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Official Review by Steven Burke, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The dully-named Athletics-Recreation Center (or the "ARC") has served as the home of Valparaiso basketball since 1984. The men’s head basketball coach has had the name Drew for nearly as long with Homer Drew, older son Scott, Homer again, then younger son Bryce. Bryce Drew is perhaps the most well-known player in the history of the Valpo program thanks to his memorable three pointer to beat Ole Miss at the buzzer in the 1998 men’s basketball tournament.
The ARC is an intimate 5,000-seat arena consisting mostly of bleacher seats and is one of the many unique basketball settings found at the mid major level. While there is nothing remarkable about the facility, it does have one important thing going for it; it is located in the great basketball state of Indiana.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The ARC has two concession stands, both with few options, but affordable nonetheless. Pizza and soda each go for $2. The pizza is well worth the price and the soda consists of the usual variety of Pepsi fountain products you would expect at any location.
All beef hot dogs and bratwurst are also available for $2. Other entrée options include hamburgers ($3), cheeseburgers ($4), BBQ pulled chicken ($3.50), Italian beef ($4.50), and BBQ chicken nachos ($5). Popcorn and candy go for $1 and a variety of healthier options are also available. Greek yogurt ($1.50), whole fruit ($1), fruit cup ($3), apples with caramel ($3), and vegetable cups ($1.50). A separate stand on the 2nd level sells Culver's frozen custard with vanilla, chocolate, & twix mix available; one scoop costs $3, two scoops for $4, and three scoops for $5.
I would advise grabbing a bite to eat in downtown Valparaiso or the surrounding area if you want something more substantial.
More historical than the ARC, is the former home of the team, the Hilltop Gym. It is accessible during games and includes the retired numbers of, most notably, Bryce Drew, hero of the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Larry Bird also once played a collegiate game in this tiny gym, so you may want to at least peek your head inside.
I was present for a game against an in state team in the Ball St. Cardinals of the MAC conference; the ARC was pretty full with only the upper portion of the gym having empty seats. The intensity and noise were present for the entire game, this may be attributed to the in state opponent but I found the atmosphere to be a prime example of what is great about the middle tier conferences of Division I basketball.
Valparaiso is a nice little college town, and there are bars and restaurants within a reasonable walking distance of the game. I chose to drive on this cold night, but on foot the ARC is probably a 20 minute walk from downtown. There are numerous choices including familiar names like Buffalo Wild Wings.
Industrial Revolution Eatery & Grille is almost on campus it is so close to the ARC. With a large variety including great burgers and craft beer it is the perfect place for a pregame meal and is within walking distance of the ARC at only ˝ mile away. They have a great variety of craft beer including the well-known Three Floyds Brewing Company selections which is located in nearby Munster, Indiana. Industrial Revolution focuses on American classic comfort food and they do it well. I recommend the pot roast cheeseburger which is amazing and the seasoned potato wedges that come with it are great too.
Another great choice is Pikk's Tavern in downtown Valparaiso. They describe themselves in three words: Steaks, Wine, Friends. However they also have a good beer selection.
Franklin House Bar is a more typical sports bar, with four big screens in the main bar, and plenty of dudes, sitting around drinking. They do have a nice beer selection and a decent Reuben sandwich.
The fans are loud and into the game. The north side of the gym which consists of one level of seats with all chair backs seem to be where most season ticket holders sit. The seats are filled with mostly older alumni and community members that are knowledgeable and passionate about their basketball as would be expected in Indiana.
The student section is situated behind the west basket and affectionately known as the ValpasraiZONE. They are loud and raucous the entire game. Situated next to the pep band and on the baseline near the visiting bench the students never sit down and never quit yelling. As could be expected the student section reached another level of loudness when head coach and Valpo legend Bryce Drew emerged onto the court.
I parked in the parking garage off of LaPorte Ave in order to walk through campus; however a large surface lot is located directly across from the ARC also. As I was walking back through campus following the game the surface lot appeared to be emptying quickly with the help of campus police directing traffic.
There are not too many restrooms, so if you go when there's a packed house, it may be beneficial for you to sneak away from your seat a minute or so before the halftime buzzer sounds.
Ticket prices range from $10-$30 at Valpo depending on your seat choice. All seats on the north side of the gym with chair backs go for $25 while all seats on the south side of the gym both upper and lower level go for $10. Purchasing tickets in advance can be a great benefit as far as vicinity to the court. Courtside seat go for $30 and if you do choose to purchases tickets in advance online you can print at home for free, however you will incur a small service fee of between $2-$3 per ticket.
A word of warning, if your seat is too low in this section, you will be sitting behind the railing and your view will be obstructed. If you sit too high, then the banners will slightly obstruct your view, and you won't be able to see the scoreboard.
My advice would be to either spring for a lower level seat, or sit somewhere between rows DD and KK. You do get good value on the all concession items. Overall even though Valpo is in Indiana, I can't help but find value in the entire experience compared other schools in the Chicagoland area.
Three bonus points are attributed to a remarkable stat I mentioned earlier for the three Drew. Since 1988 a Drew has been the men's head basketball coach at Valpo. Homer Drew began at Valpo in 1988 and retired the first time in 2002, his son Scott took over for the 2002-2003 season before leaving for Baylor. Homer returned to the bench from 2003-2011 before retiring the second time and turning over the Valpo program to his younger son Bryce. Being the most recognizable player in the history of the program, and at just 40 years old, hopefully Bryce can continue the Drew reign at Valpo for a few more decades.
In 2010, Valpo named the floor at the ARC for the patriarch of the program Homer Drew; this has become a popular trend in recent years, but an honor much deserved nonetheless for Homer Drew.
If you're looking for a wonderful mid-major college basketball experience in the Chicagloand or northern Indiana area, then a trip to Valparaiso is worth the journey.
Member Review by paul
The dully-named Athletics-Recreation Center (or the "ARC") has served as the home of Valparaiso basketball since 1984. It is an intimate 5,000-seat arena consisting mostly of bleacher seats.
While there is nothing remarkable about the facility, it does have one important thing going for it- it is located in the great basketball state of Indiana.
Member Review by ValpoPlanner on Aug 21, 2014
The arc is a remnant of a bygone era really. With all the big arenas in D-1 bball, it's kind of refreshing to visit a place that feels local and a bit outside of the usual. The place will fill up during big games, but most nights it's about 1/2 full. They've got some cheap concession food, but it's certainly not for the picky eaters out there. Although, there is a Culver's ice cream stand now which is a nice touch. In the end, it's a small town team in D-1 bball so it's a good place to catch a game near Chicago if they are playing anyone good. One of my favorite things to do when I come to a game here, is to find Coach Homer Drew. He's the legendary retired coach who can be found walking around the arena greeting everyone. Just shows the community there and an example of the hospitality and friendliness in a small town team.
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