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  • Richard Smith

William P. Hytche Athletic Center – UMES Hawks

Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71

William P. Hytche Athletic Center 1 Backbone Rd Princess Anne, MD 21853

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 5,500


Eastern Shore Birds

The University of Maryland – Eastern Shore (UMES) is a Historically Black Land-Grant University located on the DelMarVa Peninsula just south of Salisbury, Maryland. Founded in 1886 the university has gone through several names: Delaware Conference Academy, Industrial Branch of Morgan State College, Princess Anne Academy, Maryland Agricultural College and Maryland State College before switching to its current name in 1970. The 745 acre campus has many programs and degrees with hotel and restaurant management, fashion merchandising, construction management and professional golf management being some of the biggest, along with engineering.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) is made up of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) located between Florida and Delaware. UMES is a charter member of the MEAC. The UMES women’s bowling team won the NCAA Bowling Championship in 2012 and is the most consistent team on campus. In 2015 the men’s basketball team played in their first postseason in 30 years, as they played in the first round of the tournament. Once a big time football program, UMES ended their program in 1979. There is still some talk of bringing the football team back into action. UMES is tied with Florida State for the most alumni appearing in a single Super Bowl game. In the 1968 game (Super Bowl III) between the New York Jets and the Baltimore Colts, UMES was represented by five alumni: Earl Christy (1961–1964), Johnny Sample (1954–1957), Emerson Boozer (1962–1965), Charlie Stukes (1963–1967), and James Duncan (1968–1971). NFL player and coach Art Shell attended UMES.

Other famous alumni are Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band and Jamaican track star Merrecia James. The William P. Hytche Athletic Center is named after William P. Hytche Sr., who served as the school’s president from 1975 to 1997.

Food & Beverage 3

When you walk into Hytche Athletic Center there’s a hallway to the right and a hallway to the left, and the doors to the court straight ahead of you. If you head to the right, you’ll get to the one concession stand at the center. The stand only takes cash, but the selection is respectable as long as all you need is a snack as opposed to a full meal. Hot dogs ($2) and Wing Dings ($3) are the entrees while candy ($1.25), chips ($1), gum ($0.25), bottled drinks ($2) and bottled water ($2) are the sides. The prices are great, with nothing being more than $3.

Atmosphere 3

As soon as you walk into the athletic center, you are greeted by an employee sitting behind a folding table selling tickets. Once you get past the ticket tables, you can truly appreciate the Hytche lobby, which features plaques, portraits and free posters. The plaques are part of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Athletic Hall of Fame, and really make a great impression to anyone who enters the venue. There are also glass cabinets that hold UMES memorabilia, such as a basketball recognizing Tee Trotter, a point guard from the early 2000s that scored over 1,000 career points with the Hawks.

With the sun able to come through the glass roof and cast a shadow inside, it really is a nice-looking lobby as you make your way through the doors into the actual gym. Inside the gym, you’ll quickly realize that basketball isn’t the only sport it hosts. Track & field and gymnastics events also seem to be held in the gym, as there is a lot of extra room around the actual court with mats and ladders stacked all around. There are even a few racquetball courts inside the gym.

The good part is that there was a lot of room to walk around on my visit and I never felt stuck, crowded or pushed either getting to my seat or going back out to the lobby.

Neighborhood 2

There is nothing much right around UMES. Historic, as it is recognized, Princess Anne is right outside the campus. It is a nice town, but there is not much really going on in the quaint village that would really make you want to spend much time there before or after a game.

There are some restaurants in the area. Peaky’s provides good seafood dishes, with the offering of the iconic Smith Island Cake a pleasant surprise. Lynn’s Kitchen is a decent Chinese restaurant. Besides that, Princess Anne doesn’t offer much except fast food places like Popeye’s, Hardee’s and McDonald’s. It may be a good idea to head the 10 miles or so north into Salisbury where there is a plethora of restaurants. The Evolution Craft Brewing Company at 201 E Vine Street has a great tasting room and restaurant.

Fans 2

The game of this review was not especially packed, but the students were not back from winter break so that was to be expected. The team also appears to draw a decent amount of locals to watch the good quality of basketball that the MEAC conference offers.

Access 3

There should be plenty of parking around the stadium, especially on weekend games. Some daytime in-semester games could be a bit busier. The main problem with UMES is that it is isolated on the DelMarVa Peninsula, relatively far from any real city. The only time that UMES feels like it is not out of the way is if you happen to stop by on the way to an early summer/late spring trip to Ocean City. Maryland. Route 50 that cuts through Salisbury is the main path for most visitors to that beach vacation spot. Of course, being south of Salisbury, means that even on the way to the beach, UMES is a bit out of the way. Princess Anne will never be anything but out of the way for most people.

Return on Investment 3

The price is good for Division I basketball. Coupled with the decent concession pricing and no parking fees, the return on investment at UMES games is very good.

Extras 3

The bleacher setup along the endlines is pretty unique. And seeing the racquetball courts along the edge of the arena is also a unique site. Also make sure to check out the many banners for the successful women’s bowling team. That is not something you see at all schools. The UMES athletic facilities have a strange little mini golf course located on an old basketball court right behind the stadium. It is not opened for general use but it is a strange little sight. Maybe it is used for student activities? The campus is also a nice little quiet place that warrants a quick walk around. The new Student Services Center building looks very nice.

Unique End Line Seating at Hytche Athletic Center, Photo by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey

Final Thoughts

When you put it all together, a day at Hytche Athletic Center has its perks and offers a unique experience, especially for the kids. There’s a lot of room to improve overall, especially in entertainment and atmosphere. If the Hawks start bringing more wins to Hytche, expect to see more fans coming out, creating an improved atmosphere.

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