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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
E.A. Diddle Arena is named for the legendary coach who guided the Western Kentucky Hilltopper athletic program from the early 1920's until his retirement in 1964. During that time he amassed 1,040 wins coaching the football, baseball, women's and men's basketball team. It is the latter sport in which he was most renowned, winning 759 times in 42 years as head coach. The arena was named for him in 1963, a year before his retirement.
Diddle's signature red towel has become the symbol of the athletic program as a whole. Head men's basketball coach, Ken McDonald continues the tradition carrying a red towel into the arena and waving it at the student section as he makes his way to the bench.
Today, the Western Kentucky basketball program is often the step-child in a basketball crazy state. That shouldn't stop college basketball fans from venturing to the hilly college town of Bowling Green, Kentucky. E.A. Diddle Arena provides a fantastic basketball experience at an affordable price.
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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's a pretty good variety of food and beverage at E.A. Diddle Arena, with a few special touches that moves the experience up a few notches. There are two concession areas on the lower level concourse, and three concession areas on the second level concourse. At all concession stands you can find the standard hot dogs ($3.50), Polish dogs ($3.50), brats ($4), nachos ($3.50), popcorn, or pretzels.
Try the main concession stand at each level to get a personal Papa John's pizza baked on site for $5. The chicken tender basket ($5) is also a good value and made to order. What makes this one special is that they offer Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce and Frank's Hot Sauce at the condiment stand, along with the expected ketchup and mustard.
Pepsi products are offered in three sizes, with the $4 large coming in a souvenir cup. You can also grab a bottle of water ($3) or Gatorade ($4) at all concession areas.
Another unique feature is that each concession stand displays the standings for the Sun Belt conference, so you can keep up to date on the competition while you decide what to use to fill your belly.
When the lights go out, the fans come alive then listen respectfully to the montage honoring the history of Western Kentucky basketball from E.A. Diddle's teams to modern day. When the lights come back on, the crowd cheers loudly again, and the team enters the court, circling the floor, and bumping fists with radio play-by-play man, Randy Lee, before beginning their final warm-ups.
The approximately 40-member WKU pep band represents the school well, as does the student section which fills up well before the tip even against a lower-tier opponent.
Most of the 100 and 200 level seats are comfortable chairs with seatbacks and cupholders. The first ten rows behind the court (104-106 and 111-113) are leather seats and are amazingly comfortable. If you snag one of those you will have a very comfortable night, not to mention a great view of the action. Remaining seats in the 100 and 200 level are theatre type seats.
The student section also gets chairs with backs, but they are somewhat more uncomfortable (probably with the hope that students will remain on their feet most of the game- which they are).
The atmosphere feels like big time college basketball with the level of energy that is developed in the introduction and by the students. That same high level continues throughout the contest, and makes for a great experience.
Diddle Arena is located on campus with the rest of the athletic facilities surrounding it. It really is a pretty campus, and worth it to take a walk around if you have time before the game.
I tried a sports bar located about 5 miles from campus called Double Dogs. It was a great sports bar with 15 TVs tuned to everything you would want to keep up with in the world of sports. I wasn't quite brave enough to sample the signature item, "The Big John"- a split hot dog with two hamburger patties, covered in chili and cheese and typical burger toppings. Instead I went for the basic chili dog, which was rather good, and at the low price of $6. They also have over 60 beers by the bottle or on draft, so you should be able to find something you're looking for.
As the opposing team is announced, the student section yells in unison "SUCKS" after each player is called. Then the lights go down again, and spotlights traverse the court, as those same students begin to work themselves into a frenzy. It is a very impressive display and gets you immediately into the game, waving those red towels as the tip approaches. The rest of the crowd does their job as well, but it is clearly the student section that carries the day. They remain standing and cheering throughout the game.
There are several parking lots nearby the arena, but they should be better marked. The lot nearest the arena, PS2, is reserved for those with a pass, but there are no signs indicating so. Instead continue on to the next lot (PS1) where you can find parking for $8.
Inside the arena, there are wide concourses and plenty of clean restrooms. This is always good news because it means you won't have to sneak out early and miss the game just to avoid a line.
Bleacher seats start at $12 and offer a very good view of the action. However, I would recommend paying the $4 extra dollars to get a seat with a back, and a cupholder- well worth the investment.
Parking costs $8, which was a little more than I wanted to pay, but not unreasonable by any means. The food inside the arena was very affordable, and pretty tasty. I also always appreciate the opportunity to get both a beverage and a souvenir. For $33 you'll get a ticket with a seatback, parking, food, and drink. It is absolutely worth the price.
There was a pretty fun contest during a TV timeout as two contestants shot free throws while sitting in a recliner to win a gift certificate to a local furniture store.
Another extra point has to be awarded to the odd Hilltopper mascot, Big Red. He seems to be a version of the school's red towel theme, but is often just described as a big red blob. Whatever he is, he is a unique little guy, and a lot of fun.
There is no center court scoreboard or jumbotron hanging over the floor. Instead, the arena employs two corner scoreboards opposite of each other with video display and all of the relevant stats. It makes for a much less cluttered feel when observing the action on the court.
I found the staff at Diddle Arena to be extremely friendly and courteous. It was clear that all employees are well prepared to give fans an outstanding experience.
The story behind the arena name, and the coaching career of E.A. Diddle, and his red towel are worth one additional bonus point in my book.
There's no doubt that Louisville's new KFC Yum Center and Kentucky's Rupp Arena are the two must see college basketball venues in the state of Kentucky, but you would be short-changing yourself if you skipped Western Kentucky's Diddle Arena. It is absolutely electric, and displays everything that's great about college basketball.
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1265 College St
Bowling Green, KY 42101
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