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Official Review by Jordan Baer, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
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!
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 concession stands are another area where the CFSB Center stands out. You can purchase generic items such as candy, sodas, and hot dogs, or you could purchase name brand items such as Domino’s Pizza or Subway sandwiches.
I didn’t purchase much from the concession stand because I had a general admission ticket and I wanted to get to my seat before it was taken, but I thought the layout of the concession stands, which placed them in the middle of the levels and on both sides, was a great set up. The lines were long, but that’s the price you pay for having one of the best teams in college basketball.
I am still amazed at how loud this 8,600-seat arena got on my visit. The CFSB Center is just one of those places that you have to visit yourself to gain a true understanding of just how elite Murray State basketball is becoming in the western corner of Kentucky. As a UK alumni, I always thought UK fans were the only ones who treated basketball as a way of life. I have added Murray State fans to that list after my visit.
The greatest part of the CFSB Center is how they have successfully blended the student section in with the rest of the audience. In other arenas, the general audience is dominant and drags the noise level down considerably or the student section is dominant and there really isn’t any potential for fans in the region to take part in the game. At the CFSB Center, everyone has the opportunity to be a part of the action and as a result the noise level is off the charts in all areas of the facility.
I have mixed feelings about the neighborhood around the CFSB Center. I am impressed by the way Murray State has combined their football and basketball facilities together to form a complex that tailors to both the city of Murray as well as those who want to walk from campus. I also like that there are several restaurants that can be commonly found at other towns such as Cracker Barrel, Captain D’s, Burger King, and many other well-known restaurants.
With that being said, I would like to see the area gain a little bit more of a local flavor. If you travel a few miles away from the complex, you can enjoy many restaurants and retail such as Patti’s and the Iron Kettle. I would like to see Murray State work with the land owners around their sports facilities to create a sports village that is as unique, creative, and progressive as the CFSB Center itself.
Just like the atmosphere at the CFSB Center, Murray State fans are unbelievable. I was quite surprised and pleased with the spirit, passion, and dedication that Racers’ fans brought to the CFSB Center. I would very easily say that Murray State has one of the best, if not the best, fans on the mid-major level.
I would also say that if Murray State continues to get the same amount of support from their fans that they have received these past few years, we will probably be looking at the Racers making a jump into one of the premier conferences in NCAA college basketball in the very near future.
I was very excited to pull into the parking lot of the football stadium next door and see that all of the surrounding parking lots were free of charge. Unfortunately, the entire football stadium parking lot was full, so I took the road into campus that was on the southern side of the CFSB Center. I pulled into an apartment parking lot that was marked as permit parking, but several other fans parked there and none of us received a ticket.
If you’re looking for free parking, make sure you come to the CFSB Center as there will surely be a spot waiting for you. Of course, my only complaint is that I would like to see the university develop some of this land around their facilities while maintaining their free parking in the form of parking garages or offering more mass transit. That way there isn’t a complete gridlock in the road system like the one I experienced during my visit.
Words cannot express how much value I place on a visit to the CFSB Center as well as Murray, Kentucky, in general. If you are a genuine fan of basketball, you will visit the CFSB Center. If you are a fan of the atmosphere at a college basketball game, you will visit the CFSB Center. And if you are a fan of competitive Ohio Valley Conference basketball, you will pay the Murray State Racers a visit at the CFSB Center.
When you visit the CFSB Center, I highly recommend paying the extra dollar to get a reserved seat over a general admission seat. For just a dollar more, you don’t have to worry about scrambling for a seat and you get a much, much better view of the game. I also recommend purchasing the ticket at the CFSB Center in order to avoid the dreaded Ticketmaster charges.
I give one point to the friendly staff at CFSB Center. When I first arrived, I was confused and couldn’t find the gate where will-call was located. A lady who was decked out in Murray State attire and was on the CFSB staff went out of her way to come up to me and ask me if she could help me. Indeed, I probably would have never found the will-call booth if it wasn’t for her.
Also, when I did arrive at the will-call booth, the attendants greeted me as if I was a customer they had known for years and went step-by-step on how I could access my seats which were on a different level on the other side of the building. Southern hospitality can be found all over the CFSB Center.
I also give one point to the Murray State Athletic Department for their strong commitment to their basketball programs. If you genuinely want to grow a mid-major level basketball program, you have to have commitment, dedication, desire, passion, and most importantly vision. All of that is present at Murray State University, where they are committed to constantly improving the CFSB Center as well as maintaining Racer Arena, which has so much Murray State basketball history embedded in it.
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.
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