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Official Review by Drew Cieszynski, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Just north of Los Angeles, The California State University Northridge (CSUN) make their home in the Matador Gymnasium. Although it has a flat roof, the local fans refer to it as the "Matadome." The gym sits within Redwood Hall, which hosts many kinesiology classes in addition to basketball.
The gym was opened on November 30, 1962, back when the school was known as the San Fernando Valley State College. Over 3,000 fans once fit inside, but following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the size of the gym was reduced to accommodate additional classroom space.
When the team made the move to Division I in 1990, the gym remained largely unchanged and is one of the smaller venues in college basketball today with a capacity of 1,600. As a new fan glances around the gym, he or she will spot multiple Big Sky Conference banners, but the team has been competing in the Big West Conference since 2001.
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The Matadome only offers a single concession stand, not far from the main entrance. Here, fans can get a Matadog ($3), spicy Matadog ($3), turkey Matadog ($3), chips ($2), candy ($2), popcorn ($2), nachos ($3), pretzels ($2), or extra cheese ($1) for any of your items.
The beverage options include soda ($2), water ($2 or $3 for large), and bottled Gatorade ($2). The prices are reasonable, but the selection is rather lacking.
With the smaller size and a decent crowd on hand, I did expect the atmosphere to be a bit more elevated. Unfortunately, outside of the enthusiasm of the PA announcer, there was not a whole lot of "atmosphere" to be experienced.
The cheer team brought most of the energy, with the band in their #1 Matador jerseys adding some spark. There was no sign of mascot, Matty the Matador, which was unfortunate. The student section is known as the "Red Rally," but I didn't hear much of anything from them all evening.
Some of the more interesting contests run during breaks included musical chairs (strangely enough to the tunes of "Ice Cream Pain Job" by rapper Durrough), a "dress like a matador" competition, and a bean bag toss to win tickets to the Big West tournament.
The cheer squad consistently made the most noise in the venue. They often held up signs reading "De-fense" or "Noise" in hopes of getting the fans pumped up. The only chant that I really caught was "Let's Hear It - Red- White - Northridge!"
Nearby fast food options include Tapioca Express, Subway, Burger King, Panda Express, Wienerschnitzel, and Chipotle. If you love predictability, there is also a Chili's nearby.
The area seems to offer quite a showing a Thai food, with the best offering being the Lum-ka-naad Thai Restaurant and Thai Chili House.
If you're in the mood for Italian, try Maria's Italian Kitchen. When you sit down, they give you focaccia bread as an appetizer. Some of the other items I'd recommend are the zucchini fritters with marinara sauce, Chicken marsala, piccata, or spicy shrimp risotto.
Emles Restaurant is another local favorite, known most for its French toast. They tab themselves "Californian and Middle Eastern" cuisine. They offer a rather extensive breakfast menu and if you are daring, you'll try some of the Middle Eastern items. The dinner menu offers anything you would find at a normal restaurant as well as a variety of Middle Eastern options.
While the name may not lead you to believe it, A & W Seafood Restaurant is a great place to grab some Chinese food. Many of the locals say it has the best dim sum around. Other things to try include the sesame balls, chicken feet, and cow tripe. They do provide oranges at the end of the meal to remove any unwanted taste in your mouth.
Other places to check out that could be rather unique to the area include the Bounce Boba Loft and California Chicken Cafe.
Unfortunately the fans really didn't seem to get out of their seats for anything more than the restrooms or concessions during this game. During the first half, I heard nothing but the cheerleaders. This was rather odd to me as with such a small gym, I expected the fans would be yelling at the home/visiting players quite often.
On several occasions, the cheerleaders held up signs in hopes of trying to provoke the fans in participating in cheers, but it just wasn't happening on this evening. The student section was mostly quiet; they certainly need a ring leader.
To their credit, the fans did get a bit more boisterous in second half, but still lacked making it an intimidating atmosphere.
The CSUN campus is not far from the 405, 101 and 118 (Ronald Reagan) freeways. It could be as quick as 30 minutes north of Los Angeles, but traffic often delays your commute. Unfortunately, this is another Big West Conference school that doesn't clearly mark their gymnasium (see UCSB and CSUF), so leave yourself some time to track it down.
Fans will have to pay a $6 fee for a daily parking pass to park for Matador games. This seems a bit steep considering the plentiful parking all around the gym. The parking lot had very dim lighting, so if anyone wanted to surprise me, they easily could have because fans may need a flashlight to find their vehicle.
The gym is a bit away from the parking, so prepare yourself for a 5 minute walk to the gymnasium. Once again, it's not clearly marked, and three fans inquired to its location as I was trying to find it myself.
Once inside, fans will have the option of sitting on the north or south end. The south end contains bleacher seating, separated into five sections (one of which is the student section/band). The north end is also separated into five sections, but with chairback seating on this side. The ushers are very diligent to make sure fans have the correct tickets on this side. Unfortunately, the area behind each basket had no seating, and gray, barren walls. No courtside seats were available in this venue.
The facility offered two restrooms, both of which were rather small with three stations in each. I really got a kick out of the urinals in the men's room; one was 12" off the ground and the other was 28".
If you are the die-hard Matador fan, you get season tickets for $100 to $125, depending on the quality of your seats.
If you can only make a few games a year, the single game tickets are $15 for Premiere Reserved, $10 for Reserved, and $8 for general admission. With parking and some of the best concession prices in Division I, the value seems to be one of the best. I just need the fans to step it up a bit to get my $25 worth on a weekly basis.
As I visit school after school in the Big West, I love to look up and see when the school made their mark on the NCAA tournament. After all, there are still schools such as UC-Irvine, who have not had the privilege. The Matadors made their appearances in 2001 and 2009.
Just inside the lobby, fans will find several exhibits that could keep fans occupied for quite awhile. First is the "Tradition of Excellence" exhibit, which is an ode to the coaches, championships, and traditions of the school. Next is the Matador Hall of Fame, which has plaques for each of the outstanding athletes in CSUN history. Lastly, I should note the Washington Mutual Gallery, which has sculptures of Matadors and other artwork; a great nod to the school's nickname.
I should also note that the Matadome has witnessed its share of the stars as The Karate Kid filmed parts of the movie there in 1984, as was National Lampoon's Van Wilder in 2002.
Over the past few years, the gym has received a lot of negative publicity for not being up to the standards of a Division I venue, even from the mouth of the head coach. Many have called it detrimental to building a fanbase or recruiting. With recent success, hopefully more attention will turn to the program and getting the facility updated and the fanbase more engaged.
Follow Drew's journeys through Southern California on twitter @Big10Drew.
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8920 Reseda Blvd
Northridge, CA 91324
9161 Reseda Blvd
Northridge, CA 91324
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