Kansas State athletics feels similar to a lot of universities that carry "state" in their name. With the exception of Ohio and Louisiana, most of the "state" teams around the country suffer from an inferiority complex. More importantly, their fans do. This translates into the proverbial "chip on the shoulder". This isn't to imply that Wildcat fans are in any way mean or hostile in a negative way. This is Manhattan, Kansas after all, not Manhattan, New York.
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The food selection at Fred Bramlage Coliseum is pretty varied, with all of your typical favorites blended with a few unexpected surprises. When I found a stand offering jerked chicken sandwiches for $6, I just had to try one. They serve it with BBQ or teriyaki sauce, and either way, it's very good.
As you meander around the one concourse you'll find four primary stands offering the basic staples along each side. These include chili cheese dog ($5), Johnsonville brat ($4), spicy Polish ($4), and your standard hot dog ($3.50). A decent selection of encased meats if I do say so myself. You'll also find slices of Valentino's pizza for $3.25. I tried one. It tastes like that greasy pizza you would have delivered to your dorm room. I'll let the reader decide if that's a good or bad thing.
Besides the jerk chicken stand, you'll also find specialized stands in every other corner of the concourse. These specialty stands include BBQ sandwich ($6), chicken tender basket ($7), and nacho grande with either chicken or beef ($8). For sweets, you can choose the "Powercat Corn" ($5) which is a white and purple kettle corn. Another favorite of mine is the roasted nut stand where you can choose from $4 or $7 options. If nothing else, I love the way those babies smell as you walk around the arena.
Beverages available are from the Pepsi brand, with 20-ounce bottles costing $3.50, and fountain drinks going for $3.50-$5.50 depending on the size. I'm convinced you could swim in the $5.50 size.
With the single seating bowl, Bramlage Coliseum seems a lot smaller than its capacity of 12,528 would suggest. The side behind the benches offers purple plastic stadium seats with ample room, but no cupholder.
The remainder of the arena has gray metal bleachers, although probably a quarter of those seats feature chair backs that have been attached to the bench. This makes the seats tolerable, in what otherwise may make for an uncomfortable night.
The pep band is decent, although I never understand the point of having clarinets and flutes in a pep band. If anything, I wish they played a bit more throughout the night.
Overall, even though this program has a fairly rich tradition, there just isn't that historic feel that you get 100 miles away in Lawrence. There are no Final Four banners hanging from the rafters. Instead the team commemorates its past success with signs on the wall for the Final Four appearances in 1948, 1951, 1958, and 1964.
As long as Frank Martin is the head coach though, you should be in for an entertaining evening. The 21st century version of Bobby Knight scowls, swears, and shouts from the sidelines, and can be worth the price of admission all by himself on a given night. Sit in sections 13 or 14 for the best view of Coach Martin during the game.
One nice touch is that they treat the start of the second half much like they do the beginning of the game in that they play a video highlight film that gets the crowd revved up again.
The neighborhood of bars, shops, and restaurants on the south side of campus is known as Aggieville. The name of the area dates back to the 19th century when the area was the main passageway for Kansas State Agricultural College students to get to the university. There are probably more than 20 bars in the area ranging from dance clubs to dive bars, so if you want to get your drink on, this is the place to go.
I was looking for something to eat and heard good things about Rocky-A-Belly Bar & Deli. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Their sandwiches are outstanding. This has to be the place if you want great food. Keep in mind that this is a really popular spot, with not a lot of seating, so try to aim for non-peak meal hours if you don't want to wait.
The Bluestem Bistro is an interesting little place with a coffeehouse feel, but offering quite a bit more of a menu and drink selection. Mainly you'll find sandwiches, salads, and pastas. They offer beer and wine, along with the coffee and tea you would expect. I tried the chipotle pork sandwich, served on ciabatta roll, which I thought was about average. Of the two, I would choose Rock-A-Belly, but this isn't a bad option.
I mentioned that K-State fans have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. This materializes as the fans jump on every questionable call of the official providing a raucous atmosphere throughout the game. I attended a complete blowout against Savannah State during winter break, and the arena was still about 85% full and noisy from start to finish.
Many of the fans were referring to the players by their first names, helping to demonstrate their familiarity with the team.
The students are located at center court, opposite of the benches. It's a great location to place your loudest fans, and the students do their part to pay the university back by being an integral part of the atmosphere.
Fred Bramlage Coliseum sits right next to the football stadium, Bill Snyder Family Stadium. In fact, the football stadium scoreboard is located on the north faĂ§ade of the basketball arena. The result is a very large parking area. Spots are reasonably priced at only $5 for all athletic events.
Inside you'll find wide concourses, but handicapped seating is limited to the very top of the seating area. Lines for concessions and restrooms were either non-existent or minimal.
Leaving the arena was fairly easy, so even though several fans decided to leave early due to the lopsided score, there wasn't a real need to do so.
Parking ($5), a ticket ($20), a meal and a drink ($10) only puts you out $35 for the night- definitely worth it to see some big time basketball. Even though most conference games are sold out in advance, you should be able to find tickets for less than $50 from an online resale site.
Overall, everything seems to be just about the right price. My only real complaint is that I wish that the seating situation was better, although if you want your fans on their feet cheering, having uncomfortable seats is a good way to incent them.
One extra point awarded for the statue of "Mr. K-State," Ernie Barrett on the west side of Fred Bramlage Coliseum. A player on the 1951 Final Four team, and later with the Boston Celtics for a brief period in the 1950's, Barrett was the school's athletic director and currently helps the university with fundraising efforts.
Another extra point awarded for the unique Wildcat mascot. Rather than go with the typical full body mascot suit you would expect, the K-State mascot, "Willie the Wildcat," wears only the mascot head. It kind of creeps me out honestly, but it is certainly unique.
Finally, Frank Martin is absolutely worth an extra point as he increases the overall entertainment value of going to Fred Bramlage Coliseum. They should always have picture-in-picture when Kansas State plays on TV. Until that happens, you'll just have to go in person to get the full effect.
This is a title not taken lightly around these parts. To get that sort of experience you must visit a conference game or high profile Non-con game. It's really the only fault with your review. I kicked up Atmosphere and Extras for one reason...a packed house makes Bramlage deafening. The reason there aren't 31 banners hanging from the ceiling is strategic, they absorb sound. I also gave us a star for neighborhood as you didn't quite make it too far into Aggieville. Rock a Belly is ok, but with places like Kite's, Texas Star, Hibachi Hut, and So Long Saloon (their raspberry chipotle salsa is known throughout the Big12) you missed the true experience.
Thanks for visiting, and if you're ever this way again, dinner is on me.
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