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Official Review by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
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.
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 a 'food court' area just after you pass through security. In this area, there is one fixed concession stand that offers your traditional stadium fare: hot dogs, nachos, spicy sausage and snacks that include cotton candy, popcorn, pretzels, chips, candy, etc. There are a variety of temporary concession stands: Snowball Palace (flavored shaved ice), a specialty popcorn stand, Harvest Market (funnel cakes, jumbo corn dogs, chili cheese fries, gyros), The Coolest Ice Cream on Earth cart, and a stand that offers BBQ sandwiches, kielbasa, pickles (speared and whole), hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and the like.
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.
Prices range from $3 - $6 depending on what you get. Snacks are a little lower in price. Cash is accepted at all concessions; Master Card and Visa at some.
In the food court area there are tables and chairs to sit, relax, and consume any nourishment you may have purchased before heading into the seating area.
The arena has two levels with a walkway between the two. Cushioned seats and cup holders are available in the first level. Both wooden fold down seats and wooden benches without backs and cup holders are in the second level. Since the seating area is small, all seats provide a great view of the game. If you want to sit center court facing the benches, I'd recommend section U6.
The band plays the opening stanza of the Air Force Song (Off we go into the wild blue yonder) at the beginning of both halves and all the fans stand up and sing along. 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). WOW! Talk about a showing of strength and unity by the team and respect and honor for the USA and the Air Force.
At this game, when player introductions were made, the Falcon's starters each took the effort to acknowledge the referees with a fist tap or high-five and shook hands with the opposing team's coach. It's a class act.
Though Clune Arena is not in a downtown area with plenty of pubs and restaurants, the arena is in an Air Force Academy facility and environment. It is in the Rocky Mountains and there's nothing quite as spectacular as gawking at those mountains for some moments during a visit to the area. Do take a visit to the Air Force Chapel. It houses three distinct worship areas under a single roof and has been named a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It has received many architectural prizes since its construction in 1962. There are two local drinking/eating establishments (not walking distance but within 5 miles) that I would recommend: Another Pint and the Colorado Mountain Brewery. Both are a worthy of a pre and post game visit.
Other enjoyable tourist things to see and do while in Colorado Springs are: Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls, Pikes Peak, and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
If you are staying in the area overnight, we recommend the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel is the closest hotel to the North Gate and is located in nearby Monument, 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.
At the game I attended in Jan, 2013, the arena was about 75% full. It was 50 degrees and sunny this weekend, and I suspect many folks were getting their outdoor fix after a bitterly cold previous weekend. The fans were very much into the game I attended in this matchup vs. Boise State. When the Air Force song was played, they all stood up, sang and applauded the team on the court. The fans were often vocal after a perceived bad referee call; they chanted A-F-A and Defense-Air Force-Defense throughout the game. Some had signs and all fans respected each other well.
The fan base ranges from alumni and retirees to middle aged couples to families with little tots. So regardless of your age, you'll feel comfortable visiting a Falcon's basketball game.
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 this 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) are being held the same day. If so, be warned - traffic leaving the Academy can be a nightmare on those occurrences.
Colorado Springs Airport is about a 30 min drive to the Academy. Denver International Airport is a bit farther - about an hour and 15 min drive. There are more flights to/from DIA and are probably lower in fare than Colorado Springs.
You do have to go through metal detectors when accessing Clune Arena. Backpacks and outside food and drink are not allowed.
People movement inside the arena's concourse is fine. Restrooms are tiny, yet clean and serve their purpose. Expect some lines during halftime.
Needless to say, one feels very, very safe and protected in the Air Force Academy environment.
It is only $9 for a ticket (tickets range from $9 - $30) and parking is free. I got to see an exciting basketball game and souvenirs were 20% off this game. And the home team won. Watching the patriotism and respect shown by the Falcons players and Falcons fans is well worth a trip.
The halftime show highlighted the High Country Dribblers (ages 5 - 12) who provided basketball dribbling performances, both individual and synchronized.
There's just something about witnessing the allegiance, honor, and team camaraderie of an Air Force game. I was proud watching these young men play knowing they are offering their services and even their life for the freedom and protection of the USA.
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.
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