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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Wilmington, North Carolina is one of the east coast’s lesser known beach cities. Not as touristy as most of its counterparts and off the beaten path from major thoroughfares, it's one of the hidden gems of the Atlantic seaboard. UNC-Wilmington basketball by comparison is somewhat similar. Not as glitzy or glamorous as their North Carolina neighbors and not often recognized as one of the cinderella small conference programs, the Seahawks history is far from a bad one. Since joining Division I basketball in 1976 under head coach Mel Gibson (not THAT Mel Gibson), the team has had winning seasons more often than not with a stretch of four NCAA appearances in just under a decade starting in the late 90's. Under new coach Kevin Keatts, they have returned to their winning ways.
Trask Coliseum has been the home of the Seahawks for the entire ride, dating back to 1977. Just another campus building from the exterior, the gym itself is one of the more colorful arenas in college basketball. It may never be an elite college basketball venue, but that doesn't mean it's not full of its own character.
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".
Trask Coliseum boasts just one concession stand in the lobby with only basic food options. Nothing special here.
The highlight of the menu is Papa John's pizza available for $6 with the only other real meal offering being a $3 hot dog. The remainder of the menu consists of popcorn and candy for $3 or less. They do offer some value bundles, but with the limited offering it won't blow you away.
Coke products are also sold at the concession stand, but that's about it. There are no alcohol sales at the venue.
So to go simple without going too simple, grab a slice of pizza with some local Vic's popcorn and a soda. That's about all you can do.
For the level of the program, the building and even the walk into the lobby, the gym itself is surprisingly nice.
The Seahawks have one of the more colorful uniforms in college basketball, and the gym does everything to match it. Seahawk teal, navy blue, and yellow are incorporated everywhere in the gym's design, adding a modern and appealing flair to the court and surroundings. A giant video board dangles above the playing surface, a nice touch even for a significantly larger venue. The seating is almost exclusively comfortable, teal colored seatbacks (with the exception of some bleacher seats at either end of the court for students and cheerleaders). The building and lobby may be bland, but there's just something perfectly "collegiate home court" about the gym itself.
A pep band oddly sits in the upper deck behind the far basket and stays very engaged throughout the game. Cheerleaders behind either hoop cheer on their Seahawks throughout. And the occasional time out promotion keeps fans engaged. Everything is pretty standard in terms of promotion for college basketball, but the energy of the place alone helps make the atmosphere above average.
With the excellent layout of the venue, there really aren't bad seats anywhere. The railings in the upper deck can be a bit of an obstruction if you're in the first couple of rows, but nothing too terrible. Go with whatever ticket is available and you won't be disappointed anywhere in the building.
Wilmington is a surprisingly cool bar and restaurant town in general. However, none of it is in walking distance from Trask Coliseum.
College Road runs parallel to campus and is lined with strip malls and chain restaurants, but Wilmington's overall food and drink scene is too good to settle for just those. Downtown Wilmington is full of excellent food and bars. Choosing one is a difficult task and you can't really go wrong, but Front Street Brewery is definitely worth a stop. Local craft beer and an excellent menu make the trip.
If you're looking for more of an upscale beach stay, try Oceanic on Wrightsville Beach for some delicious seafood options. But probably my favorite local option is Flaming Amy's for truly unique burritos with some serious attitude.
There's a lot to do around the Wilmington area and it completely depends on your personal preference. If you're a beach person, Wrightsville and Carolina beaches are just a short drive away. Downtown offers up a few great options as well. The Historic District is basically connected to the shops and bars and is full of period mansions and buildings. The Battleship North Carolina is just across the Cape Fear River and is open for some interesting tours. Or if you want to just enjoy the sites, then just hang out downtown and explore.
There are several hotels right up the road from campus that will suit your basic needs, but if you're staying in Wilmington for a weekend I suggest driving 15 minutes either way and staying downtown or near the beach. A personal favorite is the Hilton Wilmington Riverside which is downtown with access to the Riverwalk along the Cape Fear River. You'll have much better access to attractions, local shops, and restaurants from here.
Seahawks fans are surprisingly loyal and very boisterous.
In an arena that only seats 5,100, average attendance is over 3,200. While that may not be a huge number, there aren't a lot of small schools Division I programs that average over half of the arena's capacity for attendance over a full season.
And the fans aren't just present, they are engaged. The students coordinate colors and pack the lower decks and ends to create a very involved student section. Whether wearing all yellow or all teal, they do it together. The upper decks are packed with Seahawks supporters as well, and there's a general excitement that can be felt from them even before the game starts. These fans are there to cheer their team to victory and they do an excellent job of it.
Wilmington itself is one of the less accessible cities in North Carolina being a rural hour and change drive east of 95 in the southeast corner of the state. And while College Ave outside the stadium conveniently hits the major arteries of the city, it's surprisingly busy.
There aren't a lot of public transportation options to help you get around and walking from anywhere (unless you're a student) isn't really an option. Wilmington does have a small regional airport to get in and out of that's just a short drive from campus. But everything from there will require driving.
But the good news is that the campus opens up for free parking for games. There aren't really many major lots, but you can park in any of the satellite lots in the area. Traffic moves in and out pretty easily for the size of the crowd. Gate entry is a bit congested because there's really only one lobby, but it's nothing particularly painful.
Once you pass through the lobby/concessions bottleneck, it's considerably easier to get around. Lower deck seats can enter right from the lobby, whereas upper deck seats have to take one of two staircases on either side. There's no way to move from upper to lower once in the gym. Aside from that, it's easy to move around. The upper and lower decks offer access to seating all around the court with no problem at all.
It's not the cheapest ticket in college basketball, but it's well within reason for the experience.
Single game tickets will run you $18 for adults and $10 for youth. Schools larger than this charge those same prices, so at face value it's slightly higher than some schools at a similar level. But with free parking and inexpensive (albeit low option) food it likely evens out. And the game day atmosphere you get here is also considerably better than schools of similar historical standing. This one is definitely worth the price of admission.
While there's not a lot in the stadium that stands out as truly unique, the gym itself warrants some recognition for being very customized. The beautiful scoreboard and colorful arena and court give UNCW a one of a kind feel. There's not a lot different about a game day experience, just a lot that's well done.
If you like small school basketball that brings the passion and flair of the larger programs in the country, UNC-Wilmington basketball is for you.
Member Review by Martin on Feb 08, 2012
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.
Member Review by ianmccor on Apr 19, 2014
Perhaps a great place to visit when the team is playing well. Otherwise, the place has a depressing feel to it.
4418 Shipyard Blvd
Wilmington, NC 28403
9 N Front St
Wilmington, NC 28401
305 Chestnut St
Wilmington, NC 28401