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Official Review by David Mortimer, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Affectionately known as the "Purple Palace," the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah has been home to the Weber State Wildcats since 1977. As the largest arena in Utah north of Salt Lake City, and a capacity of 12,000, the DEC has hosted nine Big Sky Conference men's basketball tournaments, games in four NCAA Tournaments and countless Utah high school basketball tournaments.
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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".
Weber State knows its family-friendly fan base well, and prices their concessions accordingly. The offerings are quite affordable for a family of any size.
Let's start with the usual fare. Main food items include cheeseburger ($5), pulled pork ($5), chili ($5), pizza slice ($3), hot dog ($2), or Polish dog ($4). Smaller items include popcorn, fries, nachos, and chips ($2-$3 each).
If you want something sweet you have plenty of options available to you. These include cotton candy, kettle corn, funnel cakes, boxes of candy, or Rice Krispie treats. "Purple-Pak" ice cream is also available in two sizes. A smattering of kiosks offer these specialty products, including an alarming number of seeds/nuts.
Beverages are your standard Coke products. A bottle of water or soda is $3, or you can get a large cup for $4.
There's not much in the way of chain infiltration, though I always love a good Chick-fil-A ($5-$8 combos with regular and spicy sandwiches or nuggets). The other chain is a Utah original: Teriyaki Stix. Touting themselves as a "Japanese grill," they offer a bowl of rice topped with either veggies ($6) or teriyaki chicken ($7). Financial troubles have closed a lot of Teriyaki Stix locations and its sandwich cohort, Hogi Yogi, so these bowls are rarer than ever.
The family-friendly feeling you get from the concessions is consistent when you make your way to your seat. A very tight circular seating pattern (all chairs, no bleachers) offers closeness to the court while still being a classy facility. In other words, you feel an upgrade from the "high school gym" atmosphere many expect from a low-to-mid-major conference setting.
You'll find a large sense of community throughout the night, particularly in activities and promotions during timeouts and halftime. Lots of local businesses get involved by sponsoring these activities, and Weber State goes out of their way to honor outstanding community members, as well.
Throw in a massive amount of cheerleaders and the always-on-the-move Waldo the Wildcat (whose pre-game ritual includes a stroll across press row) make for an ideal small-school college basketball experience.
The DEC is largely surrounded by residential areas and other Weber State facilities, so the nearby main drag of Harrison Blvd. is your closest food source. All of your typical college-town, fast-food fare is available, plus a couple of unique, award-winning food options.
If you're in the mood for Mexican, try Javier's, a northern Utah mini-chain. The Javier's closest to the DEC is at 4874 Harrison Blvd, about a half-mile from the arena. All your Mexican favorites are there, including fajitas. There are lots of plates and combinations to choose from, ranging from $6-$12. If you're in the mood for dessert, don't miss the Nachos Dulces ($5.99): A deep-fried flour tortilla slathered in honey butter and cinnamon topped with ice cream.
For pizza lovers, The Pie Pizzeria (1225 Country Hills Dr; 0.3 miles away from DEC) has a devoted following, and for good reason. The Pie's creativity, whether put in its own hands or those of the customers, is its defining characteristic. Not only can you create your own pie, you can make your own slice depending on the time of day. Besides, pizzas, they have plenty of salads, subs and zappis (calzones). Specialty pizzas range from $9.49 for a medium "Italian Special" to $41.99 for a giant 23" "Pie's Combo."
If you want to try something new on a pizza, The Pie would like to interest you in either "The Greek" (white cucumber yogurt sauce, gyro meat, mozzarella and feta cheese, topped with tomatoes, red onions and a squeeze of lemon) or the "Thai Pie" (spicy Thai peanut sauce, chicken breast, carrots, red onions, fresh basil and chopped cilantro topped with mozzarella and toasted sesame seeds).
I was a bit wary about what kind of crowd I would see when, at tip-off, there were more cheerleaders on the court than students in the student section. Those students in attendance (including the guy in the Whoopie Cushion costume) still made their voices heard early with their signature chant: "Turn-over! Turn-over! Turn-over! YOU SUCK!" Not the best day or place for Montana to have 17 turnovers. Each successive turnover meant a louder chant as more students filled the space throughout the first half, but there just weren't enough there to justify a full five points.
The rest of the 5,579 fans in attendance were loud enough to make it seem as if more were there, especially when the officials were due for a ribbing. All in all, not bad for a Thursday night crowd. One quirk to be ready for: Fans stand and rhythmically clap to begin each half until Weber State scores its first points.
There are plenty of parking spaces surrounding the DEC, and they are all free. Season ticket holders have a section roped off for them, but all other spaces are fair game. I was able to park about 50 feet from an entrance with no hassle. There are lots of ways in and out of the DEC parking lot, and each exit is monitored by local police post-game, so traffic runs incredibly smoothly. It took me less than three minutes to get out of the lot.
The restrooms are impeccable, and each one has both walls (not just one) lined with urinals, so you always have somewhere to 'ahem' go. The tight circular interior architecture assures you won't need to walk too far to find a restroom.
I was pleasantly surprised by my DEC experience. I had been there before for a handful of high school tournament games, but never to see the Wildcats. The intimate setting of the arena coupled with the ease of access to everything made for a nice night. As I wrote earlier, more students getting to the game (on time, if possible) would only enhance the experience.
One point for the Whoopie Cushion guy in the student section. Whether you chalk it up to determination or a sheer disregard for embarrassment, he showed a strong commitment to a quirky costume.
One point for the army of staffers available to help things go smoothly. No matter the size of the crowd, you are never too far away from someone who can help resolve any issue. It just helps add to the family-friendly atmosphere of Weber State basketball.
One point for pulling off the all-purple look. Purple is not one of the most-used colors on the sports landscape. Nevertheless, nobody is as committed to displaying purple pride as Weber State. The result is a visually pleasing rotunda of purple seats, something you'd be hard-pressed to find anyplace else.
If my family lived closer to Ogden, I know we would make more frequent trips to the DEC. If you are a fan of small-town college basketball anywhere in the country, a trip to Weber State will thoroughly satisfy you.
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4874 Harrison Blvd
South Ogden, UT 84403
1225 Country Hills Dr
Ogden, UT 84403
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