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Official Review by Peter Farrell, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Out in the suburbs of the city of Buffalo, you'll find the campus of the university that bears the city's name. It's a place somewhat devoid of character and soul, and within its limits lies Alumni Arena, a basketball venue that seems to match the aura of the campus that surrounds it. There's a capacity of six thousand here, and it's designed with most seats on one side of the venue. This creates a dynamic of a high roof that gives the venue a more overwhelming look than necessary.
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The fare is pretty standard here. Hot dogs ($3), nachos ($4), pretzels ($3.50), soda ($3.25). Though admittedly I didn't touch much of that because my mind was on a postgame pizza run. It's solid, if not overwhelming stuff and nothing that will surprise you.
Alumni Arena has a capacity of over six thousand, and when there's a small crowd with a smaller student base, "cavernous" could be the term used to describe the venue. A school that has over 20,000 students can barely muster a couple hundred dispassionate fans to the arena, and with a local rival (Niagara) in the building that night the place was not even a third full. It was a pretty disappointing sight to see, and I wasn't alone as the student newspaper and a local radio host opined in the days thereafter about the lack of atmosphere for Bulls games. The place just seemed dead from start to finish.
The campus is somewhat large, so anywhere to go around the arena definitely requires a car. For my money, the best place to hit is Zetti's Pizzeria, my favorite in all of Buffalo at the corner of Maple and Flint just off the campus. For a little longer drive, just get on the 290 to the Niagara Falls Blvd. exit where you'll find a pretty decent selection of chain restaurants and such.
The crowd was weak, though they did have a pep band there to get some noise into the building. Being a local, I've seen much better days here. On this night the fans were a shadow of what once was, say back in 2004 when the fans stormed the court after winning a conference tournament prequarterfinal game.
It is easy to get to the campus, but getting to the arena once on it can be a chore. Get off the interstate 290 spur at Millersport Highway North and swing a left onto Flint until you hit the campus then make a right towards the arena.
The campus brought in Division I hoops in the early 90's and football in 1999, but it doesn't seem that the parking lots were designed to handle this. Few lots exist within a very short walk to the arena, and many that are close are usually filled with cars for people attending night classes or living in nearby dormitories. The traffic pattern near the Arena doesn't involve much in the way of traffic lights that can move large amounts of cars on and off the campus and the arena area quickly. On game nights with plenty of fans this can be a bit of a hassle.
$14 was the cheapest ticket here ($14-$18 range), a bit pricey I thought, and I saved my food appetite for post game. The cost is pretty fair for watching college hoops below the power conference level. The parking is free, but a bit more of a walk than one should expect, and the walk seems a bit long during the cold winter nights that accompany Bulls games.
There was a kids area in one of the corners between seating areas. There are also many banners celebrating championships won by multiple Buffalo sports teams in the seating bowl, but only a 2009 MAC regular season champions banner hangs for the men's basketball team along with some retired numbers of players who starred here long before Buffalo was a Division I basketball school.
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