A Drexel dragon holding a burger at the Dragon's Den in 1979. Photo courtesy University Archives.
This article is part of the DrexelNow “Faces of Drexel” series honoring Drexel’s history as part of the Universitywide celebration of the 125th anniversary of Drexel’s founding in 1891.
The basement of today’s Creese Student Center used to house a lot more than Drexel University’s Commuter Lounge, Greenawalt Student Development Center, various offices and conference rooms and Drexel’s student radio station, WKDU, among other things.
In the second half of the 20th century, the popular student space was first known as the Student Activities Center or the Drexel Activities Center and featured a “Dragon’s Den” and “Creese Game Room.” Over the years, the basement featured arcade and game rooms, fast food restaurants and even a bowling alley. These features, none of which are available on Drexel’s campus today, were hotbeds of student life on campus, with professors also indulging in the fun.
The bowling alley was planned for as far back as 1959, when The Triangle, Drexel’s student newspaper, published a front-page article announcing “Bowling Alley May Be Part of New Student Building.” The three-level, $1.95 million building was officially dedicated at the end of September 1962, with the “long-awaited” four-lane bowling alley officially dedicated and opened in December. Dragons could rent bowling shoes and lockers, with balls provided for free. Bowling teams, on campus for men and women and even professors regularly since the 1930s, used the space as well, having previously bowled at a bowling alley on Penn’s campus.
Today, some of the leftover bowling pins and bowling balls can be found in WKDU’s radio station.
If bowling wasn’t their speed, Dragons could play pool (at one of six billiards pools rented for $1 an hour), ping pong, shuffleboard, pinball (at one of seven pinball machines), chess, checkers and cards. A volleyball court located outside of the DAC was also available for students.
The Creese Student Center bolstered its reputation as the go-to hangout spot on campus with the Dragon’s Den, a cafeteria-style dining space and restaurant that was built in the ‘70s and underwent several renovations and reincarnations.
For some time during that decade, the Dragon’s Den was the closest burger joint to campus in seven blocks. So it makes sense that it was known for — what else? — dragon burgers.
These (steak) burgers with a Drexel-friendly name were seen as a better deal than McDonald’s — a September 1978 Triangle article published in the welcome-back issue giving a better look at Drexel to its incoming freshmen highlighted the fact that “the ‘Dragon Burger’ contains 1/3 of a lb [sic] of meat, compared to a McDonald’s ¼-Pounder.”
This Dragon’s Den had opened in January 1978 and served an average of 600 people a day that spring term. Its hours were 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week and Saturday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Students could use their meal plan to purchase food.
Menu options for that year included:
- A “Big Dragon” hamburger: $1.25
- A “Big Dragon” hamburger with cheese: $1.35
- Hamburger: 65 cents
- Cheeseburger: 75 cents
- 12” pepperoni pizza pie: $2.50
- 12” regular pizza pie: $1.90
- Crispy chicken (three pieces): $1.69
- Crispy fish fillet: 80 cents
- Large French fries: 45 cents (regular size French fries cost 30 cents)
- Milkshake (vanilla, chocolate or strawberry): 55 cents
The Dragon’s Den was still around and catering to hungry Dragons in 1990 — and started delivering pizzas that year. Students could order a pizza over the phone and pay using their Social Security number (!) so the price could be deducted from the weekly meal plan. Ordering the pizza itself — and hoping to get it in an hour and a half or less, if at all — was seen as the riskier move.
“Many of us have learned the hard way, that when ordering a pizza from the Den, it is best to order it an hour and a half before hunger sets in,” one Dragon noted in a 1990 Triangle op-ed. “Even though the workers on the phone claim the pizza will arrive in a half an hour, we know better.”
By that time, the space was showing its age — a 1995 Triangle op-ed described one re-design as “puking up a new lounge” and “not for the classy” — and the Dragon’s Den, and the bowling alley, closed sometime afterward.
Today, the space gives no sign of its former life, but you can remember its glory days through these photos from University Archives.