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Official Review by Kendall Crossley, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Pocatello, Idaho is home to the 1981 NCAA Division I-AA Football Champions Idaho State Bengals and one of the few indoor college football fields in the country. The Holt Arena is a very well insulated half dome structure that was built in 1970, and hosts numerous athletic events for the University, as well as concerts, rodeos, motor sports, and trade shows of the community.
The facility is well kept, and over the recent years has added nicer amenities for both player and fan comfort. In 2009, a new 16x12 video board was installed and in 2011 the stadium received a field turf upgrade and new end zone designs.
It’s important to preface this review by stating that the game I attended was a match up of two mediocre teams with records of 1-9 each.
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".
Holt Arena offers just a very small number of food vendors, serving very limited and standard game time treats. The prices were surprisingly fair considering that there was no alcohol being sold to subsidize the prices. One unique find, and what appeared to be the biggest seller, was a locally made soft serve ice cream. Based on how warm the indoor arena was getting, ice cream in the middle of November was starting to sound pretty good.
There is only a single main corridor on both sides of the arena that acts as the entrance, and serves as access to the vendors and restrooms. I can see how this could easily become very chaotic, but during my visit it was very easy to navigate.
From the moment we arrived on campus, we experienced something really peculiar. There was zero activity or excitement happening anywhere. Even as the game began and the stands were less than 1/5 full, we debated if we were in the right place. The student section was non-existent. The sponsor and donor sections were spotty at best. The alumni and general admission section was weird. There were more people knitting and reading books, than there were fans watching the game. There was seriously a woman using a language-learning program with headphones on her laptop. We got the distinct impression that if it hadn't been "senior day", the arena would have been even emptier.
Even with a minimal crowd, the insulated building made things sound rather loud. I could only imagine that Holt Arena would be a really intimidating place to play if the fans came out to the games.
Wanting to visit both sides of the arena, we were surprised when we were told that we would need to leave the building and reenter on the other side. It was more of a hassle than it was worth. Both sides of the arena are very similar.
Settled at the south end of Pocatello, Idaho State University is surrounded by older and well kept single-family homes.
After the game, we found only fast-food and cafeteria style eateries around campus. We drove to the north end of town for dinner, and were surprised to find the town packed with restaurants, retailers, and (most importantly) people. We opted to go to a popular chain sports-bar for dinner, and were surprised that we couldn't find parking anywhere, and that there was a 90 min wait time for a table. Puzzled by the crowd, I asked the hostess if there was a private party going. She replied that the restaurant is usually pretty crazy during most of the college football season, and UFC fight nights. So as it turned out, there are plenty of sport fans in Pocatello, just not at the Idaho State games.
Holt Arena seats 12,000 for football, and the actual attendance for the game attended most recently for this review was closer to 1,100. It also quickly became evident that the majority of fans and noise was coming from the visiting team section. When the Bengals finally scored in the third quarter and the fight song was played, only a couple dozen people even stood or sang along.
I was impressed with the amount of ISU team apparel the fans were wearing. It was difficult to find a fan not wearing the team colors or logos.
From the freeway, to parking, and in our seats was less than 10 minutes. We arrived at the arena about 20 minutes before kickoff and literally had our choice of front row parking stalls. There was no line at the box office, and definitely no bottlenecks at any of the entrances.
Leaving the arena was a breeze. There were no lines, congestion, or waiting. This was also due to the fact that we were some of the only spectators who stayed for the whole game.
The price for the tickets, at mid-field was more than fair. With a coupon that we were handed at the box office, the tickets were only $10. We really could have had our pick of any seats in the arena.
My wife, a former college cheerleader, was impressed with the dancers and their choreographed routine during half time. However, she was super disappointed with the cheerleaders. "They looked sloppy, haggard, and unenergetic."
Member Review by BelgradeBobcat on Jan 04, 2013
The ISU football team has fallen on hard times and that will definitely effect a visitor's impression of Holt Arena. There's just too many empty seats. But even a small crowd can make a lot of noise in the enclosed environment and it's great for a road trip because you know it's going to be good weather in the dome no matter what's going on outside.
The structure is very utilitarian. There isn't a hint of architectural beauty. It's just a big quonset hut. Inside it feels like walking into a time warp-as the building hasn't really been renovated since it's construction in the late 60's. The roof is ugly and there's stuff stored in the empty spaces in public view. The place needs to be brightended up.
Holt Arena is easy to find. It's the biggest building in Pocatello and it's right off I-15. The arena and campus are in a residential area, but Pocatello is a nice clean town and the people are nice.
With ISU football struggling, there's a good chance a fan of the opposing team will leave happy, but if the Bengals do get it turn around, Holt Arena is absolutely a feared venue for visiting teams because a big enthusiastic crowd would be LOUD!
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