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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Known as "The Drum" to locals, the Frank Erwin Center has been the home of Texas Longhorns basketball for over thirty years now. The arena is located deep in the heart of 50,000 University of Texas students and more than 900,000 residents in the greater Austin area. The convenient location off of IH-35 is within walking distance of downtown Austin and the Capital of Texas complex. With the capacity to seat over 16,000 people the Frank Erwin Center can definitely be quite a rowdy experience during a marquee match up.
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".
The Longhorns definitely offer plenty to please the appetite. From an assortment of different sandwiches and pizzas to the variety of items like boneless wings and fajita plates.
To start, if you're coming in on an empty stomach I would definitely recommend one of the Mexican food combo plates. They offer either two enchiladas, an enchilada and taco, two crispy tacos or a fajita taco with rice and beans all for about $7. If Mexican food isn't your cup of tea, I also recommend the tasty angus burger with fries which I found to be delicious. There are plenty of other options including your basic hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, popcorn, peanuts, and candy all at normal stadium prices.
The Frank Erwin Center also includes a Quiznos which offers assorted subs if that is what you're in the mood for. The ultimate nachos I thought looked absolutely amazing but not amazing enough to warrant an $8 price tag. As far as drink selection, sodas run between $4-$5.50 for a souvenir cup and bottled water is priced at $3. Starbucks coffee is also offered for $2.
Overall some great selection at pretty reasonable prices warrants a good score.
It's a little known fact to most, but Austin is the largest city in the United States without a professional sports team. With that in mind, the heart and soul of most Austin residents is in the hands of the University of Texas and Texas Longhorns athletics. With a basketball team that has reached the NCAA tournament for 13 years straight (through 2010) the fans have had plenty to cheer about. With young superstars like LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant, the Frank Erwin Center has been a hot spot for good basketball over the past couple of years.
The students and fans are definitely right on par with some of the best in the Big 12 and the NCAA, with a lively and sometimes rowdy atmosphere. I felt chills run down my spine as the band and crowd sang in unison "The Eyes of Texas" and "Texas Fight," the university fight song. Texas currently ranks third among all Division I men's basketball programs for total NCAA Tournament games won without having won the national championship, with 33 appearances. With the continuous talent that the university puts on the floor, this record will not stand much longer.
With some great rivalries against conference foes like Kansas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Oklahoma you are almost guaranteed to experience that special college atmosphere everyone looks for at a college basketball game. From the Hook Em Horns signs to the echoing chants of "Let's Go Horns!", you will be hard pressed to find a much more lively college basketball experience then what you will find in Austin.
Austin used to be a small college town, but it is now a major city full of exciting attractions. With rich history, a nationally acclaimed nightlife, and major political significance, Austin offers many attractions. From great restaurants to great bars, Austin has it all.
The first restaurant I think you should know about is The Oasis. It is not so much the food that makes it special, but rather the absolutely amazing view and atmosphere at The Oasis. Right on the banks of Lake Travis, the largest lake in Texas, the sunsets are spectacular! I'm not saying the food at The Oasis is bad. On the contrary, I have had some great meals there, and like their Chicken Fireballs in particular, it's just that the view is so amazing. The best time to visit The Oasis is to go just before sunset.
Another great restaurant for Mexican food (TexMex) is Chuy's. Their salsa and chips are really good, and the margaritas are great. I am a big fan of their chicken enchiladas as well.
Eddie V's is another fine choice in the Austin restaurant landscape. There is one in downtown Austin and one in the Arboretum. Eddie V's serves a wonderful variety of seafood and American cuisine, which includes some mouth-watering steaks and lamb. In my mind, Eddie V's is better suited to couples who want an enjoyable evening out. Expect to pay a little more at Eddie V's, but it is definitely worth it.
One last one, the Alamo Drafthouse. This one kind of doubles as a restaurant and entertainment venue. You can watch a movie while sitting down having a meal. Great invention, I mean how many places can you sit down and drink a beer while watching a great movie?
Now on to entertaining things to do in the neighborhood. Well, if you're the party type you can't come to Austin without hitting up 6th Street. 6th Street is one of the well-known Austin attractions. It has various music bars and clubs and is the reason why Austin is known as the "Live Music Capital of the World". I think if you're going to visit Austin, Texas you have to experience 6th Street!
There are also plenty of other attractions to see from the Austin bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge to the Austin Rescue zoo, so you should have no problem finding something to entertain a family or yourself.
In my visits through the Big 12 basketball arenas, the fans have shown me they aren't short on school spirit. Texas fans don't disappoint with their constant chants and the well known Hook Em Horns symbol shown proudly throughout the arena. The fans are some of the best in the country, making the Frank Erwin Center one of the toughest places in the land to play.
When the big rivalry games come to the Frank Erwin Center you will be hard pressed to find a much better student section than what the Longhorns have. Add in the Longhorn band, nicknamed the Showband of the Southwest, and you have an atmosphere that gives most NCAA coaches nightmares.
Texas fans are dedicated to their Horns and game by game they come out to the arena and show that love.
Now for the one downfall of the Frank Erwin Center, access. The arena is an absolute horrid place to get in and out of and parking is downright ridiculous, and that's if you have any luck finding any parking to begin with. After driving around the arena for 15 minutes, I gave up on finding anything remotely close to the arena. I ended up parking about 6 blocks away and still paid ten bucks. I'm not sure if this was just because the game was a marquee rivalry game or this is a daily occurrence, but more local parking is needed.
Bathrooms are easily available and I never found there to be a line even during peak times. Handicap access is a tad limited as the concourses do get quite crowded at times and aren't the widest.
When it comes to great college basketball experiences, it doesn't get much better than what the Longhorns offer in Austin. Tickets range anywhere from $10-$45, and a meal running about $10 a person makes for an expensive, but worthwhile evening. Also add in ten bucks for the notorious parking and you're looking at anywhere from $50-$150 for a great experience. The fans, atmosphere and overall great product are worth every single penny.
Giving out two extra points for the arena producing goosebumps for me with their singing of the "Eyes of Texas".
Another extra point to the stretching out of Worlds Largest Texas Flag before the game, making everyone in the arena proud to be deep in the heart of Texas.
One extra point for Bevo the school mascot, who is absolutely great with the fans.
Last but not least, half a point for being located in Austin an absolutely beautiful city, and another half point for the Hook 'em Horns symbol, one of the most well known hand signals in the country.
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