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John E. Worthen Arena

Muncie, IN

Home of the Ball State Cardinals



John E. Worthen Arena (map it)
1699 W Bethel Ave
Muncie, IN 47306

Ball State Cardinals website

John E. Worthen Arena website

Year Opened: 1991

Capacity: 11,500

There are no tickets available at this time.


Local Information


Cavernous Worthen Arena

John E. Worthen Arena is the home of the Ball State Cardinals, and found in the heart of the Ball State campus in Muncie, Indiana. Named for a former Ball State University President, the octagonal-shaped arena feels like big-time college basketball, without losing the small-town vibe.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Ball State basketball, I think of Rick Majerus, even though he was only the coach for two seasons for the Cardinals. It was actually Head Coach Dick Hunsaker that led BSU to their greatest success, an appearance in the Sweet 16 in 1990, and an eventual two point loss to UNLV, that season’s national championship squad, and one of the most talented of all time. That success certainly helped to lead to the new arena, and served as a great gift to the basketball program, even though they have made only three tournament appearances since Worthen Arena opened in 1991 (1993, 1995, and 2000).

Worthen Arena is imposing from the outside, and inside it feels large as well, with spacious concourses and seats rising high on all sides of the arena. The high ceiling makes you feel like you’re in a much larger arena, but the capacity of 11,500 makes it feel more intimate.

The Cardinals basketball program has been in existence since 1920, and they have been competing in the Mid American Conference (MAC) since 1973. They have won five conference championships in basketball during that time.


What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    3

There is a decent variety of food and drink at Worthen Arena, although nothing that will completely knock your socks off. If you're hungry, you can choose from a hot dog ($3), chili cheese dog ($3.50), bratwurst ($4), nachos ($4), or pretzel with cheese ($4).

Get the Charlie Cardinal Special for $6 which includes a hot dog, chips, and a 24 ounce drink, a savings of 75 cents.

Since Worthen Arena is located on campus, no alcohol is served. Instead you can choose from Pepsi products, with the large for $3.75, or small for a dollar less. To hydrate, you can go for either Gatorade ($3) or water ($2.75). To caffeinate, you can choose from Starbucks energy drinks ($4), or the classic cup of coffee or hot chocolate ($2 each).

Overall, you will find anything that you need at affordable prices at Worthen Arena, but you're probably best served to eat anything substantial before or after the game and save your money on the food options.

Atmosphere    3

Ball State's Worthen Arena is a big beautiful arena. It feels cavernous, and even more so when the building is half empty. The Cardinals have a large cheerleading squad, but who are they leading in cheer? With nearly 40 members on the cheerleading and dance teams (the Code Red Dance Team), it feels like overkill. The student section is especially weak, offering very little energy.

Seats are primarily red plastic chairback seats with slightly better than average leg room, but no cup holders. Seats in the corners are angled toward the court, providing a good view no matter where you sit in Worthen Arena. Metal bleachers with backs occupy the back 10 rows or so, and are reasonably comfortable as bleachers go, but you're better off in a chair for the game. My recommendation would be to sit in Section O, Row J, Seat 10. This would put you directly at center court, facing the benches, and high enough up to watch play unfold.

During television time outs, you will find the typical contests or dance displays by the cheerleaders. The center hung scoreboard still hangs, but is no longer functioning. Instead you will find basic scoreboards in each lower corner. There is a video screen which shows promotional videos and replays. Fans in sections P-W will have the best view of this video screen without losing site of the game. It's too bad they don't repurpose the center scoreboard to display player stats throughout the game, something that is definitely missing from the experience for fans who love their numbers.

The Ball State mascot, Charlie the Cardinal, used to do a fantastic job of making his way through the crowd to interact with fans, especially with the kids, and the ladies, who he greeted with a peck on the hand. Unfortunately Charlie was nowhere to be seen during my most recent visit in 2015.

Walk the concourse and you'll find inductees to the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame commemorated on plaques on the inner wall. It's a nice way to peruse the past of great Cardinals athletes. Specific to the basketball team, you'll find plaques for Bonzi Wells, Ray McCallum, and a tribute to the 1990 squad that reached the Sweet 16.

One last note, it's hot in Worthen Arena. You'll likely be dressed for winter, but make sure you wear layers, as you'll want to peel some off during the game.

Neighborhood    3

Within a mile of Worthen Arena, is a strip of bars and restaurants along University Avenue. Make sure you pass by 150-foot tall Shafer Tower on your way through campus, a Ball State landmark completed in 2001.

There are several options in the area, but my recommendation goes to Scotty's at 1700 University Avenue. I generally prefer to try a non-chain bar or restaurant when I'm in a new town, but I have found Scotty's to have consistently good service and food. I also love their beer selection (30 beers on tap), and apparent affinity for local brews. Their menu is full of burgers, sandwiches, ribs, wings, salads, and appetizers. There are also plenty of TVs so you can stay up-to-date on the other games of interest.

If you go in another direction, toward downtown, you'll find a couple of great spots for beer lovers. First among them is certainly Heorot Pub & Draught House, the beer-centric pub has nearly 300 beers available and 68 on tap. The bar takes its name from the epic tale of Beowulf and the beer hall he defended. They serve some food here, mostly as a formality, but pizza is decent and cost effective. Ultimately though, you're here for the beer. Although, it's hard to resist the stand-up old school Ms Pac-Man game.

If you want something slightly better to eat, then head a couple of blocks to Savage's Ale House where they have a pretty good selection of beer along with burgers, sandwiches, and the typical bar appetizers and snacks. They also have a pool table, foosball table, and a couple of TVs to keep you entertained.

Fans    3

Ball State averages just under 3,000 for its home games, which is about average in comparison to other MAC teams. Unfortunately that means 8,000 empty seats. The university combats this somewhat by tarping off the sideline bleacher sections, but overall the fans feel pretty spread out and don't have the effect on the game that you would hope for.

The pep band is small, but mighty, with 20 or so students pumping out energetic remixes of pop tunes from the last few decades. On Ball State free throws the pep band also does an angelic harmonious hum, in an effort to will the ball in from the charity stripe.

The rest of the student section, located next to the pep band, is less inspired. They come in late and fill up quite a few rows, but they don't do anything to have any effect on the game. Almost all of them sit the entire game. This is Indiana. More has to be expected from the students at Ball State.

The rest of the crowd is engaged throughout. While they may be small in number, they are knowledgeable and you won't see fans meandering around while the ball is in play. The fans may not add much to the experience overall, but they are respectful of the game, making this a very pleasant arena to see a game.

Access    5

Parking is free, and there is plenty of it. You could also walk from the bars and restaurants about a mile away if you needed to, so there are plenty of options here. Concourses are about as wide as you will experience anywhere, and there are TVs throughout. The doors open one hour before the scheduled tipoff.

Bathrooms are large, clean, and found on each side of the arena, so you shouldn't have to miss any of the basketball action by leaving your seat early to avoid lines. There are 20 urinals and eight stalls in each men's room, ensuring that traffic will move quickly here.

Return on Investment    4

The most expensive single game ticket will only cost you $15, and all other adult tickets are only $10 for general admission. Anyone under the age of 18 gets a seat for $6 (no ticket needed for children under 2 years of age). With free parking, and nothing on the menu that costs more than $5, you will find a Ball State basketball experience to be an outstanding value.

Extras    2

The pep band really helps to give the student section some much needed presence. They are just about the only thing worth noting about this sub-standard student squad.

There is just something special about basketball in Indiana. When you see that blue state flag hanging in the rafters, you are reminded that you're in an area that loves its hoops. You can't help but think about the potential fantastic experience that you could have at Worthen Arena if the students would step it up, and the arena would fill up. It likely will take a couple solid seasons by the Cardinals before that dream can be realized.

Final Thoughts

There is nothing spectacular about a trip to Worthen Arena, but everything is priced reasonably, and the venue itself is a great place to watch basketball. If you are in the area, it is definitely worth a trip to Ball State and Worthen Arena to see the Cardinals play some MAC basketball.

Nice writeup... a few new changes

A very fair review. I've always considered the arena, while spacious and beautiful, to be a bit sterile compared to the older, smaller gym. The very high ceilings IMHO contribute to less noise and less home-court advantage. In the early, better years, the crowds were closer to 6-7000 or so, but it still never gave off a loud rumbling crowd presence like the much more intimate 6000 seat UGym. As the team is much improved for the first time in forever this year, hopefully the crowds will pick back up past the 3000 mark.

Regarding the scoreboard... The non-functioning scoreboard was finally replaced this year with six large video boards, and the corner scoreboards were replaced with more modern versions as well. A much needed improvement, and it was very well done.

Charlie is nearly always at the games... I wonder if you attended during a break or something, which may explain his absence.

by swenocha | Feb 29, 2016 09:44 AM

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Crowd Reviews

Inside Worthen

Total Score: 3.14

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 2
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 2

John E. Worthen Arena is the home of the Ball State Cardinals, and found in the heart of the Ball State campus in Muncie, Indiana. Named for a former Ball State University President, the octagonal-shaped arena feels like big-time college basketball, without losing the small-town vibe.

It's hard to believe that it has been over 20 years since Rick Majerus led the Cardinals to the Sweet 16, and they were a consistent Cinderella program. That success certainly helped to lead to the new arena, and served as a great gift to the basketball program.

Longtime Fan

Total Score: 3.00

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 2
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 2

Ball State has fallen on hard times as of late. Though there is a small contingent of die-hard fans that show up for every game even in the worst of times. One of the best games to attend is when Indiana State or Butler make an appearance at Worthen.

Overall though, Worthen is a massive facility for a mid-major program, and while updates are needed to stay on top of the game, it is a very nice place to watch basketball. There's not one bad seat in the house

Love it

Total Score: 3.86

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 3

Crowds are hit and miss, really depends on who they play and what day of the week it is. They recently got a new High-tech jumbotron on center court as well as a new sound system. Changes the atmosphere drastically. The arena could probably use some aesthetic updates, but it is one of the best mid-major arenas in the country.

Share your thoughts about John E. Worthen Arena

Local Food & Drink

Scotty's Brewhouse  (map it!)

1700 W University Ave

Muncie, IN 47303

(765) 747-5151


Heorot Pub & Draught House  (map it!)

219 S Walnut St

Muncie, IN 47305

(765) 287-0173


Savage’s Ale House  (map it!)

127 N High St

Muncie, IN 47305

(765) 282-9962


Local Entertainment


Holiday Inn Express & Suites Muncie  (map it!)

4201 W Bethel Pike

Muncie, IN 47304

(765) 289-4678



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