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Official Review by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Hilton Coliseum sits on the grounds of Iowa State University and is home to the Cyclones men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as the gymnastics, volleyball, and wrestling teams. Hilton opened on December 2, 1971 at a cost of $8.15 million. 14,510 fans showed up that evening to watch Iowa State defeat Arizona.
The arena has played host to many NCAA tournament activities including regional basketball, regional gymnastics, and the NCAA wrestling championships. In 2006, the arena received a new video board and sound system at the cost of $2.5 million. Although not usually included with the top college basketball arenas around the country, Hilton Coliseum is a great venue to take in a game.
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".
There are plenty of options for any taste. In addition to the run of the mill choices that all arenas have, there are a few items worth noting. The BBQ pork nachos are quite tasty and cost $8. "The Mayor," a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich, named after Coach Fred Hoiberg, is also a popular choice. Hoiberg got his nickname after receiving write-in votes in Ames during the 1993 Ames mayoral race.
Also available are walking tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, pizza, etc. that will cost about $6-$7. Snacks, desserts, and nuts cost between $4-$6.
Your best bet for a drink is $6 for a bottomless soda. Pepsi products are served at Hilton Coliseum. Also available are coffee, hot chocolate, and water.
As with many college arenas, alcohol is not served.
In Hilton Coliseum, the concourse is separated from the arena so when getting food or a drink, you can't see the game. One spot in the concourse worth seeing is the entrance to Johnny's (a spot for donors to get food and drinks). Johnny's refers to legendary basketball coach Johnny Orr, who coached the Cyclones from 1980-1994. Display cases with lots of different memorabilia from Coach Orr's tenure with the Cyclones are at the entrance.
Entering the seating area, you are met with cardinal and gold, the school's colors. As the team enters the court, the Cyclone alarm blares and the fans come to life.
The biggest roar of the night occurs moments later when Coach Fred Hoiberg enters to court. Hoiberg is already a legend in Ames, having grown up there. Hoiberg played for Iowa State and after a ten-year career in the NBA, came back to his hometown to coach. Watching the reception Hoiberg gets just walking on the court is almost worth a ticket by itself.
Every seat in the arena is a theater cushioned seat and they are quite comfortable.
Hilton Coliseum is located on the Iowa State campus and sits near Jack Trice Stadium, home of the Cyclones football team. As such, there isn't much right outside the venue, but minimal driving will open up a litany of choices.
Welch Avenue is a few blocks west of Hilton Coliseum. On Welch, you can find Cy's Roost and Welch Ave Station. Both are popular before and after the game and good places to have a drink.
For lunch or dinner, there are a few places well worth going to. For comfort food and barbecue, Hickory Park on Duff Ave (the main road through town) can't be beat. They have over 100 menu selections and the barbecue is among the best around. Also on Duff is the Mucky Duck Pub. The British-themed pub has a great environment with excellent food, including outstanding fish and chips.
A few miles north is Black Market Pizza. Black Market has been featured on Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel and offers up some of the best pie around. In addition to the traditional pizza, you can have your choice of rarer items such as the Reuben pizza.
Cyclone fans surpassed my expectations. The fans clearly have a lot to be excited about with a team that made the sweet 16 in 2014 and are ranked just outside the top 10 as of January 2015. The fans are a knowledgeable bunch and are quite loud when the situation dictates. They sense the importance of certain possessions and plays throughout the game. As fans go, they are a friendly bunch as well. They make no bones about who they are rooting for, but are fair to the visiting team.
The student section is an especially lively bunch. They stand throughout the game and have come up with creative ways to heckle the opposing team. The heckling is good natured, which makes it much more enjoyable for the average fan.
Getting to Hilton Coliseum is easily accomplished from I-35. There are plenty of parking areas around with the football stadium and many parks and open areas surrounding Hilton. The layout makes for a fairly convenient walk to the arena.
Once inside, the concourses are wide enough to get through without much problem and there are ample restrooms for the crowds. Plenty of good handicapped seating areas for fans in wheelchairs are available as well.
Prices for games generally run $25-$50 depending on the opponent and where your seats are. With the recent success of the team, seats aren't as easy to come by as they were in years past, but there aren't any bad seats wherever you sit. Combined with reasonable parking prices and average food prices, attending a game at Hilton Coliseum is one of the best values in the Big 12 and possibly one of the best values of any ranked team.
An extra point goes to the game day staff. They couldn't be any nicer.
Hilton Coliseum also boasts one of the nicer stores to pick up any Iowa State gear a fan needs. They have a large selection and the store is impeccably clean.
Add another point for the banners that hang from the ceiling of the arena. The majority of the banners are cardinal and gold and celebrate the championships of the sports teams. Another section has Olympic banners for former students who won gold medals in the Olympics.
The final extra point goes to the band and student section. They keep the game entertaining.
Iowa is very much a wrestling and football state. Knowing that going in, I wasn't expecting much out of Hilton Coliseum. My assumption couldn't have been more wrong. Hilton Coliseum is a great place to watch a basketball game. The fans are into the game and are especially loud when the situation dictates. The staff is friendly and the arena is easily maneuverable. Hilton Coliseum is one of the Big 12's gems and well worth the trip to take in a game in Ames.
Member Review by Tige_Hutcheson
Believe it or not, despite seeming a little more up-to-date than in-state rival Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum is the oldest Division I men's basketball facility still in use in the state of Iowa, and has been the proud home of Cyclone basketball since 1971. Just like the large, spread out campus surrounding it, over the years Hilton Coliseum has gained a reputation as an unfriendly and tough arena, giving the Cyclones one of the best home court advantages in the state. And while the Cyclones, especially recently, aren't usually thought of as a college basketball dynasty or perennial power, Hilton Coliseum has remained a quality college basketball arena offering Big 12 talent, spirited competition, and a legitimate college basketball atmosphere for a price considerably lower than most of its competitors.
Member Review by TheStadiumAnalyst on Dec 31, 2013
Anyone who hasn't experienced Hilton Coliseum is missing out on a Top 25 best arenas in the nation. Quality food, great people and tough place to play. I have been to all Big12 stadiums and none compare to Hilton. Rock Chalk may be able to get the loudest but Hilton is always consistent and will be loud for any team they play. The atmosphere is explained in the term Hilton Magic. You could be the number one team in the nation going into Hilton and you more than likely won't walk out with a win or at least a close game. Neighborhood is pretty decent; many of the restaurants have great food and the general campus of ISU has a lot to offer. Fans are by far the best I've ever seen/heard. Access is incredible and I'll leave it at that. Return on investment is beyond above average. Cheap tickets for one of the best arenas around isn't bad. My final thoughts: I've been told Iowa was the Hawkeye state but I think that is just towards Football. When it comes to Basketball you'd have to be crazy to even compare the two. Hilton is beyond the standards of a perfect arena.
2816 West St
Ames, IA 50014
1404 S Duff Ave
Ames, IA 50010
2610 Northridge Pkwy
Ames, IA 50010
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