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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The IPFW men’s basketball team began the 2013-2014 season at the Gates Sports Center after several years a few miles down the road at Allen County Memorial Coliseum. The return of the team back to campus signals a new direction for the basketball program as the team has traded a massive venue for a more intimate venue and proximity with the rest of the school’s athletic teams. The move back to campus is intended to be a start of a new era for the program.
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There is one concession area at the entrance of the building that serves a small variety of food that they have listed on the 1-2-3 Menu. For a buck you can enjoy candy, granola or fruit. Soft drinks, pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, pretzels and popcorn are $2 and for $3 you can make it a combo with an addition of a drink. Personal pizzas from Pizza Hut are also available for $5.
The most interesting item is the Don Dog which is a hot dog with pulled pork, cheese and Frito chips that sells for $3 a la carte or for $4 with a drink. The only travesty is that I did not get to try one, since due to its popularity, it was sold out half way through the game.
The Gates Sport Center is a 60,000 square foot, multi-purpose facility that houses various other activities besides basketball games. Workout rooms, racquetball courts, offices, and classrooms are to be found outside of the main gym. Pull out bleacher seating is situated on both sides of the basketball court and can seat 1,894 spectators. The seating is in two sections, with the bottom rows offering chair back seats.
The sterile white walls are decorated with various sports banners from IPFW's sports teams and a few retired numbers don the main hallways outside of the gymnasium. There is also a large LED video scoreboard that was installed just before the start of the team returning to campus in 2013. The concession stands and bathrooms are easily accessible, along with the small table of merchandise and other information about the program and school activities.
There is a strong sense of keeping the fans interest throughout the game. During breaks in the action and at halftime, patrons are treated to a multitude of gimmicks and promotions that are reminiscent of minor league baseball. Chicken wing eating contests, dizzy bat races, free throw challenges, local dancers, kid races, musical chair style games involving layups, and T-shirt tosses by the cheerleaders and official team mascot Don take up a majority of the time between the game on the court. A pleasant and welcoming surprise, these types of activities at sporting events are always great for kids of all ages.
The IPFW campus is close to the main shopping area of town and there is plenty to choose from up and down Coliseum Drive. Quaker Steak and Lube, Ruby Tuesdays, Liberty Diner, and Carlos O'Kelly's are just a sample of the many places to eat before or after the game.
The Glenbrook Square Mall is also in the vicinity for your shopping needs. However, I would recommend a few places that are a short 15-20 minute drive from this area that are worth the venture. Oley's Pizza (10919 Highway 24 West) serves double crust pizza, stuffed with a cheese blend and topped with tomato sauce and other toppings, and is a local favorite. Their homemade meatballs, margherita bread and mozzarella chips are also worth the drive. Sara's Family Restaurant (5792 Coventry Ln) is a must for breakfast with their heaping portions of skillets, omelets, and ten varieties of eggs benedict. My favorites are the grilled salmon benedict and the Christopher Country Skillet.
When the Mastodons are winning or attempting a comeback, the fans are loud and frenzied. However, when their team is down, dead silence envelops the building. The crowds on campus are similar in numbers to what they were at the grander coliseum of season's past, but even with average crowds hovering close to 1,000, the atmosphere is very energetic when the fans are cheering, stomping and shouting. Do not be surprised if this becomes the hottest ticket in town one day.
The campus of IPFW is extremely simple to get to from I-69. Exit off of 112A and proceed a few miles until you arrive on campus. Traffic could be busy near the shopping mall, but with the assistance of GPS, you will get there in time. The signage to the Gates Sport Center is prominent, parking is free and there are plenty of spaces to choose from.
The ticket prices are $10, $13 and $15, while seniors and children tickets are $7 and $15. They are reasonable prices for college basketball in the city and not too much more than what you pay for a movie, dinner, or a minor league hockey game. The game day staff does an admirable job of keeping you entertained for the majority of the contest.
The low prices at the concession stands and the creation of the Don Dog is a nice nod to creativity. The move back to campus is also worth an extra point.
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5792 Coventry Ln
Ft Wayne, IN 46804
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