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Official Review by Chad Minton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
It’s hard to deny the state of Kentucky’s richness when it comes to college basketball, and Murray State’s CFSB Center shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle. It’s tucked away near the Tennessee border, and is absolutely worth the scenic drive to witness a game.
Completed in 1998, the Racers have enjoyed a distinct home-court advantage in this venue for nearly 20 years. It embodies everything that mid-major basketball is all about, which is passionate fans to go along with a loud atmosphere. The building itself is impressive for a program out of the Ohio Valley Conference, and the interior has the perfect layout for its capacity crowd of over 8,000.
The Murray State basketball program usually gets lost among the more traditional Kentucky powerhouses like the Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats. Once you get past those two elite programs, Murray State makes a great case for the being next in line.
If there’s a big conference matchup on the docket, or an in-state rival, then you better expect a packed house at CFSB Center.
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".
There is more than the just ordinary offered at the concession stands, which is always nice to see at smaller venues. Drinks are all fairly priced at $3, with choices including bottled water, Pepsi products, and even Starbucks coffee. You can also indulge yourself with "bottomless" soda for $7.
As for the food, there are several options that go beyond the usual. You have your classic hot dog for only $3, and add chili and cheese for 50 cents more. You can go with a bratwurst for $3.50. You can get the classic soft pretzel for $5. The lower priced items include a box of popcorn ($2.50) and wide variety of candy ($1.50). The cinnamon bites, which are offered by Culver's restaurant, are $4.50 and an interesting alternative. There are also a couple separate food and beverage carts with nachos and lemonade.
All of the choices are great and anyone should be able to find something they can enjoy. The only qualm is that the concession stand ran out of hot dogs right before tip-off during my most recent visit, so there was a delay to having more available.
This experience lives up to the hype of experiencing some excellent mid-major basketball in a basketball-rich state like Kentucky. You instantly feel the intimidation that the home crowd can generate in this building. It almost has a vertical feel to it, putting the fans right on top of the court. I certainly witnessed how loud this place can get, and it wasn't even at capacity during my visit.
There really isn't a bad view of the court no matter where you sit. However, the television cameras can block your sight line if you're sitting too far towards the front in the upper bleachers. Since it is general admission seating up top, you shouldn't have a problem moving to another seat to get a better view. Perhaps the best view is from the concourse area, if you don't mind standing. The lower sections have chairback seats, while the upper sections are bleachers.
You get to see all of the banners hanging from the rafters, and the CFSB Center has a lot of them. There are several retired numbers and championship banners spanning back to nearly a century ago. It reminds you that you're seeing a program with a lot of history and tradition.
You have to realize that Murray is located in a rural part of the country where you can drive 20-plus miles between towns. The city of Murray has plenty of fast food dining options, but not much after that. There are a few casual dining restaurants available, and most of them are located near the CFSB Center. Your best bet to try something new would be Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill and Margarita Bar. It's within walking distance of the CFSB Center exits. In terms of bars or nightlife, there isn't anything noticeable in the immediate area. Additionally, there is an Applebee's nearby to the arena.
This is a gorgeous part of the country when it comes to national parks and other outdoor activities. If you like doing things in nature, then check out Land Between the Lakes. It's a massive recreational area that offers boating, walking trails, camping, and wildlife.
It is a pretty decent drive away from any major cities, with Paducah being the closest at approximately 45 miles, and Nashville being over 100 miles.
You would have to be wearing some serious blinders not to notice the extreme passion that Murray State fans bring with them to support their Racers. The home fans always cheer for a made basket, but these particular fans are alert and make their presence known on a whole other level. Virtually every fan is wildly into the game from start to finish. The building is also small enough to voice your displeasure to the referees, and there are several fans who take on the role of heckling them.
The majority of the fans stay for the whole game, or at least until less than two minutes to go when the game is out of reach. They are loyal and create a lot of momentum when the Racers make their runs. Additionally, they are friendly and welcoming to visitors.
There's no easy or direct way to get to Murray. It's not located off of any interstates, meaning you have to use state highways for a good 30-40 miles, depending on which direction you're coming from. If you're coming from the Nashville area, then I recommend coming down Interstate 24, leaving you with a few state highways to make the rest of your journey. You can use Interstate 40 if coming from the West, and then go North on Highway 641. Just be prepared to use some highways that don't have a lot of gas stations, so plan accordingly as this area can get desolate.
As a first-time visitor, it is somewhat confusing on where to park. The construction surrounding the area in 2016 makes it even more confusing, but there are helpful staff that direct fans to park next to the football stadium.
There are two sets of restrooms in the lone concourse area, and they are kept very clean with plenty of space.
You can't beat the bargain of attending a game at CFSB Center. The product on the court really helps this score, and you can't ever argue with free parking. The concession prices are less than expected, further helping the overall return on investment. Ticket prices basically come in two forms; general admission is a mere $10, with reserved seating in the lower bowl at $16. It's a great value for some quality mid-major basketball. You can take the family out for an enjoyable evening at a very fair price.
The hospitality of the fans and staff is an excellent bonus. You shouldn't worry about bringing the family to an event here as the environment is family friendly, presented by a courteous staff.
I wasn't sure what the attendance would be on a weeknight for a team that isn't performing at its usual high level. Despite the circumstances, the fans showed up in impressive numbers and supplied a strong home-court advantage. There were multiple occasions when the fans literally had the place at a deafening level, and that earns them an extra.
Another extra goes to the quality of the band. They are involved in the game with chants, while playing some great tunes to feed into the college basketball atmosphere.
It is a very positive experience at CFSB Center that may exceed your expectations. You should certainly plan a visit if your team has an upcoming game here, or if you're just in the area and enjoy seeing high quality basketball in an intimate college basketball arena like CFSB Center. Just plan accordingly as CFSB Center is nestled away in the rural area of southern Kentucky.
Member Review by Jordan_Baer on Feb 11, 2012
Look out UK and U of L, there’s another university in Kentucky that’s ready to take your basketball glory. Located in the small town of Murray, Kentucky, with a population of 17,741, the Murray State Racers have flown very quietly under the radar.
It wasn’t until the 2011–2012 season, when the Racers jumped out to a 23-0 record, did the nation began to realize that basketball in the state of Kentucky ran deeper than just the universities of Louisville and Kentucky. But to the people of Murray, it came as no surprise as they had been planning to take Murray State to the top of the rankings for some time.
In 1995, the Murray State Athletic Department began to realize that their men’s basketball team had outgrown the 5,500-seat Racer Arena and needed a much bigger and nicer facility if they were going to remain competitive. With that belief in mind, Murray State broke ground on the CFSB Center, which was known as the Regional Special Events Center (RSEC) until 2010 when Community Financial Services Bank made a $3.3 million donation to Murray State athletics.
Throughout the years, Murray State has gradually improved the facility. In 2004, new basketball locker rooms and a weight room were constructed, and in 2011, relocation of the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame to the CFSB Center was completed.
With their continued commitment to Murray State basketball, the athletic department unveiled a plan in 2011 that calls for adding a separate practice facility next to the CFSB Center as well as adding corporate luxury boxes inside the CFSB Center. The sky is the limit in Murray, Kentucky!
This year has been amazing- the stadium has been full, the crowds are electrifying, and the people in the Murray community are truly backing the Racers.
As a former student, however, I must admit- times haven't always been so glamorous. I've been to many games where the student section had no one standing, and was full of General Admission ticket holders.
Let's hope that this season has been fun enough to keep people going, and that Murray State Athletics offers up a cheap face-value General Admission Season Ticket package to get more fans in the stadium next season.
Member Review by EvanWKU on Nov 09, 2013
Went to watch the tops play here last year. WKU had a promising team, but started a rash of key injuries with this game and fell to Murray.
The arena seems nice from the outside. Kind of sits of by it's self so be ready to drive to get a bite.
Most of the parking spaces near the arena were reserved for Racer donors. The entrances to the lots were set up weird. We finally got in and then slipped into the reserved area by going under the ropes that were strung around the lot.
The ticket office is down stairs, then you have to go outside and back up to get into the arena. I think donors can get directly into the arena, but those in the upper level are out into the cold.
There is no concourse in the arena. Instead you walk around in the arena on an indoor track. This is a new facility. Who builds an indoor track in a new basketball facility? this isn't 1970. The upper level then, is all retractable bleachers. The ushers for the lower bowl and the fans on the track block the view at times, and the sight line is fairly low. Which causes the obstructed view issue. This angle of incline is OK, if the concourse is behind the stands. Maybe pull the bleachers forward and have people walk behind? not sure what to do.
There are limited concession options and the fare that I saw was typical arena foods. nothing with flair. Not Impressed.
The arena was fairly loud at times. especially while it was close in the final minutes. like all fans in the state (WKU, UK, UL) the arena knows how to inpact the game well. they know how and when to get loud and intimidate. When WKU would make an impactful play the small contingent of red (500-750) could make their point known throughout the room.
Tickets are affordable at 14 bucks. Except when WKU came the price was raised to $18. You want a foothold in the state? Don't charge extra for teams who your fans care about and schools that will bring a decent contingent. The stadium was announced a sell out. There were lots of empties in the upper level and the student turnout was pathetic.
Overall, Murray is still Murray. A distant fourth behind WKU UK and UL.
1759 J.H. O'Bryan Ave
Grand Rivers, KY 42045
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