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Official Review by Erik C. Anderson, Stadium Journey Guest Correspondent
The best kept secret in the Big Sky Conference may be the home of the University of Montana’s basketball team, Dahlberg Arena. It was named after George "Jiggs" Dahlberg, who was an athlete, a coach and an athletic director at The University of Montana, and it holds approximately 7,500 maniacal Montana fans during the crisp Autumn and Winter basketball seasons. Home to a rich tradition of success, Dahlberg isn’t the largest venue for college basketball, but when the Griz Nation faithful pack the building, the ambiance is ear-splitting.
The arena features two levels of seating. General admission tickets are allocated in the north end of the building behind the student section, but truly, any seat in Dalhberg is prime for viewing Grizzlies’ hardwood action.
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".
Food options for Montana basketball games are fairly standard, but the concessions crew still deliver a quality snack at a great price. You'll find the typical sporting event favorites like nachos, hot dogs, pretzels and an assortment of candy. Prices are a bargain with no single item costing more than $5.
Perhaps even more impressive about the concessions is the collection of community members working them. Service is always quick and customers are treated with respect and served a smile at the time of purchase.
Even when the lines do get a little lengthy in the smaller hallways, wading through the jubilant sea of Griz fans is always an enjoyable experience.
Dahlberg Arena doesn't always bring that atmosphere like you might find at Duke or Gonzaga, but when the circumstance calls for it, Dahlberg's energy is unrivaled.
Every game pitting the University of Montana against the Montana State Bobcats gathers groups of Missoulians and non-Missoulians alike into every available stadium space. During these games the student section unites and erupts with chants and jeers that disrupt the opposition. Men's head coach Wayne Tinkle spreads his arms waving them frantically to implore the basketball junkies to raise their energy levels and serve as a sixth man to pester opponents into mistakes.
Just outside and to the south of the arena is the Hall of Champions, immortalizing all the former Griz greats. Inside of each case is memorabilia and mementos capturing the rich history and tradition of Montana sports.
Overall, if you find the right seasonal match-up or arrive for the Big Sky Conference tournament, you'll leave Dahlberg Arena elated.
Dalhberg Arena isn't teeming with a slew of bars or other Missoula-famous restaurants (Iron Horse, Missoula Club, Tamarack Brewery), but it is in concord with the base of Mount Sentinel, which is stamped with a giant white M ensignia.
The enveloping neighborhoods are jumbled houses of all shapes and sizes. The variety of the housing structures makes for lively tailgating during football season, but once basketball season takes way, the only restaurant to attend is the Press Box. Developed only a stone's throw away from the arena, many fans cross the footbridge over the Clark Fork both before the game and post game to belly up for the delectable menu items that the Press Box serves. The sports environment inside the restaurant makes for a warm welcome for any sports fans.
When the Griz fanatics flock to games, there isn't a better sporting scene in the rest of the Big Sky Conference. The cliched adage of the fans bleeding maroon and silver comes true in Missoula. On a game day, everybody is buzzing about the prospects of a Grizzly victory, and even when the Grizzlies fall to a superior squad, it's always an outraged upset in the minds of the maniacs.
UM boosters promote high-profile games with plenty of loot for students to enjoy. The bounty includes tee-shirts to encourage unity through a color, knapsacks and other goodies.
Students are designated a free ticket for every basketball game on their student I.D. cards. Tickets can also be purchased from the box office inside of Dahlberg and at the Source information desk inside the University Center.
Parking is available immediately outside the arena, but costs $2 for all the lots on the university's property. The easiest method of parking during games for most fans - if you don't mind walking - is parking in the adjacent residential neighborhoods and hoofing it to the arena. Traffic is a bit tight after games, but it usually takes no longer than 10-15 minutes to depart.
Bathrooms are prominent throughout Dahlberg Arena, and lines are never an issue.
First and foremost, Missoula, Montana is a sports town. The ticket prices for the highest level of Big Sky Conference basketball is worth your visit to Missoula alone. General admission tickets range from $8-$15 and any seat in Dahlberg is desirable.
The Grizzlies won the Big Sky Conference regular season and conference tournament this past 2012 year. And beyond the record setting 2012 basketball season, the University of Montana is fresh off of winning three other league championships in soccer, football and tennis. With Montana quickly becoming synonymous with league championships, you best apply for Griz Nation while the gettin's good.
Photo attributed to CiTrusD.
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