EagleBank Arena – George Mason Patriots
Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
EagleBank Arena 4500 Patriot Cir Fairfax, VA 22030
Year Opened: 1985
EagleBank Arena, home of the George Mason Patriots basketball team, is located in Fairfax, Va. in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. The 10,000-seat arena opened in 1985 and has played home to Mason ever since.
George Mason’s high point came in 2006 when they made a Cinderella run to the Final Four as an 11-seed, knocking off top seed UConn along the way, but they have struggled to return to anywhere near that form ever since. George Mason was a founding member of the Colonial Athletic Association but moved to the Atlantic 10 in 2013, where they have remained ever since.
Food & Beverage 5
EagleBank Arena has a wide selection of food and drinks at various stands scattered around the concourse. However, the prices are quite expensive. Basic items include chicken tenders ($15), cheeseburgers ($14, or $15 with bacon), crispy chicken sandwiches ($14), the vegetarian Beyond Burger ($16), and nachos ($9, with salsa cheese, and jalapeños). Several specialty burgers are also available for $16 each. The Southwest Burger comes with bacon, fried avocado, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle aioli. The Wrangler comes with bacon, cheese, onion rings, and barbecue sauce. The Patty Melt comes with onion strings and cheese on Texas toast. All come with fries.
There are a wide range of snacks as well, including candy, chips, cookies, brownies, mini corn dogs, and hot pretzels. Alcoholic beverages are available for those of age, with beer costing $13 and wine $12. Soda and bottled water are also available. .
Every seat in EagleBank arena is a chairback, in alternating green and gold sections reflecting the school’s colors. There is a videoboard above center court which also shows the score and time as well as team fouls and timeouts.
Unfortunately, 10,000 seats is far too large for EagleBank Arena, which rarely comes close to selling out. Some seats in the corners are covered by advertising signs, but there are still many empty seats, especially in the upper rows. This is not a good look for the school and really detracts from the atmosphere.
The good news is that the school makes a good effort to keep fans engaged. There is a pep band called Doc Nix and the Green Machine which is among the best in the country. They bring music and energy to the arena for the whole game. Band director Michael Nickens (aka Doc Nix) is an impressive figure known for his audacious outfits, which often include sunglasses, audaciously colored suits, and a scepter. The band not only plays music but sings with a synthesizer and the drums are encircled by green lights making it not only a sound to behold but a sight as well.
There are also cheerleaders and a dance team who entertain the fans during the breaks. Mason’s mascot is known only as The Patriot and is a costumed character who dresses in traditional colonial garb, which is of course colored gold and green. The cheerleaders throw t-shirts into the crowd after every Mason three-point basket.
Ultimately, the team and especially the band do their best to make this a great atmosphere, but it’s really hurt by the large size of the arena.
Fairfax is a typical suburban area about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. There is a shopping center across campus which includes several chain places and a movie theatre. If you’re willing to drive a few miles, the 29 Diner in the City of Fairfax is a local favorite, as is Capital Ale House.
While Fairfax doesn’t have the same excitement you’d get in the District, it’s still a nice suburb with plenty to do and places to eat before or after the game.
Although Mason fans rarely come close to filling the arena, they can still make the place loud at times. After big plays, the crowd can get quite loud but there is rarely the sustained noise you see at the top arenas in the country. The cavernous nature of the arena does cut down on the sound somewhat, but this isn’t really the fans’ fault. Mason draws several thousand fans a game, but in a 10,000-seat arena, that doesn't feel like much.
Mason does have a student section, but other than the band, they don’t seem that into it. This is disappointing as the students are typically among the most passionate fans at any college venue.
EagleBank Arena is located on Mason’s main campus just off Braddock Road and about six miles from the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495.) There is ample free parking in the lots surrounding the arena, including handicap parking for those who require it. Keep in mind if you’re traveling to a weeknight game, you will probably run into rush hour traffic, which is notoriously bad in this area. Be sure to allow a lot of extra time if that’s the case.
Unlike the other arenas in the D.C. area, EagleBank Arena is not easily Metro-accessible. Despite having the school’s name in its title, the Vienna-Fairfax/GMU station on the Orange Line is about five miles away from George Mason. If you must go that route, you will need to either take a 15-minute taxi ride from the station or take a shuttle that will let you off in the center of campus, a 10-minute walk from the arena. Under no circumstances should you use the Virginia Square-GMU station despite the name, as it serves Mason’s Arlington satellite campus, nowhere near the arena.
Getting out of the parking lot after a game can be tricky due to pedestrians seeming to walk anywhere and everywhere. Traffic can also get backed up getting onto Braddock Road, but this can be partially avoided by heading back towards the center of campus and then exiting onto one of the other side streets.
Return on Investment 2
Tickets range from $10 for seats in the top few rows and some behind the basket to $50 for seats in the front few rows. This is about average for the Atlantic 10. However, tickets are sold through Ticketmaster so expect to pay far more than listed price due to fees. It’s always annoying to see seats available for $10 each and then end up paying almost twice that due to outrageous fees. Concessions can also be quite pricey and can cost more than the game ticket itself, which drives down the score here significantly.
Doc Nix and the Green Machine deserve an extra star, as well as they, are among the best in the nation.
There is a Final Four banner behind one of the baskets honoring Mason’s 2006 miracle run. Before each game, the George Mason lineup is introduced as green and gold spotlights streak across the court. This helps get the crowd hyped up for the game. A fourth and final star for the murals on the concourse honoring George Mason basketball history.
Although George Mason rose to prominence after their Final Four run in 2006, almost two decades later they have failed to regain much of their former glory. The end result is a 10,000-seat arena that is over half empty most games and a whole lot of empty seats. Although Mason has one of the best pep bands in the country, and the fans who do show up are passionate for the most part, the team ought to be doing more to encourage fans to come to games so the place isn’t as empty as it is. Ticketmaster fees and high concession prices don't help matters either. The team does seem to be on the rise the last couple of years, and hopefully that continues and George Mason basketball can return to its former glory.