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Official Review by Chuck Utech, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
City built Pinnacle Bank Arena is nestled within the Haymarket District of Lincoln, Nebraska, and is within close proximity of Memorial Stadium. "The Vault" was constructed for approximately $180 million and hosts a wide range of events, including high school championships, concerts, and Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball.
This is a full-service venue that has a lot of luster and is a great stop for either a visitor supporting their respective squad or for one wanting to cheer for the home team.
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".
Let's start with the basics: red hot dogs (it is Nebraska, of course) are $3 each, popcorn is $3.50, and nachos for $4.50. Pepsi products can be had for $6.50 for a large 32-ounce drink in a collector's cup that sports free refills.
A Nebraska delicacy, Runzas are also available. The bread pocket stuffed with beef and cabbage treat is $5.50. A slice of Valentino's Pizza is also $5.50. The stands proudly feature Wimmer's and Fairbury meat products.
The stands are named after different characteristics of the state of Nebraska. There are destinations such as Meadowlarks, Sand Hills, Capitol Terrace and Salt Flats. Each has the aforementioned basics along with other options specific to the stand such as BBQ Nachos ($8.50), Chili Cheeseburger with fries ($8), or lasagna ($8.75).
While the food is fine and well prepared, there were no standouts. The cost is reasonable and there is plenty of variety to satisfy either an individual or a family with varying tastes. Free refills on soda is a bonus and the staff is very courteous.
The arena is large by the standard of a venue located by a campus. Per security personnel, the arena could have extra seating if the need ever arises. There are three levels. The 100 level is a full ring and encases the basketball court. The 200 and 300 levels are in the shape of a U. As it is currently, there seems to be plenty of accommodations for the basketball crowd. The seating is arranged with excellent sightlines going up which allows for comfort and superb viewing. Wrapping around the U is a "ribbon board". It allows for updates and advertising as well as the occasional prompts to get more energy from the crowd.
There are 36 Premium suites currently and 20 loge boxes. The crown jewel is the state of the art HD scoreboard that hangs from the rafters. The video and graphics are crisp and can be seen from all nooks of The Vault.
Getting a refill and worried about missing game play? No worries. There are scores of televisions along the concourse allowing access to the action.
PBA is located in the Haymarket district of Lincoln. This is a happening area full of day and night life within a few square block area with restaurants, bars, and shops. This is an area that is definitely worth getting there early and staying late. On a normal day, it is host to throngs of people. Fast forward to game day and it goes to a whole different level. Within a short walk of the arena you will find a plethora of choices. Upscale food for a reasonable price, coffee bars, and cigar bars are easy to find.
Upscale tastes will find Blue Sushi and Sake to their liking. It features sharable plates for groups or large entrees for the hungry fan. Prices were what one may expect for a featured roll ($5-$10) or for an entrée ($10-$20). The bar and grill crowd will enjoy Wings and Rings, a take on chicken wings similar to a large chain, with a bit of a spin. The flavors were fantastic and service outstanding. Add in a drink and the bill is still only around $10. Nearby pizza is covered by a few joints. Mellow Mushroom is one that does a fine job on game day and is just across the street. El Mariachi Taco Cantina is a couple doors down from there and offers a slimmed down game day menu. Entrees were less than $10 and the service was efficient.
Husker fans in a nutshell are passionate, loyal, courteous to others, and loud. It is not the fault of The Vault that "Nebrasketball" does not share the tradition of its football brethren. Before the tip, fans rev up to the Jacksons "Can you feel it." There was a dueling side chant of "Husker!" "POWER!" also. That subsided quickly and did not return unlike other Cornhusker venues where it is heard early and often. The student section is in the lower level, behind the benches. They were standing the whole game, but were not noticeably loud nor have any differentiating chants or cheers.
While the noise level may not be deafening, a visiting fan can expect a comfortable atmosphere. Fans are polite to spectators while cheering for the home team.
Since PBA is close to a monstrous football stadium, it does reap the benefit of accessible parking. Thousands of parking spots are within a short walking distance. Plenty of free street parking for nights and weekend games is available for the eager sport who wants to start the game day early. There are pay lots and ramps charging on average $9-$10.
The Concourses are wide at the ends of the oval. The middle sections are a little narrower due to club sections but all in all there is plenty of room for freedom of movement.
There are downtown hotels within a few blocks that do come with a price tag one may expect to pay for that convenience. Marriott has a couple properties nearby. For a 5-10 minute drive, the possibilities open up much greater and the route is fast and convenient.
Big Ten basketball games across the board can be an expensive proposition, even more so when factoring in a family or group. Conference games range from $10-$30 for great sight lines. Add in a hot dog, a soda with refill, popcorn, parking and a family of four can easily enjoy big time basketball for a cost that is less than going to the movies. This is great for the fan of a different Big Ten team who lives near Lincoln, basketball fans who want to see high level talent come through, or those families or groups who crave a friendly, fan first atmosphere.
Program booklets are basic, but does feature a scorecard for following along and it is easy to keep it up to date with the jumbo scoreboard. The staff is extremely courteous on all ends. During a few of the time outs, fans are engaged with T shirt guns. One is a rapid-fire Gatling gun style which entices the students. The other is a power blaster to reach the upper the fans inside and outside the stadium are top notch; they easily rank at the top of friendly and they do make up for the noise level with a great knowledge of the teams and the sport.
There was a display honoring fallen soldiers who had hailed from the state of Nebraska. This was a well-done tribute and a very nice touch.
While downtown, there are many great side attractions. A walk around Memorial Stadium is a must. About eight blocks south is the state capitol building, a large structure made of Indiana limestone. It is quite impressive. A little further south and east is the home of USA RollerSports, or USARS. This also houses a roller-skating museum. Not a large display, but for free it has a lot of interesting pieces of information. Bring some quarters to enjoy the old-time jukebox.
This is a fantastic facility that gives sports fans a very good experience starting before one even gets into the arena. One can enjoy very good college basketball for a reasonable price. It is a gem in the heartland. If the basketball teams can ever reach a sustained level of success like other Nebraska teams have, the arena will see its full potential. It is certainly worth a weekend visit.
Member Review by CigarBoy on Dec 23, 2013
The $179 million Pinnacle Bank Arena is located in the Haymarket District and it is a city-built arena with the Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball teams as the only regular tenants.
It is a top notch arena that instantly puts it among the top arenas of the Big Ten Conference.
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