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Official Review by Bill Kintner, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
As you approach the arena from any side but the front, it is not a very impressive venue. From the front it looks promising, but your jaw will not drop. Get inside and you find that appearances may be deceiving. By any measure this arena rocks.
But first things first, JQH stands for John Q. Hammons, who is a businessman that made his fortune developing hotels and he is a Missouri State alumnus who has a passion for sports, specifically Missouri State. There is Hammons Field, a 32 million dollar field for Missouri State and the minor league Springfield Cardinals. It is probably one of the nicest college baseball fields being used right now.
The old basketball arena was named for Hammons and the JQH Arena is on John Q. Hammons Parkway. There are a few other things in Springfield named Hammons. Heck, I ended up having such a good time at the game that I named my laptop that I was using at JQH Arena the JQH Laptop Computer.
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".
They have all the basics that you would expect at a basketball game plus real hand-scooped ice cream, Mexican food, pulled-pork BBQ, a gourmet hot dog stand and a gourmet burger stand. Prices are just a little high, but nothing like the crazy NBA prices. Here is something you can do for fun; buy a cup of ice cream for $4 and tell them to cram as much ice cream in it as possible. They piled mine up about seven inches high with cookies and cream ice cream and it was filling, not to mention delicious.
Hot dogs: $4, A nice dog and big too! A nice blend of spices with a very soft bread/bun. Rating: A
Large pop corn: $4, Barely warm, but salty with a slight hint of butter taste. Rating: B+
Nachos with cheese: Good crisp chips and slightly spicy cheese. Rating: B+
Pepsi: 32 oz, $4
Fans enter into the concourse that circles the court between the upper and lower sections. It is wide and full of things to do. Concessions are sold on all sides of the concourse and there are plenty of flat-screen TV monitors so fans do not miss any action. There is a hall of fame and it does a nice job of telling the story Missouri State athletics. A quick fun fact that I learned from the hall of fame: Since Missouri State started playing basketball the program has only had 15 losing seasons.
In the seating bowl where the action happens, there is seating that covers three sides, horseshoe style with a lower section and upper section that has angled side seats. The fourth side at the open end of the horseshoe is bleacher seating for students, which goes up 30 rows from the floor. The fans in both the lower and upper seating sections enter through portals from the concourse and either go down to their seats in the lower level or up to their seats in the upper sections on both sides.
Both the lower and upper sections are sloped enough so that the last rows are not that far back from the court. There are corporate boxes on any of the three sides of the horseshoe situated between the upper and lower sections and they are comfortable. At the closed end of the horseshoe on the same level as the boxes is the Prime Overtime Club for high rollers, with seating that provides views of the court, plus food and drink. Rather than enclosing it in glass, it was left open, giving the high rollers a real game experience when they are in the Prime Overtime Club.
The scoreboard is a center-hung, four-sided board, with a clear, large video display, player stats, time, score, fouls and TOL. There is also a round message board under the main video boards and message display panels above.
I attended the final game of the 2010-11 season which featured Wichita State trying to defeat Missouri State for the number one seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. This 11,000-seat arena which opened in 2008 set a new attendance record with 11,077 fans making noise from tip off until 30 minutes after the Bears beat the Shockers to the delight of the home fans. When the game ended, confetti dropped from the ceiling and that rated high on my "cool meter."
Have you ever seen a "white out" where all the fans where white? Well today it was a "maroon out" with almost all the fans wearing maroon as ESPN2 captured the action. It was impressive and I do not think that on this Saturday there was a better college atmosphere anywhere in the country. Part of the wonderful experience is due to the staff, from ticket takers to policemen to ushers to concession workers; they treat you like they are glad you are there. You will not find this at every venue.
This arena is right on campus and located near several restaurants and bars. All have an appropriate sports theme. Within sight of the arena is Harlow's, and also Boomer's. Both have plenty of TVs and reasonably priced food. About a half mile away was a charming little sports bar called Ebbets Field. It was at one point an old house that is now a sports bar with everything you would expect in a sports bar. It reminds me a little of "Bobby Plump's Last Shot" in Indianapolis. If you are a college basketball fan and you do not know who Bobby Plump is, then you better do a quick Google so you do not embarrass yourself. There are plenty of other hangouts close by should you choose to investigate a little.
The fans, and the students on their feet almost the whole game as well as the pep band combine to provide a great college experience. There were probably 2,500 students in attendance. There were over 11,000 fans, but MSU averages a little over 7,300 fans per game, so not every game is this rocking. There will be nights early in the season where there are only 5,600 fans in attendance, but the arena is so nice that you will always have a nice experience no matter how many fans are in the house.
There are several lots near the arena but I didn't see any general parking close by. There was a parking garage about two blocks away with free parking and there was plenty of street parking starting about three blocks away. So you won't have to pay anything to park unless you are dying to part with some money, but you will probably have to walk several blocks, and who couldn't use a little exercise?
Tickets run $20, $15 and $10 each and there were tickets for sale outside the arena for less than face value. So you can get two people (paying face value for tickets) in for between $20-$40, then get a huge hot dog, large Pepsi and a large pop corn for $12 and it is a $32-$52 dollar day. Not a steal, but not a huge rip-off either. More importantly, well worth the overall price.
This arena is one of the best arenas built in the last 30 years. It makes my top 10 college basketball arenas in the country. Any college hoops fan on an arena tour needs to include the JQH Arena. You will enjoy a true college hoops experience in a top venue and you will be watching great MVC basketball. You will get a great seat with a cup holder, the scoreboard will give you all the relevant information you need, the food you purchase will be good and after the game you can walk to a sports bar to catch another game or two. The game experience at Missouri State has everything I look for.
*Photographs provided by the Missouri State Sports Information Department.
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637 S Kimbrough Ave
Springfield, MO 65806
631 S Kimbrough Ave
Springfield, MO 65806
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