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Official Review by Paul Derrick, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Heading to College Station I had high expectations of Texas A&M basketball, mostly due to my recent trip to wonderful Kyle Field in the fall. Well, I was definitely not disappointed.
Reed Arena which was opened in 1998 with the capacity to hold just under 13,000 spectators, and when the majority of them are Aggie fans it can spell disaster for their opponent. Texas A&M basketball is right on par with the rest of the Aggie athletics, in that their fans are right on point at making sure their Aggies' home court advantage is upheld.
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".
Reed Arena offers all the regular stadium fare items to choose from as well as a smattering of variety and unique items. The Aggie Dog, which I wasn't too thoroughly impressed with when I visited Kyle Field, was a lot better this go around, seeming to pack a lot more punch and flavor. It was so good that I actually had to have two and at $3 a piece they are well worth it. The Aggie Dog is definitely one of the better stadium hot dogs that I have had, especially for the price.
The Aggies do have other stadium basics such as nachos, popcorn and candies as well as meatier options such as bratwurst, grilled sausages and pulled pork sandwiches all for the price of only $4. Pepsi products are offered in two sizes large for $3 or 12th man souvenir cups for $4. You can get a combo of a hamburger, chips and souvenir cup soda for $10, which is quite a steal compared to most stadiums. Overall, you should be able to find something to please your stomach and your wallet at Reed Arena.
When most people think of Big 12 basketball they think of the Kansas Jayhawks and Phog Allen Fieldhouse, and they definitely have earned that consideration. The Texas A&M Aggies though are quickly making a big splash in the Big 12 pool. With five straight NCAA tournament appearances, and 2011 will likely be the sixth, they are quickly making it on to the national radar.
The Aggie basketball program can credit a lot of that to their home record only losing one home game in the past year and half, and that can be largely attributed to their fans and the Reed Rowdies.
The Reed Rowdies are a loosely-organized student fan group that hosts tailgate parties before home games and strives to be as loud and obnoxious toward the opposing team as possible. The Reed Rowdies work with the Aggie Yell Leaders to devise yells fit for the fast pace of a basketball game while adopting several traditional yells to be used during time outs. During the 2009-10 men's basketball season, the Reed Rowdies were instrumental in helping to set three attendance records in Reed Arena. When the rowdies are rowdy there aren't many places in college basketball that are much louder.
College Station isn't one of the biggest college towns, but offers just about anything you might be looking for. One of my favorite eateries in the area is Fritella's, which offers some of the best Italian food I have ever had.
A great spot that I ran across on my latest journey to College Station is a place called Dixie Chicken, or The Chicken if you're one of the locals. It's a great place to grab a beer before or after the game and is known as College Station's number one watering hole. The Dixie Chicken claims to serve the most beer per square foot of any bar in the United States. Now that's quite a feat. Aggies have been frequenting this bar/resturant since it opened in 1974. In the late 1970s, the Aggie tradition of "ring dunking" began at the Dixie Chicken. In this tradition concerning Ring Day, a student drops their class ring into a pitcher of beer which is then chugged on the back porch of the Dixie Chicken. This is not a university-sanctioned tradition, though some estimate that anywhere between 25 to 75 percent of students dunk their rings. Not only does the Dixie Chicken offer frosty brews at reasonable prices, but they also have great food too. I especially loved the Freddy Hamburger a mouth watering 1/2 pound burger with all the fixins, and for only $5 it's hard to beat the price.
I can't say enough about Aggie Fans. From their traditional "Howdy" greeting to their great sportsmanship, I have yet to meet a sour Aggie. Tradition says that fans are not to boo so instead after a bad call or a play, you'll see the fan hiss instead of boo. It can make you feel as if you are in a snake pit when nearly 10,000 people are hissing.
Aggie fans refer to the school as Texas Aggies, feeling as they are the only true Texas school. The fans have been known to make the banners fall from the ceilings during the Lonestar showdown against Texas at Reed Arena.
The Pep Band definitely doesn't disappoint either, playing on par to its reputation. From the custom Yell Leaders instead of cheerleaders to Aggie fans' passion for the games it is hard to find many schools with more passionate fans. You won't meet many fans more friendlier and more welcoming to a new visitor.
Access to the stadium is pretty easy as long as you show up more than 30 minutes before the game starts. Parking will cost you anywhere from $3-$5, which is a great deal. Free parking is available though with not that much of a walk. Handicap access and restrooms were easily accessible. Restrooms were even easy to get to during peak times. Overall, you should have no problem in finding parking or restrooms at Reed Arena, as long as you don't arrive too close to game time.
With tickets ranging anywhere from $10-$30, games are a great deal. Parking only costs $3-$5, and a gameday meal is about $10, you're looking at only $25 for a night outing. In all reality, it is definitely worth at least $100. You will not be disappointed with a trip to Reed Arena, and you will definitely see some of the Big 12's best basketball with some of its best fans.
I can't say enough about the Reed Rowdies. At times it was absolute pandemonium down in the student section.
I also have to give some extra points to the great traditions that the Aggies have carried through the years. I got chill bumps when the entire arena stood up before the game and second half to lock arms and sway while singing the school song, showing just how close these fans are to each other.
Being a military veteran I also take pride in the support that the University shows for its troops. This definitely doesn't go without being recognized.
I have grown to love this university, its fans and what it stands for and I look forward to future visits.
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