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Official Review by Jack Winter, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Charles Koch Arena hosts many events at Wichita State University, but is most well-known for being the raucous home of Shockers men's basketball. "The Roundhouse," as it's affectionately known, opened on December 3, 1955 as Wichita Fieldhouse. In 1964 it was re-branded Wichita State Fieldhouse, then again five years later as Levitt Arena. Hailed for its innovative circular design, the arena went unchanged for four decades before ground was broken on the "Roundhouse Renaissance" in 2002. Fostered by a sizable endowment from Charles Koch, Levitt Arena underwent $25 million in major renovations to become the hailed basketball haven it is today. As Charles Koch Arena, it has a capacity of 10,506 and is popularly considered the top home-court advantage in mid-major NCAA basketball.
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".
Charles Koch offers a nice array of classic stadium fare and relatively unique sandwich options. All are fairly priced, nothing typical costing more than $5.50. Pork and brisket sandwiches are a dollar more, while the real prize of the selection – BBQ pork nachos – seems awfully expensive at $8. It's more than worth it though, as they're as tasty as the offering is huge.
Still, one wishes more of a local feel was infused into the concessions at The Roundhouse. Wichita has a surprising amount of culture to offer, and it's disappointing it is not highlighted here.
As great as the WSU fans are, other factors contribute just as much to Charles Koch's stellar atmosphere. Chief among them is how seating surrounds the court in a perfect circle – everyone is close to the action and there isn't a bad view in the house. One wonders why more arenas don't look to WSU for inspiration, as this is truly one of the most unique and aesthetically pleasing court set-ups in college basketball.
There's a palpable buzz of excitement that builds as tip-off approaches, and the student band and cheer squad do an exceptional job of keeping the crowd involved during timeouts. If you'd have told someone this was ACC basketball in its heyday, they'd not know the difference. WSU's is a stellar college atmosphere.
Located on the outer edge of the Wichita State campus, Charles Koch, surprisingly, isn't surrounded by many student hot-spots or local flare. Rather, chain restaurants and a major road sit on the side that faces away from campus.
Still, a gem of a local watering hole is within walking distance of the arena: Kirby's Beer Store. This is a classic dive, a hole-in-the-wall type of place that is loved by those that frequent it. Beer's on tap, drinks are stiff, the juke box is jumping, and local frozen pizza is ready to put in the oven. Best, there's a tiny stage in the corner where live music is often played. If you want several drinks, sing-alongs, and a small-town feel, this is your place.
Looking for more child-friendly or up-scale entertainment? Make the ten minute drive to Old Town, Wichita's proud, brick hub of activity.
The mighty Shocker faithful are without a doubt some of the most passionate in the country, and it shows in attending a game at Charles Koch. There's nary an empty seat in the house, and each is occupied by a fan as excitable as they are knowledgable. Of greater importance, there's a feeling of intimacy given off by the fan base – they know players' capabilities and tendencies, and when one does something extraordinary, he's rewarded with extra cheers and applause.
The WSU students' section is as active and engaged as most any in college basketball. They participate in pre-game traditions, play along with promotions during timeouts, and offer a great mix of fun and concentration in on-court play. At halftime, they even carried the WSU mascot from the bottom of their section all the way to the top without dropping him.
These are mid-major fans at their best, and that's clear immediately upon entering The Roundhouse.
Charles Koch is easily accessed on all sides by car or on foot, and parking is plentiful. The newly renovated concourses are wide and clean, and finding bathrooms, seats, and food is no problem due to oversized signage. Getting to and from your seat is done with ease as well; stairs aren't too steep and railings are helpful.
As previously stated, you would not know this wasn't BCS conference college basketball if you weren't told. This feels like a major sporting event because to the people of Wichita and Shockers fans that's exactly what it is. For the relatively cheap ticket price of $27, you'd do worse at the majority of college basketball venues, and better at few.
Additional mention goes to Charles Koch's circular design. It needs to be experienced to understand just how unique it is.
Also, the WSU athletic hall of fame is a sight to behold. It's no doubt the nicest and most well-done in the Missouri Valley conference.
Member Review by shocker3 on Feb 06, 2012
There isn't a bad seat in the house. The fans are raucous and the place gets very loud. A great atmosphere for a college basketball game.
When the roundhouse is rocking there is no better atmosphere in college basketball. And I have been to several arenas including Phog Allen Field House.
Member Review by pderrick on Nov 19, 2013
Just caught a game here when the Shockers were playing a lowly William & Mary and the place was packed and the house was rocking. One of the absolute best student sections I have seen. The roundhouse is perfectly built for mass decibels that's for sure.
Member Review by tmboggs10 on Jul 15, 2014
For a Missouri Valley school this arena is always rockin, sold out, and full of faithful supporters. Although it doesn't have all the amenities of big schools, those who are from around there appreciate everything it has come to be.
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