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Official Review by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Air Force Academy Falcons play their basketball games at Clune Arena which is part of the Cadet Field House that also houses the hockey rink for the AFA hockey team and an indoor track. The Falcons basketball team plays in the NCAA Division I Mountain West Conference. The Falcon’s have played basketball since the 1956-57 season, a year after the establishment of the Air Force Academy. There is something special and patriotic about watching any Falcons game, and the men’s basketball game and venue is no exception.
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You will not go hungry visiting an AFA basketball game and the prices are quite reasonable. Just after you pass through the metal detectors you'll be at the concession/food court area. This area includes one fixed concession stand that offers your traditional stadium fare including hot dogs, nachos, and spicy sausage. Additional snacks include cotton candy, popcorn, pretzels, chips, and candy ($3-$4.50).
This area also includes a variety of temporary concession stands. Blended fruit drinks from Smoothie King ($6), Snowballs flavored shaved ice ($5), Indian Summer Kettle Corn ($4/$6) are on hand, and The Coolest Ice Cream on Earth cart are all here. There's a stand that offers BBQ sandwiches, kielbasa, pickles (speared and whole), hamburgers, chicken nuggets, chicken sandwiches, monster nachos and the like ($3.50 -$8), and the Harvest Market that offers gyros, brats, jumbo polish sausages, french fries, chili fries, and more ($4-$7).
Pepsi products are offered (including Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew) as well as water, Gatorade, and hot beverages such as coffee, tea, and cider. There are no alcoholic beverages offered at Clune Arena.
Cash is accepted at all concessions; Master Card and Visa at some.
In the food court area there are tables and chairs to sit, unwind, and consume any nourishment you may have purchased before heading into the seating area.
There's not much more of a beautiful scene than the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop to a sporting venue. Depending on when you attend a basketball game, they may be snow covered.
There is only one entrance to the facility; the ticket booth is inside. You can walk around the outer concourse, but there's not much to see. There are two levels of seating, the upper and lower with a small walkway between the two. Cushioned seats and cup holders are available in the lower level. Wooden fold down seats and wooden benches without backs or cup holders are in the upper level. Since the seating area is small, all seats provide a great view of the game, though there is not a whole lot of leg room in the seating areas. If you want to sit center court facing the benches, I'd recommend section U6.
Some games have a small pep band playing, but they are not in attendance at all of the games. Either way, the Air Force Song (Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder) is played and all the fans stand up, clap, and sing along.
Most pleasantly, music is only played pregame and at intermission and it is at an acceptable volume; one where you are able to talk with your neighbor without yelling at them.
There are cheerleaders/dancers present and they perform during a few of the breaks in game action. The PA announcer is audible but one cannot always decipher what is being reported.
After the game, the Falcons players all line up, hold hands and sing the other stanza of the Air Force song (A Toast to the Host). It's a great showing of strength and unity by the team and shows respect and honor for the USA and the Air Force.
For those who like to take photos of the venue and game, photos are allowed to be taken but during the game, flash photography is not permitted.
Clune Arena sits across from the Cadet Gymnasium and is within walking distance to some of the other athletic fields at the Air Force Academy. It is a ˝ mile from the Air Force Chapel which houses three distinct worship areas under a single roof and has been named a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The chapel has received many architectural prizes since its construction in 1962.
While in the area, also take a venture to the Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center, which is walking distance to/from the chapel. This offers a short movie and has an exhibit area that provides information on the academy's history and cadet life, and is well worth checking out.
Best of all is the breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains which are in the academy's backyard.
Within five or six miles of Clune Arena and across I-25 are two local drinking/eating establishments worth a visit pre or postgame: Colorado Mountain Brewery (the pizza is recommended) and All American Sports Café (Philly Cheesesteak and french fries are yummy). There are many local Colorado breweries within a five to ten mile drive of the arena.
There are a multitude of other things to see and do while visiting Colorado Springs including: Garden of the Gods, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Cave of the Winds, Pike's Peak Mountain, and the US Olympic Training Center.
The Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel is the closest hotel to the North Gate entrance about 10 minutes from all of the sports facilities at the Air Force Academy. The hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms along with a free deluxe hot breakfast, indoor swimming pool and outdoor fire pit and hot tub. Stadium Journey members can save 15% by clicking here when booking a room.
The fan base ranges from cadets to alumni and retirees to middle aged couples to families with youngsters. So regardless of your age, you'll feel comfortable visiting a Falcon's basketball game. During the early part of the 2010s, the team has averaged around 2,500 fans per game.
When the Air Force song is played, the fans all stand up, sing and applaud the team on the court. All fans respect each other well. Visiting fans are treated with respect and are welcomed.
It's easy to get to the arena as it is right off I-25 in Colorado Springs. You do have to drive through a security gate before entering the academy. On my most recent trip, I did not have to stop, but when visiting in the past, there have been times where I had to stop and even open the trunk of my car. Just be aware that might happen when visiting the arena.
Parking is free and there are individuals directing you into which lot to park. Those same individuals do a fine job at moving the traffic after the game and back onto I-25. Be sure to check the AFA website to see if other sporting events (mostly football during the early part of the season) are being held the same day. If so, be warned as the traffic leaving the academy can be a nightmare on those occurrences.
Colorado Springs Airport is about a 30 minute drive to the academy. Denver International Airport is a bit farther - about an hour and 15 minute drive. There are more flights to/from DIA and are probably a lower fare than Colorado Springs.
You do have to go through metal detectors when accessing Clune Arena. Backpacks and outside food and drink (except sealed bottled water) are not allowed.
People movement inside the arena's concourse is fine. Restrooms are tiny, yet serve their purpose. Expect some lines during halftime.
One feels very, very safe and protected in the Air Force Academy environment.
Tickets range from $7-$25 and are quite reasonable. I'd recommend either the $7 or the $12 upper level tickets. The $10 seats are behind the basket on the lower level and are okay. Buy tickets at the game; there's no need to pay the service charge by ordering online. There will be seats available.
The concession prices are quite affordable and there is a variety offered. Parking is at no charge; the chapel and the visitor's center do not require an admission fee either.
Visiting the chapel, the visitor's center, the mountain views, and the game is well worth the $7-$12 cost of attending a basketball game at Clune Arena.
As part of an ongoing Heritage Project at the Air Force Academy sports, huge banners of some of the special alumni are hung around the Clune Arena concourse. Honored are Bob Beckel ('59), Cliff Parsons ('69), Ray Dudley ('90), Otis Jones ('95), and Nick Welch ('07), the five Air Force All-Americans.
There is a large souvenir shop that offers all kinds of apparel, hat pins, pennants, post cards, etc. all emblazoned with the AF logo.
Having the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop to the facility is an extra bonus.
It's a worthwhile trip going to an AFA basketball game for those who like the sound of squeaky sneakers. For your best bet, attend when they are playing against a conference rival like Colorado State as the atmosphere will be alive. Be sure to visit the extras the academy has to offer and the other tourist options Colorado Springs provides.
Member Review by megminard on Jan 23, 2013
A part of Cadet Field House, Clune Arena has been the home for the Air Force Academy basketball programs since 1968. The arena is named after former AFA Director of Athletics John Clune, who served in that position from 1975-91. It is one of the smaller courts in the Mountain West Conference seating 5,843. It is part of the Cadet Field House which also houses the hockey rink for the AFA hockey team and an indoor track. There is just something special and patriotic about watching any Falcons game, and the men’s basketball game and venue is no exception.
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