Overshadowed by basketball powerhouses Duke and North Carolina, and overshadowed by their own tumultuous football program, the Miami Hurricanes Men's Basketball Program chugs along. Upon moving to the ACC in 2004, the Hurricanes have been looking for their place in a basketball-mad conference filled with perennial National Championship competitors. Finishing only .500 in conference play one year, the Hurricanes struggle in all senses of the word. However, even before that, Miami only boasts one regular season conference title, in which they tied for first and made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Hurricanes basketball has actually come a long way. The program was shut down in 1971 due to poor attendance and inadequate facilities. The Canes made their resurgence for the 1985 season and eventually joined the Big East for the 1991 season. Since then, Hurricanes basketball has plodded along, eventually leaving the Big East for the ACC. In 2003, the University of Miami opened their own basketball facility on campus, which was eventually named the BankUnited Center. This facility answered all questions about a proper facility and was built with a modest attendance in mind.
Although great success has not been found in Coral Gables, the program continues and the die-hard fans continue to support their team, and the measuring stick for success is merely a berth in the NCAA tournament.
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 selections at the BankUnited Center are fairly standard. There are 3 main types of concession stands. The Papa John's stand features pizza at $8.50 for a personal pizza, among other selections. The Full Court stand features your basic arena food. You can get a hot dog for $4.50, popcorn for $3.50, a pretzel for $4, or nachos for $5.50. The Center Court stand features the most unique items. Pulled pork and pulled chicken are the featured items at this stand. You can get either sliders or Nachos with pulled pork or chicken for $8.50. Soda selections include Coca-Cola products and bottles can be found at most retail outlets for $4.50. As you can see, the concession prices are not fantastic, and a little on the high side.
Full disclosure must be given here. The game that is being reviewed was against non-conference opponent Appalachian State, and in the middle of the Christmas break, when the university is all but closed.
The BankUnited Center is located on the campus of the University of Miami, and is absolutely picturesque from the outside. Once inside, the Miami green and orange motif is spread throughout the entire building. The concourses feature the school colors. The seats in the seating bowl are green. Everything screams Hurricanes.
As mentioned, the seating bowl features Hurricane green seats. The sight-lines are great from everywhere and the small capacity makes for a more intimate experience. This is not a program like a North Carolina that can draw over 18,000 a night, so the smaller 8,000 capacity is perfect. Above the seating bowl, the Hurricanes honor their greatest with retired numbers above the court including Dick Hickox, Don Curnutt, Jack McClinton, Tim James, and the number 24 worn by their most famous son: Rick Barry. On one side of the arena, hanging high above the seats Miami shows off their
banners featuring their appearances in the NCAA tournament and the NIT, highlighted by their trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 2000.
There is also some history on showcase in the concourse. There is a plaque honoring all men and women players who have gone on to play professionally. There is also a large banner that commemorates those individuals who were instrumental in bringing back the Hurricane basketball program from oblivion. As mentioned above, the concourses are all decked out in Hurricane green and orange.
The in-game production was quite muted. The normal pep band was not there and the cheerleaders/dancers, known as the Sunsations, seemed to be missing a few members. I will give the Hurricanes the benefit of the doubt, and firmly believe that the in-game atmosphere is much better when all of the students are around. Sebastian, the Ibis, made the rounds throughout the game and danced with the kids and interacted with the crowd.
The BankUnited Center is located right on the campus of the University of Miami. Being from Southern Ontario, it's hard for me to even imagine that Miami would be a place to go to school rather than vacation. The palm trees and Southern architecture make it a stunning view.
Being in Coral Gables, the BankUnited Center is away from the hustle of downtown Miami. That being said, it is still a large university campus, and there are many pre- and post-game options available. If you have a few extra bucks, you may want to hit a South Florida staple, Shula's 347 Grill. Owned by legendary Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, the 347 Grill is a slightly cheaper version of big brother Shula's Steakhouse. Also, the Titanic Brewery is worth your time.
As mentioned above, this game was during the middle of Christmas break. The student section was populated with a robust twelve students. They did their best, but the numbers were against them. It is my understanding that under normal circumstances the student section is quite rowdy and usually full.
The other fans that were in attendance were die-hard Hurricane supporters. They were knowledgeable and supportive of their team. The spot that we were sitting in was littered with season ticket holders. They were extremely kind, friendly and welcoming to us. All of the factors considered, the fans did all right.
Even considering the abnormal circumstances behind the date of this review, Miami must still be considered a sub-par experience when compared to the other basketball giants in the ACC. A sellout is rare at the BankUnited Center. The best crowds are reserved for when ACC juggernauts Duke or North Carolina come to town. The top game of the year has to be considered the Florida State game.
It's by no means a stretch to label Miami as one of the poorer sports markets in the USA. With tons of sports options, as well as other entertainment and recreation options, no Miami-based team has caught the undying fanaticism of the South Florida fans, and the Hurricanes are no different. Miami fans will show up when the times are great. I suspect that if the Hurricanes were able to REALLY compete in the ACC, then Hurricane fans would show up in droves. Until that point, an average mark for the fans is all that they can be awarded.
The BankUnited Center is super-easy to get to. Located just off of the South Dixie Highway, and right at the edge of campus, the BankUnited Center presents itself as both a campus landmark, and easy venue to reach. Even better is the availability of FREE parking for all patrons. The parking and outdoor staff at The U were super-friendly and helpful. Inside, there were plenty of washrooms and the concourses were more than large enough to handle the masses.
Tickets for Hurricanes basketball are merely $15 each. This is a good deal for college basketball from a major conference. Combine that with parking that is free and you are well on your way to a great time for a reasonable price. The only reasons that the mark falls off for The U are the slightly-high concession prices and at times a lacking atmosphere and fan base.
An extra point is awarded to the Hurricanes for resurrecting a program that was literally dead and having them compete in a major conference. An extra point is awarded for the tradition the fans have of remaining standing until the Canes score their first points. And one more extra point is awarded for the beautiful campus of the University of Miami.
It may not be the once-in-a-lifetime experience that other ACC programs like Duke and North Carolina offer, but a trip to The U will not disappoint. At the very least, you get to see some Division I basketball at a good price. It's a great opportunity to bring out the family. I'm not sure I would go way out of my way to see the Hurricanes, but if you are around and they are in town, make sure you go check out the Miami Hurricanes at The U.
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5813 Ponce De Leon Blvd
Coral Gables, FL 33146
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