College Basketball’s O.G. still resides in Philadelphia nestled in the heart of an Ivy League campus
Did you ever visit a high school gymnasium where you could smell the popcorn and hotdogs from the concession stand in the hallway?
That’s The Palestra, one college basketball’s sacred treasures.
Yes, you will find popcorn and hotdogs (and not much else) at the concession stands of this cozy basketball cathedral. You may also notice signs on the back wall behind the counter that give this building historical context.
One sign tells you that The Palestra opened its doors on January 1, 1927. The other tells you that The Palestra has hosted more NCAA regular season and tournament games than any other venue. Yeah, this place has seen a lot of hoops.
Aura/Mystique/Feel: The combination of the building’s history and the homey atmosphere of watching basketball in a pavilion means The Palestra gets full credit in this category. I went to the Ivy League Championship between Yale and Princeton and the seats were 75 percent full at best. And yet, the building got loud and had great life all afternoon.
Food/Concessions: As I mentioned before, the menu is limited. Popcorn, hot dogs, pizza, burgers, Cracker Jack, water, soda, and that’s pretty much it. I’ll argue that there is nothing else you need at a basketball game, but I understand that in the current landscape of sports venues, some fans might be dissatisfied with the limited offerings. Half credit, although I really enjoyed my hot dog! Concessions staff was excellent!
Imagery: After all those years, The Palestra has maintained it’s beauty and old school charm. Full credit.
Neutral Fan Test: If you are a basketball fan, there is a good chance that you have heard of The Palestra. If not, a simple explanation of the history may be enough to inspire a visit. Philadelphia is one of the biggest and proudest American cities, and this and its next door neighbor are the city’s oldest and most storied sports venues. Even if basketball is not your thing, you will be charmed by the intimacy of the arena. I give it full credit.
Ancillary: The Staff was wonderful; the concourse is a walking history lesson and basketball shrine; located on UPenn’s campus in the University City part of Philadelphia with plenty of pregame meal and postgame hangout options; we sat in the last row and were still incredibly close to the floor! Full credit.
I fully admit to being a geek and realize that others may not care about the building’s history or the fact that it’s concourse is a museum (which you can walk in about five minutes). But I love college basketball, I love hot dogs, and I love The Palestra! And so will you if you give it a chance.
I give it 4.5/5 Chicago Dogs (which is a menu item that The Palestra would deem unnecessary).