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Official Review by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Opened in 1983, Carver-Hawkeye Arena houses University of Iowa men’s basketball, women’s basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, and wrestling. The 15,500 seat arena has been host to the Big Ten and NCAA Wrestling championships as well as the U.S. Olympic wrestling trials in 1984 and 2012. In 2008, the arena hosted a record 15,955 people for dual wrestling meet between Iowa and Iowa State.
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".
Food and drinks are offered in the traditional concourse style. The arena has all the standard fare and serves Coke products ranging from $3-$5. Among the food choices are: cheese steak ($7), cheeseburgers ($6), and bratwurst ($4.50). Hot dogs range from $3.50 for the basic to $5.50 for specialty dogs (Chicago Dog, Kansas City Dog, and Iowa Dog). Pizza Hut serves slices for $4. Snacks including candy, peanuts, and cookies can all be had for around $3.
A note for those of you who like soft serve ice cream: Iowa City loves soft serve! The lines start forming with about 5 minutes left in the half. The soft serve concession stands are flooded during halftime and very busy before the game. Unless you want to spend most of halftime in line, get there early. Soft serve cones are $3.50 and waffle cones are $5.
The arena is well laid out and easy to find seats. If you want to sit mid-court facing the Hawkeye logo, sit in section MM or NN. All seats have chair backs and are comfortable. Video scoreboards, which include player stats, sit atop each of the four sides making it easy to see the score at all times. The cheerleaders add to the fun throughout the game by throwing out shirts to the crowd in addition to dancing. Herky the Hawkeye (mascot) is also active throughout the game. The school band plays during timeouts and add to the enjoyment of seeing the game.
The court is dug into the ground with 42 rows rising from courtside. The other unique feature of Carver-Hawkeye is that there is no center court scoreboard. Instead, there are large scoreboards at each end. The concourse circles the top of the seating bowl. The result is a feeling of openness that is not found at any other Big Ten arena.
Located near downtown and the University of Iowa campus, the arena is close to many bars and restaurants and attractions such as the Old Capitol Building/Museum and the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History. There are many choices for food and drinks. Vine Tavern and Eatery, Wig and Pen Pizza Pub, Old Chicago, and Peking Buffet among others, are all within a mile, west of the arena. Downtown (across the Iowa River, east of the arena) is full of bars and restaurants.
The fans at the arena are immersed in the game throughout and make it seem like an event to be at. The student section especially stays active throughout with chants for opposing players that begin with introductions. Fans of the visiting team are treated well but subject to good-natured ribbing.
The arena is located a couple miles off of I-80. As you get closer to the arena, you will be in line for a while as entry to the arena is a two-lane highway. Traffic is slow but it moves steadily. Parking around the area is $5 per car.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena has good sized concourses that do fill up pre-game and at halftime as all the restrooms and concessions are on one level (there is only one level in the arena). Small lines form in the restrooms at halftime but move quickly and the wait is not long.
There are plenty of areas for handicap seating at the top of the seating bowl. Outside of the congestion in the concourse at halftime, getting around the arena is not an issue.
Tickets range from $14-$27. The arena is set up very well and there are no obstructed seats or sections that make it difficult to see the floor. Saving a few bucks by sitting further back will not take away from the experience of watching the game.
Banners form all the sports played in the arena are hung over the seats and are easily seen from the concourse. Banners are separated by sport and each sport is in a different part of the arena. The setup for the banners is very well done.
The Hawkeyes offer a nice program for $6. For $2, you can buy a game sheet with the rosters that allow you to keep score. Game sheets also include a poster of one of the players.
For fans sitting near the top of the seating bowl, there are flat screen monitors that hang over the crowd that allow for those fans to see the game feed and replays. There are also plenty of monitors in the concourse.
The staff, from ticket takers to concession employees, are all very friendly and willing to help out any way they can.
Iowa City is a charming town with plenty of restaurants and hotels, and a lot of other things to do and see. The arena has great seats and the crowd adds to the experience of taking in a game. There aren't any main airports close by, but if you are in the area or your team is visiting, Carver-Hawkeye Arena should be on your list of places to experience a game, even if you don't like soft serve ice cream.
Member Review by paul
As I approached Carver Hawkeye by car, I thought my GPS had perhaps led me astray. The building looks like it may be the art building or perhaps a performing arts center. It certainly doesn't look big enough to house a 15,000+ seat stadium. What you'll find is a pleasant surprise indeed.
Member Review by MNGator13 on May 03, 2013
Had a fun time, even though the Gophers lost by 20. Fans were ok, food was decent and the arena/atmosphere was great.
Member Review by newsome321 on Jan 25, 2016
This gem does not have a bad seat in the house! Very unique look from the outside, almost appears you are walking into an out gallery. Neat that the arena is built into the ground as well. Concourse is one level and has Windows all the way around which brings nice light into the arena. Definitely worth the trip.
18 S Clinton St
Iowa City, IA 52240
1220 U.S. 6
Iowa City, IA 52246
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