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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Mar 13, 2017
The FGCU basketball team gained national prominence a few years ago during a fairytale run into the NCAA Sweet 16. Known for their high-flying, dunk-loving style of basketball, the Eagles have soared into prominence. Their home, Alico Arena, is a purpose-built college basketball arena that has everything you would want for a smaller conference school.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concessions stands at Alico Arena are not inherently exciting, but they are inexpensive. With a concession stand downstairs and several along the main upper concourse in the arena, finding food isn't difficult. And with low prices for meals (burgers, hot dogs, and fries are all less than $5 each, with drinks all less than $3), you won't be breaking the bank. The food is prepared as you order, which makes it hot when handed over, as opposed to food just waiting for you under a hot plate.
A large contingent of FGCU fans may be older, but boy, do they love their college basketball, and do they know how to cheer for their team. Whenever the Eagles throw down a monster dunk, the crowd erupts and rises to their feet en masse. The north end zone of the arena's lower bowl seating is the student section, home of the "Dirty Birds," a rowdy fan club of FGCU students who take trolling the opposing team to a new level. The arena itself is well manicured, always clean, and the color scheme is bright green and blue, screaming Eagle pride to everyone who enters. The arena is also modestly sized, officially holding just 4,500 fans at full capacity. This makes the sound inside the arena amplified that much more.
FGCU is a somewhat secluded college campus southeast of Fort Myers, meaning it is situated in a less developed area of a suburb. Within driving distance, there are numerous shopping areas with a growing number of restaurants, stores, and attractions. All of the campus' athletic facilities are in one section of the college's property, making getting to a game easy to do night in and night out. For somewhere to stay, one has to look no further than just outside of campus, where several hotels have popped up in the last few years.
The fans at FGCU can heckle along with the best of them, and they even keep it clean! Instead of a popular chant of "Bull..." something-or-other after bad ref calls, the fans chant "Push It" instead, in a nice, family-friendly way of displaying their displeasure with the refs. They also know all the players, the stats and standings from around the conference, and their Eagles basketball history. When a three-pointer goes in, the fans erupt. When a dunk is thrown down, the fans erupt. And when the Eagles win, the fans erupt. It is hard to not see the upward trend at FGCU when it comes to college basketball, as reflected in the team's fans.
Getting to FGCU is very easy, thanks to its location near I-75. Located between two major exits on the highway, the campus is well-marked and easy to find. Once on campus, finding the athletics facilities, including Alico Arena, or anywhere else on campus for that matter, is a breeze, as the signage at FGCU is plentiful and detailed. In addition, parking is plentiful in the area for athletic events at the college. The location of the facilities on the northeastern corner of the campus makes getting to events a breeze. Parking even at the furthest lot only means a short five-minute walk to the arena.
The excitement in #DunkCity is easy to feel the moment you walk in. It makes the low price for tickets ($10 for general admission, $22 for the sideline in the middle, and $25-$30 for club level, $35-$75 for courtside) seem like even that much more of a bargain. The concessions are also cheap, and parking is plentiful and free for games, as well. Put all of this together, and you have a lot of bang for your buck for top notch NCAA basketball.
There are a lot of extras to be seen at FGCU. The first thing you notice outside the arena is the giant eagle sculpture. This has become a popular photo spot for visiting fans.
Another neat thing is the history diehard sports fans can look back at in Alico Arena. Not only is the facility host to the schools various college athletic championship banners, but there is also a trophy case right inside the main entrance of the arena.
Something else convenient for sports fans is the arena's proximity to other sports facilities. FGCU tennis, soccer, baseball, swimming & diving, and softball all have their homes literally a stone's-throw away (actually, they all surround the main parking lot in front of Alico Arena).
Fans who come in are also usually greeted with tons of giveaways. Be they t-shirts, posters, or other freebies, you can usually count on FGCU providing some free swag.
The team also hands out dunk-counter papers. These papers show how many dunks to date in the season FGCU has thrown down, and it has space open for fans to tally the dunks as the game progresses and the number grows.
Kids are also brought onto the court during pre-game to greet the players with a high-five line next to the school's cheerleaders during player intros.
Finally, fans are usually picked from the stands to participate in FGCU basketball's prize games during in-game breaks.
The next time you are in Florida and looking for a college basketball experience, one shouldn't skip FGCU. While Florida Gulf Coast University may not be on every fan's radar for top-of-the-line college basketball, it should be. The facility, while small, is powerful and comfortable, and the fans are among the best in the state. The history already made by the small school in such a short amount of time is impressive, and if the recent history is any indication, it is bound for even more greatness.
Member Review by StPeteRays on Mar 19, 2013
College basketball is one of the core tenets of this site. Once we covered all 122 of the "Big Four" sports in North America, one of the first projects was to complete reviewing all of the Division I college basketball venues. We love them for their massive variety of venues, as everything from small 2,000-seat gymnasiums to massive 16,000-seat arenas are in play, all of which are within the rules of the game. And despite the fundamental rules of the game specifying the exact dimensions of the court, lines, and even the types of wood for flooring (hard maple or maple-oak blends are the norm), one thing not mentioned is how the seating bowl and facility encasing the court must be established.
This, in my opinion, is what makes reviewing college basketball venues most challenging. To honestly quantify similarities and differences between the largest facilities of over 15,000 people and the quaint gyms of under 4,000 seats and make a call of which is better is tough. Bigger isn't always better, but small-feel charm sometimes isn't enough, either.
Alico Arena on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University is in the latter size category. Despite its diminutive size of only handling 4,500 people, it really does back a nice punch. Its intimacy reminds fans why most students, knowing they'll never make the NBA, still insist on playing on the team anyway.
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