Ranking the atmosphere at home

The volleyball team, band and students gather after a win. O’Keefe, volleyball’s home venue, fills early and stays full until after all the festivities subside. // Photo by Josh Kim Student Publications

Tech sports venues are back to maximum capacity, and with students back in the stands for all sports, their atmospheres are back to normal. While every sport is a fun fan experience, some Tech venues have better atmospheres than others. For those looking for the best Tech athletic experiences, the following list details the atmosphere of each sport’s games.

The top spot on campus goes to volleyball’s O’Keefe Gymnasium. The gym is a small one, with a capacity of around 1,000. It regularly fills to the brim, especially with the team’s recent success. Coordinated chants seek to rattle the opponents and boost Tech from the opening point. When the opposing team prepares to serve, the crowd shouts “Boing!” in unison whenever the server bounces the ball and “Ouch!” when they hit it in preparation to serve. A coordinated crescendo of a shout, similar to that during a kickoff at football games, leads to the serve.

Following each Tech score comes a call of “Point Tech!” and the band plays during timeouts and other breaks. The Budweiser song plays after the second set and the combination of the band, chants and consistently full house vaults the venue to the top of the totem pole for Jacket athletics.

Second is McCamish Pavilion, a smaller basketball arena for Division I. The compact nature of McCamish lends itself to the atmosphere, as it fills quickly in a similar fashion to O’Keefe. Tech’s Pep Band and a full crowd of around 8,600 turns the stadium into a tightly packed, energetic space for Tech basketball. The student section’s metal benches turn free throws into a nightmare for visiting teams in the second half, when students bang on the seats right behind the opponents’ basket, creating a deafening racket. Despite being at reduced capacity a season ago, McCamish’s ecstatic environment drew attention from coaches around the ACC.

Tech’s Bobby Dodd stadium, home of Jacket football, rounds out our top three. Home of the longest continuously used field in the FBS, the 55,000 seat venue is home to decades of tradition, including one of the best pre-game entrances by the Wreck. Coordinated cheers at kickoffs, the first down whistle and the marching band combine to make Bobby Dodd an unmistakable experience. The factor that holds this stadium back is attendance though, as it is hovered around two-thirds of capacity recently, leaving some to be desired to elevate the atmosphere.

Baseball and softball take the next two spots, respectively. The recently renovated Russ Chandler Stadium, holding over 4,000 fans and boasting new renovations as recently as this year, is a sparkling and clean venue. A large video board behind the outfield adds to the engagement and posts game times of other sports while not in use in-game. While student numbers tend to be respectable, low average overall attendance keeps Chandler Stadium from being higher on the list.

Mewborn Field’s edge comes from the players’ role in the atmosphere. Chants pour from the dugout from the first pitch, and the 1,500 fan stadium was built just over a decade ago in 2009. A new stadium coupled with fans and players both adding to the atmosphere makes Mewborn Field a venue worth visiting.

McAuley Aquatic Center, Tech’s Olympic swim and dive venue, earns its spot due to its history and athletic capacity. The space was the site of the 1996 Olympic water events and still boasts a spectator capacity of nearly 2,000 despite being scaled down after the games. Originally the venue was open air with bleachers on both sides of the pool before being enclosed as part of creating the CRC we know today. The actual Olympic pool and dive area lends novelty to the venue, and its size has led to it being selected as the host site for the 2022 ACC and NCAA championships.

The Griffin Track is Tech’s space for outdoor track and field events. With a few rows of bleachers facing the northern stretch of the track, designated fan capacity is limited, but the fence surrounding the track allows for plain view into home events, allowing casual spectators to enjoy the action. Having the facilities for a complete track meet means spectators can witness a broad range of athletic endeavors from the fenceline and enjoy Tech sports even with limited amenities.

The Ken Byers Tennis Complex has over a dozen courts between its indoor and outdoor spaces, though seating capacity is low. Tech tennis plays home matches and tournaments at the complex, which has a few rows of bleachers overlooking some of the outdoor courts. Despite the quality of the player spaces, the lack of fan space keeps Byers low on the list.

No matter the level of atmosphere or amenities, Tech sports are worth watching. With the different seasons being spread out over the year, a dedicated student can easily check out every venue each year. Students make the atmosphere at any college sporting event and devoted fans always heighten the experience.