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Official Review by Matthew Irby, Stadium Journey Guest Correspondent
If you understand Texas’s geography, when listing all the Division I schools you’ll quickly notice it’s eastern/central heavy. Head out west and you’ve only had Texas Tech and UT-El Paso. But now in the D-I world there is a new Wildcat out in West Texas, Abilene Christian University.
Abilene, for the longest time may have appeared to be a way-point town with some tough, old-school high school football when heading west on your way to Lubbock, El Paso, or out of the state. But no longer. Abilene is a vastly growing city that took another huge step in that direction when ACU moved up to D-I athletics in 2013-14.
What’s the phrase, this isn’t your parents’ Abilene any more?
However, with all the growth, it is a smaller town with the country feel and I truly believe that’s the way the people of Abilene would like it to stay.
With athletics that have seen strings of success, including the men’s basketball team in years past, ACU appears to have big plans. The football team is nationally known and now has a new stadium on the way. The baseball field was recently redone and feels like a minor league atmosphere. Hopefully next up in their upgrades is the basketball facility, that’s not to say they have a poor facility. Not at all, but Moody Coliseum isn’t a basketball arena, it’s a multi-purpose facility.
No, not that Moody Coliseum in Dallas. ACU’s Moody Coliseum is a multi-functional facility in the heart of their campus. Along with men and women’s basketball games, Moody Coliseum also hosts volleyball matches, daily chapel, graduation, and the annual Sing Song.
Opened on February 18, 1968, this 54,000 square foot facility cost $1.2 million at the time and hosted its first game nine days later, a 96-93 overtime victory over Arkansas State to clinch the Southland Conference championship. Talk about an entrance!
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".
I've always struggled with this category when considering collegiate events. If you are going to a small school's basketball game, you better not be expecting Emeril's briskets or lobster tails. Staples like nachos, popcorn, soda and water is what you can expect and what can be found.
Like many other gymnasium designs, Moody Coliseum has a circular ring outside the lower bowl entrances and here is where you can find your necessities. Feeding your family of four is very affordable (approx. $20, unless it's another intense overtime game).
The fans won't be confused with the Cameron Crazies, but the fans in attendance show nothing but positive cheer for their home team. And in a day of "who can be the most creative jerk" or which middle-aged fan can get under a teenage athlete's skin, it is quite refreshing to hear this from the fans.
Walking the campus to get to the coliseum really sets the tone for the day's atmosphere. It's a lovely campus that sports a nice mixture of older buildings and modern-designed facilities and landmarks, like Jacob's Dream. There is a trail that goes around the entire campus, and kids will love it.
Almost as though I was trying to transition from atmosphere to neighborhood, the ACU campus is one of the highlights in the town of Abilene. It's a small town, but a growing small town. However, when factoring in the feel of the town, the ACU campus is a modernized, yet cozy place to be.
The town of Abilene has its draw backs, like any town of its size. But there are some good off-campus dinner selections. Just north of campus you can find Chili's and Cracker Barrel, but if you want something Abilene, not far off campus is Lytle Land & Cattle and Sharon's BBQ. This is Texas, so not hard to guess what's good here. And if you don't mind driving a little further, but want the best of what they have to offer, make a reservation and go to Perini Ranch Steakhouse.
The Moody Coliseum fans are typical student fans for a program attempting to create a new identity. Students are knowledgeable of their team and like most places have their own cheers/chants. However, it lacks the feel of a typical college basketball game. But I can't blame the fans too much on that because of the facility. It's really not a basketball arena, it's a multi-purpose facility.
The ACU campus is located just south of Interstate 20, which runs through northern Abilene, and is quite visible from the interstate. But if you are new to Abilene, the interstate and surrounding area is well documented with signs that will get you to campus.
The parking on-campus can be a little bit tricky. They aren't sticklers about most lots, but there are a couple you can't park in. If it's your first time to ACU it can be a little tricky to find a parking lot and then Moody Coliseum, since it's on campus and not located by itself with an adjacent parking lot.
If you are a student, you'll likely argue me on this point, since student admission to basketball games is free. Always hard to say your investment isn't warranted when no money has to come out of pocket. But even if you're not a student, a trip to an ACU basketball game isn't going to break the bank for you.
Also affecting this number is the product on the court. Though it wasn't a successful inaugural season for the 11-20 Wildcats in 2013-2014, they weren't last in the Southland Conference. Finishing 2-12 in conference play, bettering Houston Baptist, the Wildcats have some work to do to compete with the likes of Stephen F. Austin.
Moody Coliseum gets my first extra point for being a multi-purpose facility. I feel like I've said enough about that fact that hurts the experience, so here is my point back because it is what they have right now. It's a very fine facility, and when the ball tips off you don't feel like you're in a back, second gym.
The second extra point goes to the school itself. ACU may never become a TCU, but they are the leading campus in a town that has three major colleges. Spend a little time talking to students, professors, or administrators and you can see the intentions. ACU is growing!
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1150 E South 11th St
Abilene, TX 79602
849 E Hwy 80
Abilene, TX 79601
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