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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Opened in 1969, Hofheinz Pavilion has the been the host to many great games as well great teams. During the mid 80s it was the host to the one of college basketball's greatest assembly of talent, Phi Slama Jama. Today the only remnants to that great era are the retired numbers hanging from the rafters.
With only one NCAA tournament appearance since 1992 the University of Houston basketball team seems to lack the magic that once graced Hofheinz Pavilion. As I entered the concourse of the pavilion I thought about all the great games and players that have called the pavilion home, such as Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Young and Elvin Hayes. Watching a game today at Hofheinz pavilion you can only see the hope on the faces of fans that one day that spark will return to the Pavilion. With 2010 bringing the University their first return to the NCAA tournament in 18 years, there is a sense that greatness may be returning.
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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".
Hofheinz Pavilion definitely isn't one of the biggest college arenas, seating only 8,500 people, but their food and drink selections are on par with most stadiums. Don't expect a whole lot of variety, with the only choices being hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and pretzels. The prices are pretty average with hot dogs running anywhere from $3 for a basic hot dog to $4.75 for a Cougar Dog, which I thought was pretty tasty. Nachos will run you $5.25 and a soft pretzel or regular popcorn are both $3, with a large popcorn running $4.25. The concessions also offer peanuts, chips and king size candy at normal stadium prices.
The sodas and waters were fairly priced at $3.75 for a regular and $4 for a large. Alcohol though I thought was very overpriced at $7 for a beer and a whopping $10 for a margarita. Overall though pretty typical prices, though I did think a few more concession stands would have been nice as only two were open, making lines a little lengthy at times.
The seating arrangement makes for a great view no matter where you are sitting, even though the evening I went you could pretty much sit wherever you wanted without anyone saying a thing.
With a crowd just over 30% of capacity, with a ranked team in town playing, you can quickly see that fans have lost that loving feeling they had in the mid 80s. The pep band was mediocre at best and the student section, or lack thereof, was quite depressing. The closer the Cougars got to an upset victory the rowdier the pavilion did get though. The atmosphere to me was more on course of a high school basketball game.
I do credit a lot of the lack of a great atmosphere to the team production though. I am sure as the Cougars continue to improve so will the atmosphere. As you walk around the pavilion and see the abundance of final four banners, it is a shame though that the team has fallen this far, but slowly the Cougars are returning to form a winning team.
Just south of downtown Houston, the University of Houston campus doesn't offer a whole lot to do or see. Thankfully, just a short drive away, the activities are abundant. With great eateries, bars and other social gatherings, you are guaranteed to find something to brighten your smile.
If sports are what your looking for, the Houston Rockets are a short trip up the road, and if they are not in town, then the minor league hockey Houston Aeros probably are.
As far as great places to fill your belly or grab a drink, I am quite biased towards Brennan's of Houston which specializes in creole and cajun dishes. The Flying Saucer is probably your best option for a beer with over 100 different selections on draft or in a bottle. There is also Beck's Prime Resturant, which is a great choice if you're looking for a home cooked kind of meal. I definitely think you will not have a hard time finding something to enjoy or a place to find a great bite to eat in Houston.
The fans were pretty few and far between, especially for a Saturday game against a ranked opponent. The fans that were there did seem to keep the team's momentum up with timely cheers and chants. The pep band was nothing to go out of your way to see and the student section was pretty dismal. One thing I did notice is that the majority of fans attending the game seem to be more middle-aged than anything else. As the cougars continue to improve hopefully attendance will too. Overall though the fans were mediocre at best.
Access to the stadium is pretty easy as the stadium is located just off the interstate, south of downtown. Parking costs $5, which I though was pretty reasonable, and made for a pretty quick walk to the pavilion. The pavilion can be a tad bit difficult to find once you get on campus, due to a lack of good signage on the building that it is indeed the pavilion. Bathrooms are pretty easily accessible due to the number of bathrooms and the shortage of fans.
If you're in the area and want to watch a decent game then a trip to Hofheinz Pavilion will be worth your while. Seeing the retired jersey banners definitely brought me back to the better days at the University of Houston. There is still hope that one day the team will return to that greatness that made the city electric. With decent ticket, parking and concession prices, watching a game at Hofheinz Pavilion is right on budget.
Some definite extra points for being home to the old school of Phi Slama Jama. A team nickname doesn't get much cooler than that. The retired jersey banners and the Final Four appearances also add some class to a stadium that is slowly losing some of its spark. If you attend a game at Hofheinz Pavilion you won't be disappointed as long as your expectations aren't super high.
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3300 Smith St
Houston, TX 77006
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