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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
In 2010, Central Michigan University's Rose Center became McGuirk Arena after the completion of a renovation which included a new exterior, redesigned seating, a practice facility, and a student fitness center. McGuirk Arena is named for the McGuirk family who own real estate properties in Mt Pleasant and made a $2.5 million donation to help fund the project.
The facility seats 5,300 fans with the majority of the seating being maroon plastic chairs, but the top 10 rows are plastic bleachers. The most unique feature of McGuirk Arena is that there is no center court overhang scoreboard, which makes for a very clean view of the action of the court.
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 a few somewhat interesting items on the menu, but after ordering they left a bit to be desired. I tried the pizza calzone ($4), which was sort of a doughy disaster. I also tried the Embers pork sandwich ($6.50). Embers is a name I am familiar with for the area, and I was also a bit disappointed in this pulled pork sandwich offering.
My suggestion with the food is to stick to the basics, since they're cheaper. Better yet, eat before or after the game.
They also offer pretzel bites ($4), which are similar to a hot pretzel that you would find in most arenas, just in a more manageable form. Pepsi is the soda of choice and you can purchase one in a souvenir sized cup ($6), or 32-ounce size ($3). Hot beverages are also available including coffee, cocoa, and cappuccino ($3).
Overall, the food isn't bad. Sometimes when interesting items are offered, it raises expectations, and in this case everything is just so-so.
You'll walk in to the spacious entrance at the CMU Events Center and be greeted by a bust of CMU alum Dick Enberg. It is a great way to start, and you are hopeful that you'll get that "Oh my!" feeling. The arena feels intimate, and you have a good view of everything going on from anywhere in the arena.
The student section is mostly full, and students are on their feet, but no one seems overly into the game. The students sit under the basket nearest the home team's bench. On the opposite side, in the corner behind the other basket is the pep band. Unfortunately, they are away from the opponent's bench and, while decent, have little impact on the general atmosphere. I would have loved to see the band and the students more closely aligned and nearer the opposition's bench so that they could be a more critical component to the home court advantage.
The first 16 rows of seats are chairback with average leg room and no cupholder. As you climb beyond that, the seats are a fairly comfortable plastic bleacher. Ushers seemed to be checking to ensure that fans seated in the chairback seats had the appropriate ticket, but fans in the bleachers could easily choose where they want to see the game.
I really like having no center court scoreboard, especially in an arena with a fairly low ceiling. It is interesting though that the main scoreboard does not display a game clock. The only places to see the clock are on the shot clocks atop each basket or at the scorers' table. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does take some getting used to.
McGuirk Arena is located near the home of CMU football, Kelly/Shorts Stadium not far from the main thoroughfare into Mt Pleasant, Mission Street. The nearest place to find something to eat or drink would be O'Kelly's. O'Kelly's is sort of your typical sports bar with plenty of TVs, cheap drinks, and typical bar food.
I chose to drive about 2 miles from the arena to Mt Pleasant Brewing Company. I am always a fan of the opportunity to try a new local beer when visiting a new sporting arena. Mt Pleasant Brewing Company has a small bar area, serving up 8 beers on tap, and a small menu of very good sandwiches. I tried the Brewben (like Rueben), and thought it was delicious. All sandwiches are $8, and all beers are only $3.50. This is definitely the spot that I would recommend.
Another favorite of mine, located just a couple of drivable blocks from McGuirk Arena is La Senorita. This place is a favorite probably I went there a lot growing up. They serve Mexican food, although I don't know if you would characterize it as "authentic" Mexican food. That said I like the place a lot.
I was pretty disappointed by the fans in general. There are even some amongst the student section who are dressed up in clever outfits, so from the looks of it, you would think that they may be a rowdy crew. They seemed to enjoy themselves most after the referee made a bad call (or more accurately, a call that went against the Chips), and launched into a chant of "BULL-SH!*, BULL-SH!*". It felt a little bit juvenile.
The rest of the crowd was present, but seemed no more interested in the contest than someone in the park watching the squirrels. In fairness though, the game I witnessed was never really close and the Chippewas seemed out of it by halftime, so that may have sapped some of the energy out of the place.
Parking is free, but you're still in for a bit of a walk from your car to the arena. Make sure you have your warm clothes if it is cold (it's winter after all) as the trek across the parking lot is probably a 10 minute hike. That said, free parking is hard to beat.
Inside the arena, everything is new and dressed in maroon and gold. The concourses are wide enough to deal with the crowd, and the bathrooms are clean and modern.
Reserved seating (chairback) will cost you $18, or you can go with the bleacher seats ($12). I would recommend the latter to save some money unless you need the back support. Seniors and children can get in for only $8. As of the time of this visit (January 2012), online tickets were not available through the team's official website. Hopefully that will change soon. In the interim, you should feel comfortable getting your tickets the day of the game.
The overall cost is very reasonable, even if you are not getting anything that would be considered life altering. If you're in Mid-Michigan and want to check out some MAC basketball, then you won't go broke seeing the Central Michigan Chippewas at McGuirk Arena.
One extra point for the cool interactive Chippewas Hall of Fame located in the concourse. Rather than the standard plaques that you might find at many arenas, CMU has an interactive touchscreen that allows you to peruse the members of their Hall of Fame and get information as you like. It is rather innovative, and I would suspect more and more schools may move to something similar in the future.
Another extra point, and this is just straight hometown bias, for the #44 hanging along the wall for former NBA All-Star, Olympian, MAC Player of the Year, and Traverse City Trojan Dan Majerle "" one of my personal idols growing up.
While far from a must-see venue, McGuirk Arena does manage to provide a comfortable and modern feeling experience, and a chance to see Division I basketball at a good price. If you are in or near Mt Pleasant, Michigan, then stop over at the Mt Pleasant Brewing Company for an IPA, and stop over to McGuirk Arena for a little round ball action.
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614 W Pickard St
Mt Pleasant, MI 48858
1516 S Mission St
Mt Pleasant, MI 48858
2000 S Mission St
Mt Pleasant, MI 48858
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