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Official Review by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Northern Colorado Bears basketball team plays at the newly named Bank of Colorado Arena at Butler-Hancock Athletic Center. A 15-year partnership was signed with the bank in November, 2014. At the time of this review, the exterior name and signage still reads Butler-Hancock Athletic Center.
The center is used for the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the university’s volleyball and wrestling teams.
Prior to moving to the Butler-Hancock Athletic Center, basketball was played in Gunter Hall (built in 1928). Gunter Hall is still standing and operational but has been renovated and repurposed into classrooms and office space. There is a permanent display of sports memorabilia in Gunter Hall that serves as a constant reminder of Gunter’s past athletic history.
The University of Northern Colorado’s men’s basketball team began play in 1901 just 12 years after the founding of the university. They have played in a variety of different conferences, the longest tenure was the Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference (RMFAC) from 1924 – 1968. They have played in the Big Sky Conference since the 2006/2007 season.
Colorado State Rams is UNC’s oldest matchup, first meeting in 1901. The Rams and Bears have played on a consistent basis throughout the years, though only seeing each other once in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I was told Montana and Montana State are their biggest rivals so plan on attending a game here when one of the above mentioned teams are in town as there will be some passion displayed during those matches.
Attending a game here is worth the effort as it is a small, welcoming venue and watching the game provides a friendly, enjoyable sports night out.
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".
Two concession stands on either side of the entrance offer the same items. Offerings include hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, popcorn, pickles, flavored ice, and candy/chips ($2.00 - $4.50). Pepsi is the soda provider ($3.00) and it is nice to see Diet Dr Pepper in the selection.
There is a Pizza Hut tent that offers slices. I understand students get free pizza when they attend games.
Beer is served for $6 and includes your traditional Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, and two flavors of Mike's Hard Lemonade.
There is a small souvenir table to the left of the entryway that sells UNC Bears shirts, caps, banners, etc., though no hat pins.
The music selection and volume are perfect in this venue. You can actually chat and meet and greet your neighbors without having to yell at them or pretend you hear them when you actually have no clue what they are saying. And there are still plenty of kids dancing to the music even though it isn't blaring. More arenas should take a look at how the Bears manage this so well.
It's a small gym so seats are very close to the court. There is an extraordinary amount of legroom and seats are several inches wider than the average arena seat. Most seats are the blue fold down plastic type with no cup holders.
Section M is center court facing the players' benches and seems to be the home side of the court. Section C is the opposite side of the court. I'd recommend getting a seat a few rows above the first row as there's a walkway that might block your view if fans should (they generally don't) enter or leave the seating area during play of game.
A few contests during timeouts involving specific fan participation are held during breaks and time outs: wearing mittens beat your partner at opening a wrapped box and pulling out a certificate, three different throws into the basket within a certain amount of time and win something, be the first to dress like a Bear and shoot a basket and win, and the like.
The announcer is extraordinarily clear and understandable. If I knew how to keep score, I'd do a decent job because of the ability to recognize the baskets and fouls being communicated.
There are two video boards with good resolution in opposite corners showing play of game and select replays, time, score, fouls per team and stats of individuals on the floor. There is no center hung scoreboard which I'm finding quite enjoyable at college arenas.
The Bank of Colorado Arena at Butler-Hancock Athletic Center is located on the west end of the University of Northern Colorado campus across from Nottingham Field. It is on the edge of a residential area.
Walking distance (about ˝ mile away) is Pitcher's Brewery (they brew their own local beer and offer the traditional others. It's a sports bar/restaurant with several TV's). Along in that same area is a Carl's Jr, Silver Mine Subs, Taco John's, etc.
And even though Greeley is a small town, dining options are plentiful. And because it is small, it doesn't take too long to get anywhere.
Hotels recommended by UNC are Best Western, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, and Fairfield Inn and Suites. Except for the Best Western, the others are about 1 ˝ - 2 miles from the athletic center and near the Greeley Mall.
There are four local breweries (local = ˝ to 3 ˝ miles from UNC): Crabtree Brewing Company, Pitcher's Brewery, Wiley Roots Brewing Company, and Broken Plow Brewery.
Fans include families, families with children, alumni, retired folks, middle aged couples, young adults; it's the whole gamut. Everyone will feel welcome at the Bank of Colorado Arena at Butler-Hancock Athletic Center. The fans are friendly, welcoming and very supportive and knowledgeable of the team and the team's history.
I attended during Christmas break so a very minimal number of students were in attendance as they were home for the holidays. I am told they show up in full force (free pizza) when school is in session.
Fans don't leave or enter the seating area during play. All fans are in their seats at tip off. The fans certainly demonstrated their basketball etiquette the game I attended.
Greeley, CO and the arena is not off any interstates but is directly off US 34 in northern Colorado. It is about an hour's drive both north of Denver or south of Cheyenne. The closest airport is Denver International Airport (DIA) about 55 miles southeast.
Parking is not free of charge anymore and will cost either $10 (the two closest lots to entrance) or $5 (a couple steps further). One can also park in the local residential area for free and walk a few blocks to get to the center.
I did not notice any public transportation traveling to and in Greeley. Driving is your best bet.
Entry into the facility is painless. Be sure to pick up your $1 game day roster printed on poster like material when entering the venue.
There is one set of rest rooms for each gender near the entrance and they are surprisingly clean after the game.
The ticket booth opens just an hour before game time so no need to go there early to acquire your entry pass.
Tickets are $15 for a men's basketball game. General parking is $5 though can be had for free if parking in the nearby residential area. Food, though limited, is at a very reasonable price. The game day is entertaining. And I'd go back.
Even though the game I attended was during the holiday school break and it was a non-conference game, a hardy number of folks showed up to watch the match.
There are banners for championships but those are mostly of the volleyball team; not basketball. A banner honoring retired #55 Mike Higgins hangs from the rafters; he is a former NBA basketball player, played many seasons in Europe, and is an alumnus of the University of Northern Colorado.
I was told the new name of the arena has not affected game day experience and fans continue to enjoy and support their UNC Bears basketball. If you happen to be in the northern part of Colorado or in Cheyenne during the basketball season and if you're a basketball fan, do make the visit. It's nothing fancy but it's a good two hours or so of entertainment on the court.
Member Review by richkurt
Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion is located in Greeley, Colorado, on the campus of Northern Colorado University.
The Northern Colorado Bears play in the Big Sky Conference and their stadium reflects the smaller conference in its size. Butler-Hancock is a quaint arena, tiny in fact, with a basketball capacity of 2,992 fans. Bleachers are rolled into the multi-use arena as volleyball, basketball and many other sports take place there.
Still, despite the small size, taking in a game at Butler-Hancock is a truly unique experience. Fans are right up on the court and when it's packed, the arena roars with noise.
Opened in 1975, the arena has undergone many improvements including a new hall of athletics, a new sound system, a message and scoreboard center, ticket center and renovated restrooms.
2961 29th St
Greeley, CO 80631
625 3rd Street
Greeley, CO 80631
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