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Official Review by Daniel Armstrong, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The 1981-1982 Bradley Men's Basketball season was the last to be played at historic Robertson Memorial Field House. The Braves returned to downtown Peoria for the first time in over a half century to call the newly completed Peoria Civic Center Arena home. Thirty years later on January 29th 2013 on the night of the I-74 Rivalry game against Illinois State, Carver Arena welcomed its four millionth fan since becoming the home of Bradley Basketball.
The Braves co-tenants, the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL, are also celebrating their 30th season of competition inside Carver Arena in 2013.
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".
Carver Arena has one of the widest food selections I have encountered in college basketball. There are over thirty menu items, featuring classic ballpark cuisine as well as some surprises and all are under $8. I ordered the pork chop sandwich, sweet potato fries, a Coke in a souvenir cup, and a bag of the World's Greatest Kettle Corn. My bill came to $16.75. I found the pork chop to be a little cold and dry, but the sweet potato fries were very good. I have to recommend the kettle corn because as the brand name suggests it just may be the best in the world.
There are two large concession stands on either side of the arena and while the area is very wide and there are several points of sale you will encounter a long line during half time. There are four other fixed concession stands scattered along the main concourse. Only two were open at the time of my visit. The main concourse becomes very congested so I would recommend walking to one of the two main stands.
As it is an off campus facility, the sale of alcohol is permitted at Carver Arena. As with the food there is a wide selection. Beer starts at $4.50 and there is also a selection of wine and margaritas. Drinks can be made to order at one of the two bars inside of the arena.
I'm going to get the bad news out of the way first. As is common in off-campus facilities, the student section was rather small. Those who were in attendance made a lot of noise but due to the unique basketball seating arrangement at Carver Arena they were too far away to have much of a direct effect on the game. The seats are all padded but they have arguably the worst leg room I have encountered and no cup holders. I am 5'11" and was extremely uncomfortable the entire game. The rows are very steep which means that no one should obstruct your view but it does make for an unpleasant trek to your seat if you are sitting in the top rows.
One high point was the student and alumni band which was above average and did a good job of keeping energy up during breaks.
There are several options for pre or post-game activities in the area. However the City of Peoria has a high crime rate so pay attention to your surroundings. I would recommend either visiting the riverfront area or staying in the immediate vicinity of the Peoria Civic Center. The best sports bar in the area is the Locker Room which offers a build-your-own sandwich or build-your-own salad. It seems to be the place to go for fans leaving the arena to celebrate a win.
If you are coming from out of town come early and give yourself some time before the game to check out downtown Peoria. There are a variety of shops, museums, bars, and restaurants. Peoria also has a beautiful riverfront district that is worth a visit.
Depending on the game you attend this category could be anywhere from two stars to a five. For non-conference games against mid-major opponents the fans don't show up in number and don't show great involvement in the game. But in conference games or games against big time opponents it ranks among the best atmospheres in the country.
When 11,000 fans pile into the building it has that "roar" you love to hear as a sports fan and that is hard to find outside of the major basketball conferences. It was certainly present in Peoria on the night of my most recent visit. All of the fans show an interest in the game and cheer and applaud at every successful possession. Another thing I like to see is that roughly 80% had on Bradley Athletics apparel of some sort.
As it is in the heart of Downtown Peoria, parking is a problem when visiting the Civic Center. My recommendation would be to park in the parking garage directly across from Carver Arena. It will cost you $10 but it is well worth it. There is some cheaper parking in some private lots on the far side of the Civic Center complex and free parking may be found a couple blocks away on the street. The concourse at Carver Arena is far too narrow for a capacity crowd and it has taken me over 20 minutes to get from my seat to the exit in the past. I would recommend when leaving to travel inside the arena to the portal nearest your exit and then proceed out the door to avoid frustration in the congested concourse. There are four large bathrooms for each gender inside but you should expect a line if you visit them during high points.
There are three price levels for tickets: a seat in the lower bowl will cost you $20, while a seat in the upper bowl lower rows at mid-court or in the corners will cost $14, upper bowl seats on the ends or in the top 10 rows at mid-court will cost you $8. I recommend the $14 seats as they provide a good view of the action at a good price. Concessions are reasonably priced as is parking. The overall experience is worth the price you pay inside.
I always award an extra point for championship banners and Carver Arena is full of them. The Bradley Braves have won the National Invitation Tournament on four occasions and have been NCAA Runner-Up twice.
The greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame lines the concourse and is worth taking a look at.
The Bradley brand is predominately displayed inside which is somewhat rare in downtown venues. I love the large Bradley Braves banners on the west end of the arena.
There are many unique traditions you will find at a Bradley Basketball game. It starts during the national anthem. The fans yell on the last line "And the home of the BRAVES!" During the opposing teams introductions the students will all turn their backs and look at newspapers. Kids come down and line the baseline to high five the players during starting line-ups. And all fans remain standing until the opposing team scores their first basket.
Member Review by paul
Since 1982, Carver Arena in the downtown Peoria Civic Center, has been the home of Bradley Braves basketball. The venue is shared with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL. In total, the venue hosts over 375 events each year, including the Illinois High School State Championships for basketball. With a spacious concourse and access to numerous bars and restaurants in downtown Peoria, you will be sure to have a great time seeing some Missouri Valley Conference basketball at Carver Arena.
311 Main St
Peoria, IL 61602
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Peoria, IL 61602
121 SW Adams St
Peoria, IL 61602
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