- Dave Cottenie
Wolstein Center – Cleveland State Vikings
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Wolstein Center 2000 Prospect Ave Cleveland, OH 44115
Cleveland State Vikings website
Year Opened: 1991
The Sea is Crowded
To say that the Cleveland sports scene is crowded may be a bit of an understatement. Everyone knows of the presence of the Browns, Cavaliers and Guardians. Add to that the Cleveland Monsters, Cleveland Charge and the love the city has for Ohio State athletics, and there is not much room left. Enter the Cleveland State Vikings. Playing NCAA Division I basketball in the Horizon League, Cleveland State is struggling to find and maintain their place in the major league city sports market. The Vikings have been playing basketball since 1929, back when they were known as Fenn College. The school was renamed Cleveland State University in 1965 and currently welcomes over 15,000 students. In 1994, the Vikings moved to the Horizon League.
Home for the Vikings is the Henry J. Goodman Arena @ Bert L. & Iris S. Wolstein Center. Usually referred to as the Wolstein Center, the 8,500 seat venue was built in 1991 and is also home to the Cleveland Charge of the G-League. The venue is named after businessman and former chair of the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees, Henry Goodman, and real estate developer and CSU alum, Bert Wolstein. Cleveland State has enjoyed three NCAA tournament appearances, three conference tournament championships, and six regular season conference championships.
Food & Beverage 2
The concession selection at Wolstein Center is pretty limited. Hot Dogs, brats, pretzels, nachos, popcorn, chips and candy are what will be found. The soft drink supplier is Pepsi and fountain Pepsi products are available along with bottled Gatorade. There are also a number of beers available, including Coors Light, Miller Lite, Great Lakes and Market Garden. White Claw Seltzer is also available. The prices are pretty good and there is enough here to keep fans from going hungry, but there is nothing offered that is overly interesting.
The Wolstein Center definitely looks like a circa 1990s arena. Built as a simple oval, the exterior features a light siding upper oval with brown brick and glass on the lower level. The lettering of the building name is a green that is featured throughout the building. Each of the four corners have plenty of space to meet others before the game. The exterior is fairly attractive, but there is nothing to wow a person, a theme throughout the Cleveland State experience.
The concourses in the Wolstein Center are wide enough and do have a slightly dated feel to them, however, Cleveland State uses their green to their advantage. The white and green walls highlight the team colors but the drop ceiling found throughout the concourses is a unique green and seals the home venue feel. Fans who are interested in doing some treasure hunting will want to check out the Cleveland State University Athletic Hall of Fame, which is on one of the interior walls in the concourse. When fans enter the seating bowl, they are welcomed to a separated, two tier seating bowl. The court runs from west to east and the west end has a massive green curtain which drapes off the end of the arena. This is designed to make the arena feel a little more cozy by pushing the court right up to the east end. Behind the curtain on the west side is the Kid Zone featuring activities for the kids and inflatable fun. The perfect center court picture should be taken from the south side. Surprisingly, the Wolstein Center lacks a center court videoboard. Scoreboards can be found in the upper northeast and southeast corners and there are hanging scoreboards in front of the curtain. The only LED boards are found in front of the scorers table. Banners are found on the east side of the building, including the honoured numbers of Ken McFadden, Franklin Edwards, Norris Cole and Clinton Ransey.
The gameday production is pretty much what you would expect from a college basketball experience. The band is found courtside on the east side, and plays throughout the game. They were not terribly loud at the game that was reviewed and it is possible that the sound of the band just got lost in the rafters. The cheerleaders and dance team add the expected flair throughout the game. The Vikings do employ an in-game host, who is a little over the top and not overly consistent with a college experience. The Vikings do have a significant focus on kids with the Kid Zone and kids getting to take shots from the floor after the game. The mascot, Magnus, roams the floor and interacts with fans. A victory by the Vikings brings the theme to the Drew Carey Show, “Cleveland Rocks” by the Presidents of the United States of America over the speakers.
The Wolstein Center is located on the western edge of the Central neighborhood of Cleveland, just east of Downtown. There are a ton of things to do in downtown Cleveland. As previously mentioned, the Wolstein Center is also the home of the G-League’s Cleveland Charge. Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Guardians, and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Monsters, are a brisk walk from the Wolstein Center. Further north, on the lakeshore, is FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns. There are a number of other attractions in Downtown Cleveland. There are a number of theatres in the area as well as the Cleveland Grays Armory Museum and Great Lakes Science Center. However, the must see attraction is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the lakeshore, the Hall of Fame will probably require a very short drive, but it is absolutely worth it and a must see when visiting Cleveland.
There are also a plethora of places to eat and drink near the Wolstein Center. The Wild Eagle Saloon, Republic Food and Drink, Grille 55, Rascal House, Southern Tier Brewery and the Winking Lizard are all worth checking out. For fans wishing to stay close to the arena, the Comfort Inn Downtown is mere steps away from Vikings basketball.
The Cleveland State Vikings have attracted an average of 1,850 fans per game in the 2022-2023 season. This ranks them 5th in the Horizon League, which is the normal spot for the Vikings. Clearly the capacity at the Wolstein Center is far greater than the average number of fans per game, which makes the arena seem cavernous. Cleveland State fans are fairly laid back, but the focus on kids that the Vikings have shown will hopefully breed new fans and bring that attendance figure up.
Getting to the Wolstein Center is not terribly difficult. Being located just past the edge of Downtown Cleveland will hopefully keep fans from being forced to drive through the heart of the city where most of the traffic is. The Wolstein Center is located just south of major street Euclid Avenue and north of I-90. The off-ramp from the interstate is right there so getting to the arena should be no problem. There are a number of parking facilities in the area, but the South Garage, just east of the Wolstein Center is the easiest to get to. For fans wishing to take public transit to see the Vikings, there are Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority buses that travel Prospect Ave and 21st street. Fans should check out the PARTA website for fares, schedules and maps. With attendances that are nowhere near capacity, traversing the concourses is no issue and there are plenty of washroom facilities. There are four entrances at Wolstein Center, one at each corner, and the ticket windows are found in the northeast and northwest corners of the building.
With the security protocols of spectator sports in constant flux, Stadium Journey highly recommends consulting the Cleveland State Vikings website before heading to the Wolstein Center for the most up to date information regarding bags, procedures and prohibited items.
Return on Investment 4
Taking in a Cleveland State Vikings game is very affordable. General Admission tickets begin at $10. Reserved tickets in the corners can be found for $12 and the middle is $16. Concession prices are very reasonable and parking can be found for $10. The product on the court is solid and the gameday atmosphere is decent. Horizon League basketball is as good as other mid-major conferences and fans will have a good time. Combine that with the ability to take in a sporting event in a major, downtown area, far less expensive than the other options, and fans have a recipe for a great day.
An extra mark for the focus Cleveland State has on the youngsters with the kid zone and ability to take shots from the court at the end of the game.
An extra mark for the Cleveland State Vikings rivalry with the Youngstown State Penguins.
Finding a space in the very crowded Cleveland sports market is a challenge. The Cleveland State Vikings have attempted to carve out a niche for themselves in Cleveland. Although there are improvements that could be made, the Vikings home at the Wolstein Center is a solid arena and the experience at Cleveland State is an enjoyable one.
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