In terms of sustainability, few venues in college basketball have held up as well as the Robert A. Mott Gymnasium. Recently passing the 50 year mark, the gym has been the home of the California Polytechnic State University Mustangs since 1960.
Located near the central coast of California, Cal Poly is located in San Luis Obispo. Though the city has a population of over 250,000, the gymnasium has a capacity of only 3,032.
The gym was named after a former physical education faculty member named Robert A. Mott. An instrumental member of the University from 1946-1978, Mott was not only the head of the P.E. department, but also coach of both the baseball and men's basketball teams.
Since opening, the venue did receive a renovation in 1998 which included chairback seating and improved ventilation. Today Mott Gym carries monikers such as "The Asylum" or "The Big Ugly" due to the inspired behavior of the fans during home games.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
While I see some interesting menu options, there was only a single concession stand in one corner of the arena.
The options here included the popular tri-tip ($7), Vienna beef hot dog ($4), Johnsonville bratwurst ($4), nachos ($4 - add chili or cheese for $1), candy ($3), kettle corn ($5), or a beef stick ($2).
The beverage options included soda ($3), Monster energy drink ($4), water ($2), coffee or cocoa ($2), Tum-E Yummie ($1), or the surprising offering of Jamba Juice ($4).
As previously mentioned, the gym has been nicknamed "The Asylum" due to the raucous behavior of the fans. The layout of the seating is really conducive to making it a challenging environment for opponents to play in.
The band ultimately proved to be more formidable than the student section, as it was often those with 807 on the backs of their shirts who lead the chants and produced the most noise. Some of the chants included "P-O-L-Y, fight, fight, fight," "Go C-P (clap), go C-P" and "Go Poly Go." At one point during the contest, I think I even heard them recite the chorus to Lil John's Song "Shots.
During breaks in the action, several contests occurred on the court. One was a rather challenging one where a fan was tasked with making a lay-up, free throw, and three point shot in less than 35 seconds without any rebounding help. Another displayed a bean bag toss for Big West Tournament tickets, but my favorite was when they attached two fans to opposite ends of a bungee cord and challenged the two to see who could make a lay-up first.
The cheer squad, positioned in front of the band, would often entice fan interaction with giveaways or tosses of t-shirts, gift certificates, and yes, even toothbrushes.
The second half certainly proved why it can be such a tough place for opponents to play as the opposing team had to face off against the band and cheer team when shooting free throws. This was definitely one of the more inspired bands when it came to heckling the other team, so I certainly did not envy the pressure of the opposing team.
The seating was broken up into four sections surrounding the court. The end with the band offered limited bench seating next to the band, which I would recommend so that you can make out the chants shouted out by them. The opposite end offered bucket seating and the fanbase there seemed to be an older crowd. The sideline seating behind the player benches are bucket seats while the sections opposite the teams are bench seating. There is a single long table running the length of the court opposite the player benches that appears to be seats for the sponsors.
The gym has a rather muffled sound system and throughout the contest I couldn't make out the promos or some of the chants. There are small scoreboards on each end of the arena that display the score and time remaining; not much more. The side opposite the band seemed to have a display board that was not functional on this particular evening.
There were several retractable baskets that hung from the ceiling, so be careful of where you sit as these could obstruct your view.
While San Luis Obispo is not one of the better known California cities, I certainly enjoyed my weekend stay due to the accessibility getting around the city and beautiful green mountains surrounding the area.
I'd recommend heading downtown for your food and beverage needs. In just a few hours time, a friend and I were able to stop in at a variety of different establishments. First of all, I'd recommend tracking down "Bubble Gum Alley," a small alleyway that is filled with used wads of gum. It certainly sounds disgusting, but is quite the sight to behold.
Bars that we stopped in at included Mother's Tavern (largest and most well-know), Frog and Peach Pub (live music nightly), The Library (get a library card for drink specials), and Black Sheep (NY Times best bar menu).
We stopped in at the San Luis Obispo (SLO) Brewing Company to have some food and try their microbrews, but unfortunately a single server was covering the entire bar and it took over 20 minutes to get our drink. They also left the front door open on a rainy day and it was ridiculously cold in the restaurant. We eventually left and went to the Buffalo Pub and Grill. Here, we were treated to some phenomenal service and I certainly had one of the best tuna melts I've ever encountered.
If you are new to town, you should definitely take a moment to check out the Madonna Inn. While there is a bar area and casual dining area, the formal area certainly has over the top pink decor everywhere. Before leaving, be sure to check out the men's restroom downstairs because it certainly has the most interesting amenities that I have seen anywhere.
If you have the opportunity to step outside of town for a bit, I would recommend checking out the nearby towns of San Simeon (Hearst Castle and elephant seals), Pismo Beach (clam picking), or Solvang (Ostrichland and Dutch America).
Despite the contest being against a non-conference opponent and the area experiencing some tough weather, the gym was still rather full.
It seemed that from the tip, the fans picked a player and chanted "airball, airball, airball" for every moment this player was in possession of the ball. I was rather surprised by how consistent they were with this chant.
The crowd also paid close attention to free-throws, chanting "whoosh" after a make and then going into a hip thrust.
All in all it seemed to be the band that led the way, with the balance of the crowd following along. It was a different dynamic as I am accustomed to the student section leading the way, but the band got the job done.
Unfortunately San Luis Obispo is located in central California, and it is several hours from major markets or airports. You can get to the school easily from the 101 or the scenic California Route 1. The gym itself is located at the southeastern entrance to the university.
The parking was the most painful part of the visit. There was another event going on that evening and there were no indicators of where basketball fans should park. Eventually we paid the $5 fee and found a spot. Unfortunately the exit seemed to have no organization and it took a good 20+ minutes to exit the venue.
There were few expenses to account for here as I've already mentioned the limited concession options and $5 parking fee. Coupled with tickets that go for $15 for adults and $10 for youth, fans are not likely to spend more than $25 at any given game.
As the venue is normally full, you are sure to get a rather exciting college basketball atmosphere for a great price.
I struggled to find a lot of extras to write about here. I could mention the word "Asylum" painted above the bleachers opposite the player benches, but I didn't notice much of an ode to the name other than the mural.
When you enter the gym, you will quickly spot the Cal Poly Mustangs trophy case (over 35 deep) and the Mustang Hall of Fame. While I didn't take note of many recognizable basketball names, I certainly looked twice when I saw the plaques of the NFL's John Madden, MLB's Ozzie Smith, and UFC's Chuck Liddell.
Mott Gym has hosted several NBA teams during the preseason over the years, including the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.
While I was impressed by the turnout and engagement of the fans, Mott Gym hardly seems like a Division I college basketball venue. Hopefully, in the coming years the team can secure an NCAA tournament berth and generate some additional buzz around the program. The Mustangs certainly have a committed fanbase and they simply need to focus on growing the program to new heights.
Follow Drew's journeys through Southern California on twitter @Big10Drew.
Food and beverage can be real good, I got the Chicago Beef Sand which once, great. Line is short if there even is one. Atmosphere: it can get pretty loud and pretty crazy in there especially when ucsb is in town. Fans: lets face it it's not the east coast, but once again, thanks to soccer, the rivalry with ucsb can hold its own as far as mid majors go. Neighborhood: SLO #2 happiest place in the world according to the today show. nuf said. Access: Parking isn't so hot and signage is poor but at least you can park in the garage right behind the gym. and if you know what you are doing, you can park for free if its the weekend. Return on Investment: its Cal Poly, student tickets at other schools can top these, and every seat in the hose is a good one. Extras, once again hard to judge, but with a good chance of catching something or getting to participate in a timeout game or something you cant complain. and theres the band.
1040 Broad St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
725 Higuera St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
728 Higuera St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
750 Hearst Castle Rd
San Simeon, CA 93452