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Official Review by Jack Winter, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The University of Missouri’s Mizzou Arena opened in 2004, replacing the nearby Hearnes Center as home for the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. It has a of capacity 15,061, is double-decked on three sides, and boasts 35 private boxes between the upper and lower levels of seating. Inside Mizzou Arena, basketball players have access to some of the best facilities in the conference, including a state of the art practice gym, classrooms replete with numerous screens to watch film, and an academic center designed to foster the development of the student-athlete. This, no doubt, is one of the country’s most up-to-date college basketball facilities for both the fan and player.
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".
Keeping with the theme of the 21st century stadium experience, food and drink prices at Mizzou Arena are pretty steep – simple staples like a regular soda or bottled water cost $4. It’s hard to fault the folks at the University of Missouri too much for this, though, as they’re just keeping with the times.
On a brighter note, there are several options available here that are atypical to a normal stadium experience. Gourmet hot dogs with numerous toppings like the "Fastbreak" and "Big Zou" Dawgs won’t leave you with an empty stomach, while a French Dip sandwich with Pickled Jardiniere is sure to provide the same satisfaction. The crown jewel of Mizzou Arena’s main entrees, though, is no doubt the Pork Belly Sandwich with cheese, a delicious, bacon-driven creation that arrives on hot Texas toast.
Feeling like a ridiculously oversized and salty snack? Go for the Tiger Twist, a massive two pound pretzel that comes in a box befitting a pizza. It’s $12, but feeds at least three.
This, largely, comes down to a matter of personal taste. Mizzou Arena lacks the charm and old-school feel emanating from some of college basketball’s best arenas. The fans sit far from the court, the lights are turned off and there’s a fire show for pre-game introductions. The presence of so many suites often leaves some of the lower bowl empty. All this combined with several smaller factors – like truly immaculate lighting – go into giving the arena a pro-basketball type of atmosphere. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that, but lost is the sense of community and amateurism prevalent in the top college hoops venues in the country. Here, you feel like a true spectator, completely separate from the action on the floor as opposed to a key cog in determining the game’s outcome. To put it simply, there’s little magic at Mizzou Arena, and for that its atmosphere can be considered nothing but average.
Located outside the university campus and south of the Hearnes Center and Faurot Field, Mizzou Arena’s surrounding area is average at best. A large courtyard sitting in front of the main gates is nice, but traffic and parking lots abound. You’d be hard-pressed to find any food or entertainment within reasonable walking distance.
However, the nearby downtown area helps make up for the industrious backdrop immediately outside the arena’s doors. Local restaurants and bars give downtown that typical college town charm, and the streets are filled by a black and gold clad army before and after game time. Harpo’s – a sprawling brick bar and grill with a second floor patio – is a favorite of Mizzou fans, and Shakespeare’s Pizza offers some of the best pie in central MO.
It’s no surprise the Tigers have such a sterling home record at Mizzou Arena – their fans are some of the most passionate and engaged in the conference. Though MU doesn’t sell out every game, it hardly matters because the intensity of the crowd is such. They wildly cheer made shots, boo questionable calls, and have their attention on the court at all times. This isn’t the smartest or most knowledgeable crowd, but they aren’t horribly out of touch in that regard either.
The student section is raucous, standing throughout play and excitedly performing school cheers and chants. They dress in gold, vigorously heckle opposing players in good fun, and usually fill up their entire allotted section. It’s not worthy of the "Sixth Man" title given to it by the PA announcer in introductions, but this is still one of the better student groups in the conference.
The only thing keeping Missouri’s fans from a stellar rating is a single group of instigators, a group of students known as The Antlers. They take the stereotype of the awful college sports fan and do it even worse, chanting about the personal matters of opposing players, dressing in colors opposite of their peers, standing when nobody else is, and in general trying to draw as much attention to themselves as possible. Mizzou would be best served to ban this inconsiderate, boorish, and immature group. Everyone in the arena would be better off, and the perception of their crowd would improve as a result.
Mizzou Arena is somewhat hard to access without a parking pass. Most fans park in garages and have to make a lengthy walk to and from the arena. There’s little off-site parking available, too, due to the arena’s location among major roads. Once inside, though, you forget about all of that. Mizzou Arena boasts some of college basketball’s widest concourses, and navigating your way to your seat is very easy as a result.
This is obviously big time college basketball, as you’ll know from the minute you step inside Mizzou Arena due to its awesome amenities. Ticket prices are reasonable, though, ranging from $15-$70 for conference games if bought in advance. Concessions, too, are priced right in line with most major college sporting events.
This all comes down to what you’re looking for as a fan. If you want to watch high-level basketball in a modern arena, you’ll get bang for your buck. But if you’re looking for a classic college sports feel, you may be disappointed.
An extra point goes to the display cases seen when entering the arena’s main gates that highlight Missouri Athletics Hall of Famers.
The arena’s exterior look deserves special mention, too. The huge arched roof and complimenting brick gives a new arena a certain vintage feel that the interior lacks.
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225 S Ninth St
Columbia, MO 65201
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