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Official Review by Martin Rickman, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
UNCW fans have been on a roller coaster ride since the 2006 NCAA Tournament appearance that saw an 18-point lead turn into a disappointing loss to George Washington. The Seahawks lost coach Brad Brownell over a disagreement with the administration, as Brownell went to Wright State (and is now at Clemson), and got little to nothing out of Benny Moss in the three-plus years he was at the helm. Moss had one successful season (20-13 record in 2007–08), and two seven-win years to show for it, before being fired when the team was 7-14 in 2010. Brooks Lee took over in the interim, going 2-8.
Order has been restored somewhat under Buzz Peterson, who was left with the cupboard bare and forced to bring talent back to the program. He went 13-17 in his first season, and brought in a seven-person class for 2011, including star shooter Adam Smith.
There are still ups and downs, but the future looks bright on the court at Trask Coliseum, the perfect intimate venue for a small, but proud fanbase to watch the Seahawks grow.
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 wasn’t much to work with here. Just one concession stand that was underwhelming at best, including small Papa John’s pizzas, hot dogs and soda. The lone bright spot was the inclusion of local popcorn shop Vic’s, which had its own version of "Spirit Corn."
UNCW has done a terrific job with Trask. It is the right size, every seat is good, the lighting is solid, the place feels classic, but modern, and when the team is playing well, the place gets loud. Really loud. Recent improvements, including a new video board and chairbacks, were completed very quickly thanks to a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign. More renovations are in the works, and by the 2012–13 season, the product on the court and the court itself should be thriving.
The arena is on the campus of UNCW, a nice-looking school that has come a long way in the last few years. Right off of campus, you’ll find a variety of chain restaurants, strip malls and bars, with both downtown Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach just a short drive away.
There are some pretty stellar local bars and restaurants, but you just have to know where to look. Chops Deli (operating locations downtown and down College Road a bit in Monkey Junction) serves some delicious sandwiches and has good soups. It’s a simple concept that should be done better and more often. Cape Fear Wine & Beer sits on Front Street in downtown Wilmington, and has over 300 beers on tap and in bottles. The clientele is among the more diverse you’ll find in the area, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
A bit closer, Surfhouse Café (which also has a location in Carolina Beach) has the beach vibe while maintaining a commitment to fresh ingredients. There is a different lemonade made fresh every day, good side dishes, decent seafood and is reasonably priced.
UNCW has really lucked out with its fanbase. They are loyal, intelligent, loud, and passionate. I attended Homecoming and I was shocked to see such a packed house to see a game between teams with a combined 12-34 record. The place was draped in teal (the Seahawks’ primary color) with fans decked out in team gear. I came away very impressed.
There’s free parking on campus all over before games with plenty of spots. College Road is just a turn away and is a main drag in Wilmington. That road can get you just about anywhere, including ending where Interstate 40 begins without a turn.
The CAA is a solid basketball conference, and UNCW gives a solid gameday experience against some pretty good competition throughout the year for a terrific value. When the team improves, the return on investment will be even better.
The fan support deserves an extra point. It was pretty chill-inducing to see all that teal and to hear the crowd when the team went on runs. The new video board gets a point as well, and the announced renovations (and speed with which the first batch were made) deserve commendation too.
Trask Coliseum is a fun place to see a game in a pretty fun town. Wilmington is a great place to visit, and the college adds a lot to the environment. The CAA and UNCW basketball are both on the rise, and Trask embodies both very nicely.
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