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Official Review by Benjamin Evensen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Once football ends at the University of Idaho, the men’s and women’s basketball teams move from Memorial Gym to the Cowan Spectrum in the Kibbie Dome, which is also the football stadium. A court is created up against the football stands on one side, while bleachers are brought in around the other three sides of the court. Curtains are then hung behind the bleachers to create a more closed in, intimate atmosphere. Seating 7,000, the Cowan Spectrum creates a very interesting atmosphere and was even named one of the 20 toughest home courts by Sports Illustrated in the early 1980’s. While it isn’t perfect and could use some renovations for nicer bleachers (some rows of the bleachers fell off a few years ago, luckily when no one was on them) the Cowan Spectrum is not a bad place to play basketball and is certainly a better option than Memorial Gym. Much like the Kibbie Dome, the Cowan Spectrum brings a very unique and one of a kind feeling to Idaho sports.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are two concession stands open for games at the Cowan Spectrum, one at the floor level behind the curtains for fans in the bleachers and one in the main concourse for fans in the permanent football stands. The prices are fair, with just a few dollars for a hot dog, popcorn, or other basic stadium food. There isn't anything unique though, and it might just be best to wait and eat before or after the game at many of Moscow's restaurants. The Cowan Spectrum serves Pepsi products for their beverages.
Getting to seats is not a problem, but the bleachers can become uncomfortable after a while. Bringing a seat pad may be a good idea. That's really the only complaint about the overall atmosphere though. The curtains make the whole venue seem small and let you feel right next to the action. You will have a good view of the action no matter where you sit in the arena. The mascot Joe Vandal interacts with fans most of the game and the PA announcer keeps everyone into the game, as well as the band playing during timeouts. There isn't a video screen though, so no replays are available.
The Cowan Spectrum isn't that close to downtown Moscow, but a short drive takes you to all the restaurants and bars in downtown Moscow that are dedicated to the Vandals. The Idaho campus is a very scenic place with beautiful buildings, including Memorial Gym just a block away that is on the National List of Historic Places. It shouldn't be hard to find things to do before or after the game in a classic small college town.
While the game I went to had a good turnout, in recent years the attendance numbers have not been good. In 2014 Idaho averaged just about 1,400 people per game, much less than the 7,000 capacity. While the team hasn't been especially good as of late, you still want to see more attendance than that. The fans that do come are into the game, but there isn't much to keep them entertained. The loudest they got during the game was when they offered free pizza to the loudest fans, so I hope you see what I mean by their overall interest.
Winning increases attendance though, and with wins the Vandals can bring in more fans. But a move back to the Big Sky conference, fan interest could be re-sparked. When Idaho plays regional and historic rivals like Montana, Montana State, Eastern Washington, and Idaho State in games that matter, as opposed to games against the likes of Chicago State, UT-Pan American, and Utah Valley in the WAC, fans will have more of a reason to come out and see them play.
Getting to the arena isn't a problem at all when you come from Moscow, but coming from other places can be a challenge in the Moscow winters. There are some highways that come into Moscow, but they can be icy and dangerous in winters. The Pullman-Moscow Airport provides flight access from Spokane and Seattle airports. Moscow is a very isolated city, with only Pullman, WA close by.
Tickets are $15 to get in, and that seems just slightly steep for a mid-major program. The only thing you get back really is the basketball game, there isn't much else to take away from it. But $15 isn't that bad, and the games are very fun.
The Cowan Spectrum isn't lacking in showing the history of Idaho basketball. Retired numbers and championship banners are hung on the curtains, and the concourse has pictures of the University's history.
Overall, the Cowan Spectrum is a nice place to watch a basketball game in a unique and intimate venue. It certainly isn't something any basketball fan needs to see before they die, but it still isn't a bad place to catch a game. The University has new arena plans drawn up and progress to build it has been slow, but the school doesn't plan on playing there much longer. A new arena would definitely be much better for the University and program, but the Cowan Spectrum still keeps Idaho with a good college basketball venue for the time being.
Member Review by Ed Pelle on Apr 20, 2013
The University of Idaho seems to be constantly at the center of conference realignment discussions these days. If you look back historically this trend is not something new to the Vandals. During the 1908 season the university began its first sports affiliation joining the Pacific Northwest Conference as a founding member. In 1922 the school joined the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) which was a forerunner of the current PAC-12, though they concurrently maintained membership in their original conference until 1924. 1958 brought the dissolution of the PCC and Idaho played as an independent until joining the Big Sky Conference in 1963 as a founding member.
In 1969 the Vandal football field Neale Stadium, which was mostly wooden, burned in a suspected arson. To replace it, plans were drawn up to construct a 23,000-seat concrete outdoor football stadium on the exiting site as well as a 10,000 seat adjoining basketball facility. These plans were never fully met due to political wrangling from the other Idaho Universities and pressure from the State Board of Education (SBOE). The football team, which had been playing as an independent rather than drop down a level of competition (the Big Sky did not offer University Football, now known as the FBS), was able to return home in 1971 to a new outdoor stadium (Idaho Stadium).
In 1973 the athletics program was denied entry into the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (now known as the Big West Conference) by the SBOE and the football team was dropped to Collegiate Football (now the FCS) after the 1974 season.
During the 1975 season plans were approved to add walls and a roof to the existing football structure so other university sports could use the venue as well. The new structure would be known as the William H Kibbie-ASUI Activity Center (known more commonly as the Kibbie Dome) and was modeled after the previously constructed Holt Arena at Idaho State University. On January 21, 1976 the first basketball game was played at the Cowan Spectrum which is the name given to the Kibbie Dome when it is rearranged in its basketball configuration.
Twenty two years after it had last played its final football game at the University level in 1996, the University of Idaho upgraded its football program back to the Bowl Series and moved sports to the Big West Conference. This move was short lived and soon the Vandals had a new home in the Sun Belt Conference starting in 2001. The Sun Belt Conference move in turn lasted shorter than the Big West Conference move and in 2005 the Vandals moved into the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for all sports. In 2012 the WAC announced they would cease sponsoring football and this led Idaho to announce a return to the Big Sky Conference in 2014 with football remaining as an FBS-level independent.
On March 27, 2013 the Vandals put out a press release publically accepting reentry into the Sun Belt Conference as a football only member.
During this tumultuous time of realignment, the Kibbie Dome has undergone many renovations. Originally made from wood sealant foam the dome soon began to leak. Eventually the dome was completely covered in weather resistant material. In 1982 the East End addition gave the Kibbie Dome permanent athletic offices, a training facility and locker rooms. The most recent addition has added eight new suites and a presidential suite to the arena. The Cowan Spectrum can hold 7,000 for basketball. The Vandals previous home for basketball, Memorial Gymnasium, is located just east, adjacent to the Kibbie Dome, and is still used for a game or two when the football and basketball seasons overlap.
302 S Main St
Moscow, ID 83843
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