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Official Review by Rich Kurtzman, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Boulder is a gem of a town, located in the foothills of the majestic Rocky Mountains, it's home to top-notch shopping, world-class dining and the University of Colorado. Certainly, the elevation of 5,440 feet plays a role in sporting contests and it's part of the reason why Buffaloes Basketball enjoys a home-court advantage at the Coors Event Center.
Originally constructed from 1977-79, the CEC opened in 1979 and has been home to CU Men's and Women's basketball and volleyball teams ever since. While basketball tradition doesn't run deep at Colorado, the team has really come on as of late, reinvigorating the fanbase and with the football team down in the dumps, some are arguing that CU is now a basketball school.
Head coach Tad Boyle has something special going in Boulder; he led the team to a record 18 home wins in 2010-11, his first season, and last year they made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003 by winning the Pac-12 tournament. This year, the Buffs are continuing to improve, starting the season out hot and gaining votes in the national polls as fans anticipate a second straight March Madness. The fans themselves are a bit mad, ready to go wild and root on their Buffaloes to victory every night at the CEC, making this a great place to take in a college basketball game.
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".
Feel free to enjoy one of the local restaurants before or after the game, but if you don't have time, don't worry, the CEC has something tasty for you.
The food and drink is great at the CEC, with lots for fans to choose from. Smoothies (Jamba Juice) and coffee drinks, fountain sodas and bottles of water are on demand to quench your thirst; alcohol is not served in the arena.
As far as food goes, there's traditional stadium fare like pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels and candy at concession stands, while many more self-supporting food stands line the concourse. Illegal Pete's, a local burrito restaurant can be found, as well as a roast beef carving station and more.
Electric, crazy, rowdy, loud:
These are the words that describe the atmosphere at the CEC.
On the night I attended, during the CSU - CU rivalry game, the student section was packed to the brim, with some fans spilling out into the aisles. They were raucous, creating a "college" atmosphere with their, at times, crass chants. Yes, it's family friendly, but a great majority of the crowd was students and older, many middle-aged supporters there to root on the Buffs and give a home-court advantage.
The energy was electric on this night; this is a college basketball atmosphere.
C-O-L-O-R-A-D-O chants during timeout to keep the fans going. Of course, the band does a great job of that as well. They're down low, all the way next to the court, which really makes them heard well. They keep the energy going, along with CU's poms and cheerleaders.
Boulder is one of the great towns for shopping and dining, featuring the phenomenal Pearl Street Mall that invites guests to discover interesting local arts and crafts. Plus, its near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains so there's tons of outdoor activities to do; from skiing and snowboarding to hiking and fishing, it's all close. And it's only 30 minutes from the state's capitol, Denver, which has not only diverse dining and shopping but many other forms of entertainment as well.
The CEC sits in the middle of CU's beautiful campus and it blends in well with the surrounding buildings since it's built down into the ground. All around campus there are great, little local places too, so be sure to check them out if you're ever in Boulder.
The Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery offers local microbrews, tasty burgers, sandwiches soups and Mexican food with a side of live bluegrass bands.
For something a little more upscale The Kitchen is a place for eclectic cuisine that is fresh from-farm-to-table. There's a vino bar and "amazing drinks" according to reviews.
Want great local pizza for a good price? Then Beau Jo's is for you! They specialize in making mountain pies with toppings piled on and a huge crust that must be enjoyed with honey. They have lots of flat-screen TVs in the modern-feeling establishment, plus lots of taps with Colorado beers to whet your whistle before or after games.
For a local twist on big burritos, check out Illegal Pete's, just south of campus. They have fresh-made queso and mix the ingredients before rolling the tortilla, which leads many to say they offer the best burrito in Boulder.
When in doubt, head to Pearl Street where there are a bevvy of remarkable restaurants to fulfill your every eating desire.
Fans are loud and proud and rowdy as heck. The entire student section sold out on this night; it was a sea of black and gold. The rest of the stadium was equally packed. It's mostly young adults to middle-aged people. Not many families to be seen, though some, and a few older supporters as well.
They were really into the game this night, cheering at every made basket while distracting the away team during free throws by waving their arms and silly signs alike. A school record of over 11,000 fans came out to the intrastate rivalry game, leading me to believe their fervor can make the CEC an extremely difficult place to play for any team when the fans fill it up.
US 36 will take you from Denver to Boulder in little more than a half an hour, and it will lead you right to campus.
Because the stadium is located on-campus, there's great access to it from all over town. But, while there are parking lots on-campus, make sure to park off campus because it's a madhouse to find parking, and you'll have to pay. You still may have to pay in a neighborhood, but there's lots of free parking if you're willing to walk a bit to the game.
Tickets are relatively inexpensive for a sporting event-ranging from $5-$35 at courtside-giving the CEC a great return on investment. It's a fun time for all, especially lately, as the CU continues to "buffalo" the competition at every turn.
The school gave away free pizza, t-shirts and $25 gift cards to fans, and for those wanting to play some basketball themselves, there's a complex of courts just to the east of the arena.
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1535 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
1039 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
2690 Baseline Road
Boulder, CO 80305
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