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Official Review by Bill Kintner, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
University of Nebraska at Omaha Mavericks basketball can currently be found in the cozy Omaha suburb of Ralston. It is not located near the campus, but it is better than on-campus venues and it will work fine until their new on-campus arena is completed (projected for 2016).
As for the basketball team, the UNO basketball team is playing a full regular-season Summit League conference schedule in 2012-13, and the year also marks the Mavericks' move to their new home of Ralston Arena at 72nd and Q streets. Construction of the arena finished in October 2012, and it has a capacity of 3,500. In addition to UNO Men's Basketball, the Ralston Sports and Event Center will host numerous other sports and entertainment events, including Omaha Lancers hockey of the USHL.
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".
They have the basics covered and they do it for a decent price for arena food. Here is the big value-beer. A 16-ounce domestic beer is $4 and a 24-ounce domestic is $6. Add a dollar for imports. They have a beer booth in each corner and Coors booth has a super cold draft unit that serves the beer at 29 degrees. In addition to the standard arena food that sports fans expect you can find Famous Dave's BBQ, Domino's Pizza, Marie's Mexican food (a Ralston favorite), Omaha Steaks and funnel cakes and donuts.
I tried a hot dog. It was a $4.00 jumbo Hebrew National dog, served hot, lightly spiced, juicy with a soft warm bun and it's kosher! Rating: A
A large popcorn cost $3.50. It was warm, salty and had a buttery taste, Rating: B-
Nachos with cheese were $4. They were warm, lightly spiced cheese and good chips, that weren't broken, Rating: B.
Pepsi products were available for $4 for a 32-ounce cup.
Make no mistake about it, this is a hockey arena and they make minimal changes to it to accommodate basketball. They cover the hockey walls with black draping, but that is about it. The penalty boxes are even used as a copy center, complete with a copy machine. There are huge areas at the end of the courts that are empty, which is a waste for basketball.
The seating bowl is a small pit design with a concourse that circles it. There are four over-look areas in the corners where fans can sit or stand, and watch the game, similar to Wright State's Nutter Center, which is the only other college arena that has this feature.
There are 12 suites above the seats on the sides and two court-level super suites on one end, a little like the court-level suites at Pitt's Petersen Events Center.
High above the end seats are large video scoreboards that are very easy to see and feature stats. There are ribbon boards on the side walls above the suites and above that are six flat boards on each side that feature messages and advertisements.
This is not yet a really good atmosphere for college hoops, in terms of being loud and having an electric atmosphere. But it works as a comfortable venue to watch Division I college basketball. Good sightlines, with the food and restrooms close by.
There is an area in the arena, just behind the club seats, but walled off, that can be used for banquets, dinners and meetings as part of a game day experience or separate from a game.
There is no neighborhood that could be considered attached to the arena. Across the street is Ragazzi's Pizza and just up the street is the Anchor Inn. Both are starting to get a little before and after game business.
Ragazzi's has good pizza and assorted food including sandwiches for a decent price. The Anchor Inn has an assortment of burgers, sandwiches and BBQ. If you like a large burger, the Battleship Burger comes with bacon and it weighs in at half pound.
You can find all kinds of fast food within a two mile radius that will satisfy just about any basic food cravings.
The fans were a little on the lean side with only 1,026 attending the game I attended. The attendance numbers are starting to creep up and as the Mavs experience success at the Division I level I think attendance will continue to rise. There is no student section or pep band, those two additions would really help the atmosphere.
This venue is easy to get to, just a few blocks off of I-80. The parking is free and close to the venue.
The restrooms were very close to the seating, and are large and clean. As a bonus for the men, the restroom featured no-flush, water free urinals. It actually made peeing fun, because you want to see where the urine is going to go. For the record the urine just exited down a little hole, but it was fun to watch.
To be able to catch a Division I basketball game for just $9 is a steal and to be able to do it in the comfort of a spanking new arena is a rarity.
A fan can park, get a ticket, a beer, hot dog and pop corn for about $20 - that is outstanding.
The four corner overlooks are worthy of a star. The wide assortment of beer at a good price is worth a star and the no-flush urinals in the men's room earn a star.
The Mavs are just a baby Division I program and they have yet to capture the imagination of sports fans in Omaha. That may come as they start to win, add in a decent arena and UNO is in a good position to grow into a viable and desired entertainment option.
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