it can be a bit trickier as traffic tends to snarl as you attempt to exit the deck, but once you hit the street you’re in the clear.
UNCC is served by the LYNX Light Rail Blue Line, which has a stop at JW Clay Boulevard and is just a 15-minute walk away. The CATS bus system has several stops on-campus as well.
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is about 20 minutes away by car and is serviced by most of the major North American airlines. Interstates 85, 485, and 77 are close to campus as well, providing access to Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Virginia in the north and Columbia, Greenville and Atlanta in the south.
Return on Investment 4
What you get for the price of your ticket is admission to the game. (Rarely, the Niners will have a promotional giveaway, and even those max out at 2 or 3 per season.) But a 49ers basketball game is quite affordable, with tickets ranging from $5 for youth to $10 for adults. That price includes a reserved seat of your choice and if you purchase tickets at the box office on game day rather than online ahead of time, you’ll save yourself about $2 in added fees.
Between the free parking and cheap concession items, you likely won’t spend more than $20 per person on a trip to The Mine.
Staff will often give out free Chick-fil-A sandwich coupons (or coupons to another local restaurant chain) when one of the teams achieves something on the court. For example, if the away team misses two free throws in the last 5 minutes of the game, everyone in attendance is awarded a free chicken sandwich.
Past tournament achievements made by the 49ers are honored by way of celebratory banners hung in the rafters. The team also honors famous basketball alumni such as Cedric Maxwell, who led the Niners in their first tournament appearance in 1977 to the Final Four.
While Charlotte may be overshadowed by their larger in-state ACC counterparts, the Gold and Green have not only a loyal following, but a great venue for their fans to enjoy. You’ll find a night out at Halton well-spent and thoroughly enjoyable, even if the team doesn’t always take home the W.