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Official Review by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Bren Center, which officially opened in 1988, is a nice intimate venue that serves as the home to many of UC Irvine’s athletic programs. This small, non-descript venue holds just under 5,000 for basketball, guaranteeing that no matter where you are seated, you will never be far away from the action. Upon arriving to The Bren, a statue of an anteater is located just outside the arena’s southeast entrance. If you should be so lucky, you may even be greeted at some point during your visit by the school’s official mascot, Peter the Anteater.
A catchphrase that one will hear a lot on game night’s is Zot Zot, used from the comic strip “B.C.”. Don’t be surprised if you should find yourself getting caught up yelling the school’s famous rally cry. As a matter of fact, I highly recommend it.
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The options are your basic arena fare, serving hot dogs ($4.50-$7), burgers and cheeseburgers ($6-$6.50), as well as your basic arena snacks, popcorn and nachos ($4.00-$6.50). Fountain beverages featuring Pepsi products go from $3.50-$4.50.
I was rather surprised to see they sell alcoholic beverages here, especially for an on-campus event. Wine can be purchased for $6.50, as well as domestic and craft beer for $7-$7.50.
Given the fact that UCI basketball, as well as its athletic program does not have the history and recognition of some of the upper level school, such as neighbors UCLA or USC, one should not expect an overly raucous atmosphere from the locals. In this non-descript venue, don't expect to be overwhelmed by a huge history of national title banners hanging from the rafters or exhibits honoring famous alumni. Though their history may not be as rich as their neighboring schools, the Bren Center does honor the university's athletic accomplishment's both team and individual wise. On the north end of the arena, you will see a display of banner's that honor each athletic team's national championships. On the other end of the Bren in the concourse, an athletic Hall of Fame can be seen honoring famous UCI athletes.
In terms of local activity within the surrounding area, not much is really offered around the campus. Not far from the Bren is the University Center, which the locals say has gone through some vast improvements. UCI students make up the bulk of the clientele, so parking can be a hassle. Most of the dining options at the University Center are geared toward the college student and the options range from Blaze Fast Fire'd Pizza where you build your own personal sized wood-fired pizza for a reasonable price, California Gogi Korean Grill, a sit down version of a local favorite, the Korean Kogi truck, and standard fast food chains Chick-fil-A and Southern California favorite, In-N-Out.
Should you want to venture away from campus before the game, the Irvine Spectrum is not far from campus either and offers a more extensive restaurant selection, including Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill, Yardhouse, and Cheesecake Factory among the many selections offered. Should you happen to bring the kids with you, the Spectrum also has a ferris wheel and a carousel for the young ones to enjoy.
I was rather surprised that not everyone in the student section was wearing the same colored attire, as seems to be the norm. I was expecting to see a sea of either blue or gold along the lower baseline seats. Perhaps it was because it was the first game of the young college basketball season. Maybe as the season progresses, especially during conference play, the students will all be donned in one color, especially once conference play begins.
That is not to say that the student's and fans here are not involved. Throughout the night, chants of "Let's Go Eaters" and "Zot Zot" can be heard especially after each successful free throw. "Zot Zot" is a rally cry used among the UCI Anteater faithful based on the comic strip B.C., in which the anteaters tongue makes this sound. The comic strip and the university have developed a strong bond over the years.
UCI is conveniently located near several freeways, particularly the 405, 73, 55 and 5. Parking can be found on Mesa Rd for $10. Several Orange County Transit Authority bus lines run by the campus, including line 79, which has a stop by The Bren. Otherwise, most of the bus lines lay over by the University Center, about a 10-15 minute walk of you don't mind the nice leisurely stroll.
The Bren provides a comfortable place for fans to roam, including an outdoor patio for those who want some fresh air or to go out and stretch. However, you may want to take note that the venue's lone restrooms are located along the south concourse so depending on where you are seated, you may have to walk a ways to comfort yourself. The lines on most nights should not be a problem.
With the most expensive ticket being $25 and tickets being available on most nights, UCI basketball is a good bargain that won't put a hole in your pocket. The small size of The Bren Center means that you will never be far away from the action. The Bren does not offer much in terms of frills, but then again, the main focus is supposed to be the on court action, right?
Not much is offered here when it comes to extras. Upon entering the east entrance, you can have your picture taken next to an exhibit to see how you measure up size wise with each player from both the men's and women's team. On this evening, fans would measure up with 7 foot 6 inch center Mamadou Ndiaye of the men's team and Irene Chavez, a 5 foot 3 inch guard for the women's team.
Outside the entrance is a statue of the anteater, which makes for a nice central meeting spot should you be attending with others while arriving separately. The statue is also a favorite picture spot for fans as well. Below the statue is a plaque that tells you how UCI received its nickname.
Being one of the lesser known college basketball programs, one should not expect the type of atmosphere that you would just up the road at Pauley Pavilion. The Bren Center does offer an intimate feeling with its small size and on most nights tickets are very reasonably priced from $7-$25. One of my favorite aspects of watching a game here is the fans involvement throughout the game, especially when yelling their rally cry "Zot Zot," which, even though it is based off a comic strip, is very original and one they can call their own.
Member Review by DrewCieszynski
Year after year, Irvine appears on the FBI's safest cities in America list, so sports fans would not expect much excitement in such calm surroundings. The University of California Irvine (UCI) Anteaters would like to prove that a lack of excitement is far from the truth.
Upon arriving at the Bren Events Center, one might think that he or she has arrived late for the contest. This is because before the game you will hear famous sound bites from the past over the PA system.
The arena is formally called the Donald Bren Events Center and received this moniker in 1988 when the chairman of the Irvine Company (real estate) donated $1.5 million. If you are looking for residence in Irvine, CA, at least one of the places you visit will be owned by the Irvine Company.
The multi-purpose, 90,000 square foot venue holds 4,984 for basketball and was built in 1987.
The Anteaters play in the Big West Conference and while they have won the regular season championship, they have yet to win the championship game and advance to the NCAA tournament. Their most well-known player is current Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks, but the only retired number is the #44 of Kevin Magee. During the 1982 season, Magee led the team that was ranked as high as 19th in national polls.
4237 Campus Dr
Irvine, CA 92612
C-215 Student Center
Irvine, CA 92697
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