Hallowed Grounds: Benjamin Johnson Arena

Wofford Terriers

The year 1981 was a good year in terms of sports. Some of today’s best athletes were born in 1981.

Roger Federer, Troy Polamalu, Hope Solo, Iker Casillas, Serena Williams, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eli Manning, Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer are just a handful of the professional athletes who were born in 1981.

Also in 1981, the Wofford Terriers started to call a new building home for their men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams. The Benjamin Johnson Arena was opened in 1981, and is still the home to these teams today.

It’s a common thought in the sporting world that once you pass the 30 year mark, you are passed your prime and it’s a slow decline from then on out. In terms of the Benjamin Johnson Arena, the facility is still in great shape and is one that people need to check out. 

BenJo Sign

The Benjamin Johnson Arena became the new home for the Terriers in 1981, replacing the old Andrews Field House. Any notion that this facility is on the decline is false, as it is still one one of the premier facilities in the Southern Conference.

The arena was named after Benjamin O. Johnson. Johnson was a textile executive who was associated with Spartan Mills. Mr. johnson was also a trustee of Wofford College and also a benefactor. His attachment to Wofford College and place within the Spartanburg community is why the Terriers and Wofford College decided to name the building in his honour.

The first Terriers men’s basketball game was played on January 22nd, 1981 against The Citadel Bulldogs. The Terriers led by 8 points with just over 8 minutes, but couldn’t hold off the Bulldogs on opening night. The Citadel rallied and pulled off a 65 – 64 victory.

The Terriers’ first win on their new home floor came just days later, on January 26th. The Terriers pulled out a 76 – 2 win over Newberry.

Division I basketball has only been played at Wofford since 1997, but the school has a strong attachment to their basketball program. Their arena has a capacity of 3,500 people, which is over double the amount of students that are enrolled at Wofford.

Wofford has an enrollment of just over 1,500 students, making it one of the smaller schools. However, they do not lack passion for their school teams, and it shows on every home game. The fans are a raucous crowd who like to make some noise, especially if the hometown team is ahead in the game.

The added bonus for a smaller arena like the Benjamin Johnson Arena is the layout. There is no end zone seating, so every seat is between the two baskets. This makes every seat a good seat. Some seats may have obscure views due to some video cameras, but for the most part every seat provides a good view of the game. Also, the seating provides an intimate setting for a basketball game, as most seats are close to the action.

The loyal fans of the Terriers have been awarded with some great basketball over the past five or so years. The Terriers have made it to the NCAA Tournament 3 times this decade (2010, 2011, and 2014). They look to have a mini dynasty on their hands, as they are the pre-season pick to win the Southern Conference again in 2014-15 and make it back to the NCAA Tournament.

The court design itself is also one of the more unique designs in the NCAA. The Terriers are one of the few teams to use a parquet floor design, which makes the court visually appealing.

The arena is one of the more intimidating in the Southern Conference, much in part to the intimate setting and the loud fans that the Terriers have. They have one of the smaller student sections, which is a result of a small enrollment number, but the locals more than make up for the noise level with their own cheering. The loyalty of the Terrier fans is hard to match around the country.

Benjamin Johnson Arena

The $4.5 million arena is attached to the Campus Life Building, which adds to the overall experience. The Campus Life Building features a coffee shop, dining area, and a recreation area equipped with flat screen TVs, pool tables and lounge chairs. The dining area gives spectators another option when it comes to food at the game.

In the Benjamin Johnson Arena itself, there are concession stands located on both the East and West concourse, and they provide you with all of the basics that you need: hot dogs, pretzels, sandwiches, bottles of Coca-Cola products, popcorn, candy and chips. They also offer shaved ice stands as another option for consumers.

Tickets for Terriers’ games are also reasonable. For general admission seating, tickets will cost you $10 for a non-conference affair, and reserved seating will cost you $12. One bonus at a Terriers game is that programs are free, so one person could get a ticket, hot dog, pop and a program for $14.50. It’s a cheap way to check out great basketball at an excellent facility.

The arena also features the team’s NCAA Tournament bid banners as well as the retired numbers of three of Wofford’s finest players. Donnie Fowler’s #13 (1953 – 57), James Blair’s #44 (1979 – 83), and James “Daddy” Neal’s #17 (1949 – 53) are all hanging from the rafters.

Neal is the only player in Wofford’s history to graduate from the school and play in the NBA.

The Benjamin Johnson Arena is one of the more undiscovered gems in the NCAA in terms of arenas and fan experience. The building is full of history and provides a great avenue in which to check out a college basketball game. There is something for everyone, and the price is right.

If you’re in the area throughout the 2014-15 season, be sure to check out a terriers game and take in the beauty of the Benjamin Johnson Arena!

– T.B.