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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
FIU volleyball has consistently been one of the best teams at the college, and the game-day experience is top-notch when compared to the rest of the school's facilities. Often the most energizing FIU atmosphere, it is a hidden gem in NCAA volleyball.
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".
There isn't anything spectacular about the FIU Arena concession stands, nor is there anything inherently bad. Food is not very expensive, ranging from pizza to hot dogs and sodas, with some chips and candy mixed in. The cost of a pizza slice, a Coke, and a bag of chips will run less than $10. Another item is nachos, which is usually not much more than round corn chips with melted cheese on the side for dipping.
The arena echoes a lot, so the noise that is made by the fans in attendance is amplified, making it seem pretty energizing when the crowd is packed in.
The upper stands are also rarely ever opened all the way for fans. The seats are uncomfortable, and the entire inside of the arena seems old, stuck in the midst of the 1980's. In fact, it is hard to tell any differences between now and when the arena was used for the filming of an episode of Miami Vice.
The nicest part of the arena is the exterior, complete with new entry doors, ticket booths, landscaping, and a statue of a Florida Panther. Once you get past this and the lobby, the rest is very disappointing.
FIU Arena is located on campus, which makes it convenient to attend for students. Unlike stadiums in the middle of a city, there is a sense of security on campus, as you are seemingly separated from the rest of the neighborhood around it. However, there still remains the issue of how that surrounding neighborhood looks, and it isn't exactly the best in Miami.
Sweetwater is a town known for political corruption and severe street flooding during hurricanes, and not much else. Put a college campus in the middle of it, and you have FIU.
The campus itself is growing by the day, with new construction all over the place and new buildings popping up. FIU Arena is on the far west end of the campus, situated in a corner near FIU's tennis courts and a parking garage. Very few hotels are nearby, making the idea of an overnight trip hard if you wanted to stay close to the action.
FIU volleyball fans are passionate. One of the best-attended sports for students at the college, volleyball games are packed with fans and full of energy. Some great players have played for FIU and gone on to play internationally as professionals, making FIU volleyball games a great place to see some of tomorrow's international talent make a name for themselves. The fans are loud, excited, and always there to support their home team, meaning you will feel the college experience at FIU volleyball.
Getting to any stadium at FIU isn't too hard, but traffic can sometimes be problematic. As is typical in Miami, traffic backs up right around the exits nearest FIU's campus on a daily basis. If you find yourself hoping to get to a game and rush hour happens to have lasted a little longer on that day, you may be in for a late arrival. Plan accordingly and give yourself more time than you may think you'll need. The campus is right off of Florida's Turnpike, and the softball field is visible from the road itself.
The investment of a ticket, travel, and concessions may be average in terms of what you get back, but the team's performance and the fans' energy makes up for what may be lacking in some areas. It would be a different story if the arena had anything that set it apart, featuring a state-of-the-art interior that wowed your senses. But aside from a volleyball court with a beach scene design (except when damaged like in a previous season and replaced with its classic look), and the curbside "cabanas" that cost a lot of money to sit in, the arena is nothing more than a glorified gymnasium.
There are often giveaways to students and fans at FIU basketball games, and that is never a bad thing.
FIU's mascot Roary also is a frequent visitor to the games, mingling with fans and trying to pump up the energy.
Finally, the FIU dance team, cheerleaders, and band are always on hand to liven up the experience.
Typically, one does not think of FIU when looking for top-notch stadium experiences. While the arena itself seems stuck between modern conveniences and old-school discomfort, the team and its fans help make FIU volleyball a hidden gem on this Miami campus. For volleyball fans, one cannot help but think this should be a must-see team when visiting South Florida.
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