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Official Review by Keith Winters, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Corpus Christi is home to one AA baseball team (Corpus Christi Hooks) and one Division I sports program (Texas A&M Corpus Christi). So, the Islanders basketball program is one of the highest level of sport played in the city of 300,000.
The Islanders launched their Division I sports program for the first time in 1999. They moved to the American Bank Center after it was renovated in 2004. The Islanders share the arena with the City of Corpus Christi.
The American Bank Center has been the city convention center since 1967, and was renovated in 2004. The stadium hosts many events, mainly concerts and sporting events. Since, the 2004 renovation was a total overhaul, the stadium is very modern, with all the latest sound, lighting, and video technology.
The Islanders men went to the NCAA tournament in 2007.
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 food selection is exactly what one would expect. Hot dogs, nachos, and popcorn are offered in the $3-$5 range. One semi-unique item was the sausage on a stick for $4. All the food was generic stadium fare, and there were no name brands.
They, of course, had sodas and water for $2-$4. One plus of the American Bank Center is that they do serve beer, unlike most college basketball arenas. However, the beer list left something to be desired. Your choices were Budweiser, Bud Light, and Miller Light on draft for $3-$5.
I had a great time at the game I attended, but I am a basketball and sports junkie, so I enjoy watching games at many levels.
The fact is that the atmosphere was sub-par at best. The American Bank Center is the main convention center for the city of Corpus Christi, so it is converted to the A&M-Corpus Christi basketball court for men’s and women’s home games.
The arena seats around 10,000 for concerts, and 8,000 for A&M-CC basketball games. The arena sells out for acts like Carlos Santana and Elton John. Even back in 2007 when the team won the Southland Conference and went to the NCAA tournament, they often filled most of the arena.
But the 2011-2012 team has been an average club, and the stadium felt empty. They did not announce the attendance, but it could not have been more than 2,000 of the capacity of 8,000. Add to this the rather boring in-game entertainment between timeouts and it made for a rather dull atmosphere.
One positive was that you could hear the players and coaches communicating on the floor if you were close enough. However, it is not a basketball specific arena, the game and timeout entertainment were below average, and the stadium has little historical significance as it was built in 2004 and is located off-campus.
In the immediate neighborhood, there are very few options. The only thing within walking distance is the Brewster Street Icehouse, which is a ten-minute walk. But the good thing is that this is a great beer hall. They are right across from Whataburger Field, the home of the Corpus Christi Hooks, so many Hooks fans go there after the games. They also have live music several times a week, and a full menu. Brewster’s usually does the most liquor sales in all of Corpus Christi for a given month.
While there is not much within walking distance of the American Bank Center, downtown Corpus Christi is no more than a five-minute drive. There you can find Mexican food at Dos Comales, sushi at Sushi Bar, or a burger at Executive Surf Club. Just head downtown and there are plenty of options for food and the many bars.
One good thing about the neighborhood is that the American Bank Center is in the city convention center. So, it has some smaller theatres within it, several museums right next to it, and one of the traditional city historic districts right next to it. AND, it is right on the Corpus Christi Bay. There is a children’s water park right out front, and a beach about a mile down the road.
The fans were non-existent, and that is being generous. As stated above, there were maybe 2,000 fans in attendance, in a stadium with a capacity of 8,000. That is being generous too.
The only fans that even made a peep, were the five rowdy guys in the front row of the student section. The rest of the 200 or so students sat the entire game.
Again, this may be due to the Islanders place in the standings, but I doubt it has that drastic of an effect. There may be a slight up tick in fandom from time to time, but there would need to be long sustained success to see this change for the long term.
There is plenty of free parking on the street or at meters at night. The official parking was not open on the night I attended due to the low turnout, but they usually charge $7. Other private parking lots also charge $7. And all the parking lots are within a five-minute walk.
The general admission ticket cost was $9, and the high-end ticket was $50+ for a floor seat or $200+ for a box. The food is also very reasonable. You can get a hot dog, peanuts, and a soda OR two beers and a sausage on a stick for under $15. And the parking is free or $7 depending on where you choose.
So, $20-$30 for a night is a reasonable estimate. This is about the same you would pay for a movie, and way less than you would pay at a major professional game.
But, those other events are probably more entertaining, so I say that they are pushing it as far as price. I would return for the same price, but I think the average fan would need to see a more entertaining product to pay the same amount.
As mentioned in the Neighborhood section, the fact The American Bank Center is right on the Corpus Christi Bay is extraordinary. You can park along the bay front for free, and then walk along a beautiful boardwalk right up to the stadium. Or you can bring the kids to the beach and the kid’s water park and walk to the game in your swimsuits and flip-flops. That is accepted attire most anywhere in Corpus Christi, and there were plenty of people at the game in just that.
Come to Corpus Christi to see the water and the beach and the amazing weather. Then go see an Islanders game if you are a big basketball fan or there is an elite player that happens to be playing in the Southland Conference at the time.
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