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Official Review by Kendall Crossley, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
While having attended an Idaho State University (ISU) football game and a rodeo in the Holt Arena, I fully expected this trip to Pocatello for an ISU Men’s basketball game to be equally as forgettable. However, this visit in Jan 2013, actually left me pleasantly surprised and I found myself questioning my past opinions of the arena. With only a very modest sized crowd, the Holt Arena was deafening and intimidating as the Bengals went on to beat Sacramento State 60-59.
Opened in 1970, the Holt Arena is a half dome reminiscent of a large airplane hanger. Unassuming from the outside, the multipurpose arena offers several different seating arrangements that allow for different sports, concerts, and entertainment events.
Logistically, hosting any event in the middle of a football stadium is crazy. The various courts and stages that are installed make up only a small fraction a football field square footage. Fortunately for Bengal basketball fans, ISU seems to have it down to a fine art. In order to not separate the crowd from the game and eliminate the home court advantage, the court is brought close to the permanent north bleachers and temporary bleachers surround the three sides of the court. Respectable for its size even with temporary bleachers, the arena boasts 8,000 seats during basketball games and a 12,000 (permanent) seating capacity for football games. Many of the dome’s features are unavailable during the basketball game such as the video boards, or family friendly play place.
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. During basketball games, the south side of the arena is closed, which further reduces the available options. The concession prices are surprisingly fair considering that there is no alcohol being sold to subsidize the prices.
The arena is adorned with trophies, plaques, and sports memorabilia from throughout the school's past, giving the facility a feeling of past sports legacy and special moments. However as the student body is virtually nonexistent, you're instantly struck with confusion wondering which is the home team. Luckily for this game, the hometown fans showed up in the second half. The heavy (ugly) insulated roof helped lend to the incredible noise that the small crowd produced.
Settled at the south end of Pocatello, Idaho State University is surrounded by older and well kept single-family homes, which slightly separates the school as the more active part of the town. Having learned from past experiences of trying to find original restaurants around the university, we talked to the other spectators and got two solid recommendations. Portneuff Brewery, a traditional polish brewery, and Butterburr's which is a family diner. As a winter storm was starting to settle in, we opted for Butterburr's, which was closer to our hotel. The large diner was filled to capacity, and the locals were really piling in. The soups are warm and homemade, and the pies hit the right spot. I will definitely be returning again for their Cheddar Broccoli soup.
While I remain underwhelmed at the complete lack of a student section from ISU, I am extremely impressed with the amount of local hometown support the team seems to have. Families and local residents don the orange and black to support the Bengals. While the Bengals struggled to get things going during the first half, the fans didn't waiver. The second half was loud, intense, and actually kept my attention.
From the freeway, to parking, to the seats is less than 10 minutes. One unique feature that I noticed during this trip is Bengal tiger paw prints painted on the roads throughout town, all of which lead you to the Holt Arena.
I have never waited in line at the box office, restrooms, or concessions. The small attendance reduces all congestion, and traffic flow before, during, and after the basketball game.
Even though the men's basketball games uses just a portion of Holt arena's potential, the $15 ticket I bought, allowed me to attend one of the best college games I have attended in quite some time. While I'm not a Bengals fan, I will absolutely be looking into attending again.
Nothing that should be considered extra.
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615 S 1st Ave
Pocatello, ID 83201
617 Yellowstone Ave
Pocatello, ID 83201
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