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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
The IPFW Mastodons already have one of the best nicknames in all of sports. I was only hoping that the experience of seeing one of their basketball games would be half as entertaining as the name of the team.
The first question you may have is, what is IPFW? It stands for Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Ok, easy enough.
Next, why on earth did they choose the mastodon for the mascot? Apparently, an excavation of the prehistoric beast in the late 1960's is behind the unique team name. The team is often referred to as simply, The "Dons."
Home for the Mastodons is the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Like their mascot, the building is old and big. Opened in 1952, the venue is currently also home to the Fort Wayne Komets of the CHL, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBDL, and the Fort Wayne Firehawks of the Continental Indoor Football League. Clearly this is a multi-purpose facility if ever there was one.
It was also the final home of the Fort Wayne Pistons, before they made the move to Detroit.
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 most frustrating part of walking the concourse during an IPFW game is the plethora of stands that are closed. There must have been 4-5 stands that were not available, which seemed to have some more exotic options. As it was, there was still enough to sustain.
For the encased meat selection, you have the option between a Polish ($4.50), brat ($4.50), jumbo dog ($3.50), or hot dog ($2.75). I went for the Polish and found it to be juicy and better than what I would have expected. In fact better than most college basketball venues I've visited. The pizza on the other hand ($4) was only average.
Because the facility is off-campus, they do have the ability to sell alcoholic beverages. Fans have the choice between standard macro-brews like Budweiser ($6), mixed drinks ($5), or wine ($4.50).
Coffee and hot chocolate are available for only $2. A bottle of water will cost you $3, and Pepsi products are available in various sizes with a large souvenir cup going for $4.
Overall, it's a pretty basic selection, but the prices are right on target.
The biggest drawback to my experience attending a Mastodons game was the lack of any kind of a crowd. There was a snowstorm that evening, which I am sure contributed to the emptiness of the arena, but at tipoff I was able to literally count every spectator, and it was less than 200. Because the arena seats 13,000 for basketball, this becomes incredibly noticeable. The fun part of going to a game like that is you can hear pretty much anything that is said by the players, coaches, officials, and fans.
Seats are padded and comfortable, although I found the legroom to be less than adequate. There are also no cupholders to place your beverage. On the positive side, rows seem to be elevated more than most arenas so that if there are fans sitting in front of you, they should in no way impede your view.
The only scoreboard in the arena is the one overhead. This is one venue where front row seats may be a bad thing as you would really need to stretch your neck to get a glimpse of the score or time.
I really enjoyed the IPFW pep band (known as the STOMP), and their dynamic band director wailing on his bass guitar. With almost no semblance of a student section, the approximate 25 members of the pep band did their best to inject life into the venue. At halftime, I switched seats just so I could be closer to their energy.
Fort Wayne is a large enough town that you should be able to find something that satisfies your hunger before or after a game. The closest options to the arena are chains including Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers, Hooters, and Applebee's.
If you want to try something with a little more local flair, then check out Hall's Restaurant. There are a few different locations, with the first dating back to 1946. The closest is Don Hall's Guesthouse Grill.
If you're looking for a locally made beer, try Mad Anthony's. They have a decent pub-style menu, and several locally made beers.
The very few fans who showed up seemed like sort of a mixed group of ardently involved backers, and nonchalant wall flowers. I mentioned the student section (it's a stretch to even refer to them as such) which was perhaps the most pathetic student section that I have witnessed. Most of the remaining fans who were there were engaged and made sure the referees knew they were there if no one else.
Parking will cost you $4, which was a little infuriating. With the need to attract fans, and especially to attract its largely commuter student population, you would think that the university would make efforts to remove all barriers.
Concourses are large and you'll have no problem moving about the arena for finding a restroom. Those restrooms are large, but feel old.
Tickets start at only $8 for upper level seats. Given the crowd that I experienced, there is no reason to pay more than that as you can easily choose any seat in the building once the game has begun. Students are admitted for free, which is a good thing, now they just need to get the students out to the arena. Food is average, and reasonably priced, so other than the unnecessary parking charge, there isn't much to complain about here.
I wouldn't recommend going out of your way, but if you're in the Fort Wayne area, or you're following your team to Fort Wayne, then the experience will be equivalent to the price you pay.
I'll award an extra point for being able to claim that I've been to a Mastodons game. Otherwise, there isn't much that I would consider to be special or unique at a IPFW basketball game.
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