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Official Review by Jake Palmer, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The McCarthey Athletic Center – or the "MAC" – opened in 2004, as the Gonzaga Athletic Department attempted to profit from its team’s resounding success and popularity in the Spokane-area. It sits 6,000 – a number the athletic department was hoping was high enough for profits, yet low enough to ensure soaring demand in the community. It has two levels on each sideline, and some luxury boxes. It maintains a loud, intimate setting despite being the largest arena in the conference (save for the new-to-the-WCC BYU’s Marriot Center in Provo, Utah).
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".
The food options at a Gonzaga basketball game are varied and are relatively reasonably priced -- you can enjoy a hot dog or a bowl of Japanese-style noodles for $5 each. The lines for food and beverage are never very long – even at halftime – and the people working the concessions are eager and friendly as they are usually members of a community organization raising money.
The best thing to enjoy during a Zag game is the carne asada nachos, which come covered in jalapenos, salsa and steak. They are relatively healthy and are only $7-$8, which is pretty reasonable for the amount of food you get.
Another healthy fan favorite is the panini – another somewhat healthy, untraditional arena food option.
Overall you get what you would expect from stadium fare – pretzels, hot dogs, popcorn, etc. – at an economic price, with diverse options for most tastes.
Games inside of the Kennel encapsulate everything that is great about college sports: Electric fan involvement, a student section leading cheers to ensure a fevered pitch, and an intimate setting, which allows you to get lost in the game.
Fans get a strong feeling of how far the program has come within the swanky confines of the MAC: John Stockton’s iconic No. 12 is one of only two numbers retired. Opposite of that are the numerous banners commemorating the men’s and women’s teams’ domination over the WCC and success in the NCAA Tournament.
There are glossy murals in the arena walkways that highlight some of the great players that played for GU over the years: Casey Calvary, Adam Morrison and Courtney Vandersloot, to name a few, give a good feeling of how much history the program has.
If you get there early, you can take part in the tradition of having the Kennel blessed by team chaplain Fr. C. Hightower S.J. There is also a crucifix on the wall reminding fans of Gonzaga’s Catholic tradition.
The atmosphere is unique and engaging, and you can feel the buzz you would expect from collegiate competition.
The neighborhood is not exactly swanky or aesthetically charming.
The bar that was formerly owned by Jack Stockton, Jack and Dan’s, is just a short walk away. Although the bar rarely has any specials, it does have interesting memorabilia and it has plenty of historic relevance.
There are a few other bars within walking distance of the arena if you are looking for a cheaper drink:
Club 1305 is where the college crowd typically congregates, and would be interesting for those trying to party with a Kennel Clubber after the game.
Geno’s has good happy hour specials and food. Geno’s is perfect if you are looking for a more laid-back experience of sitting down and easily conversing with members of your party. The Star Bar is a complete dive, but is plenty of fun if the right mindset is brought to the local-filled karaoke bar.
Depending on when the game gets out, Ionic Burrito and Wolfy’s are sensible options for cheap, greasy fast food that are popular in the Gonzaga area.
While there are a few options for bars, there is not much food within walking distance of the arena, but there are plenty of options in downtown Spokane, which is just a short drive away.
The famous and ingenious Kennel Club (student section), ensures that the building has a high intensity level throughout the games. The Kennel Club has a ton of traditions that are interesting to a fan taking in the experience for the first time, and they influence the entire game by being perpetually animated –which could be a result of the time they spent sleeping in the cold in tents before big games.
The KC will often involve the non-student fans, even though the typical fan has a pretty good sense of when to grasp the moment, and they are never slow to question a call.
Due to the Lambeau Field-esque waiting list for season tickets and individual tickets going for upwards of $120 on StubHub, regardless of the opponent, the Kennel is always packed and the crowd is always extraordinarily engaged in the game.
Parking is free outside of the arena, but the main lot fills up very quickly, and many fans are forced to park in the adjacent neighborhood. The good news is that you will never have to park that far away, and that you won’t have to pay for it.
Getting out and on the freeway is relatively easy – considering you just attended the biggest sporting event in Spokane – as I-90 is less than 500 yards away from the southern tip of campus. Watch out for student pedestrians when coming and going from campus though, because that will be your only impediment to getting away quickly.
Bathrooms are all over the arena and are never more than a section away.
You won’t find a better sports experience in Spokane, and arguably the state of Washington. So, if you are willing to spend exorbitant amounts for a spare ticket found on a second-hand ticket site, you will not be let down.
It is rumored that it takes at least $20,000 to get on the 20+ year waiting list for season tickets, so it is reasonable for many Zag fans to go an entire lifetime without taking in a live game.
If price is not a concern, it is absolutely worth it. But if money is tight, you might want to take in a game at Jack and Dan’s, as there is usually a pretty good following watching the Zags there. Also, tickets for women’s games are more easily acquired and allow you a similar feeling to the Kennel rocking during men’s games because the women’s program gains popularity by the day.
I’ll award an extra point for the large bronze Bulldog statue outside of the arena, which is perfect for photo opportunities.
There is also a well done hype video before every game that is effective in setting the tone for the environment the rest of the game.
Due to the high prices of tickets, it is very rare for opposing fans to infiltrate the Kennel, creating an extremely intimidating environment for the visiting team.
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1226 N Hamilton St
Spokane, WA 99202
1414 North Hamilton St
Spokane, WA 99202
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