While the island of O’ahu contains many memorable images of natural scenery, there are also some man-made structures that stand out. With a height of 113 feet and aluminum dome, the Stan Sheriff Center certainly is one of them, acting as one of the most modern sporting venues in all of Hawaii.
Opened in 1994 as the Special Events Center, it was renamed in 1998 after former University of Hawaii at Monoa Athletic Director, Stan Sheriff, who put in countless efforts to ensure the venue was built. It now serves as the home to the University of Hawai’i basketball and volleyball teams. Since construction, a few renovations have occurred, most notably in 1998, bringing the facility to where it is today with a capacity of 10,300.
Before playing at the Stan Sheriff Center, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors spent 30 years (’64-’94) playing at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center. The team spent little time getting accustomed to their new home, as they tallied 24 straight home wins between 2001 and 2003.
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".
I consider the food and beverage options in the upper echelon of sports for two reasons; the first being that they offer some extremely unique items that fans will not find in any other Division I venue in the United States, and secondly because the value in the pricing was some of the best I've ever witnessed.
The ever-popular Hawaii "plate lunch" is the most expensive thing on the menu. For sports fans that are not familiar with the plate lunch, it typically consists of two scoops of white rice, a scoop of macaroni salad, and a main entrée.
Other higher ticket items included prepared sandwiches ($5) or wraps ($6), salads ($5.75), fruit salad ($5), hummus cup ($5), pasta ($4.75), and flatbread pizza ($4.25). Among all of these was the most popular item in the arena, known as the bumbucha nachos ($5.75), which essentially was an assembly line of loaded nachos.
Several combo meals were also available including the teriyaki burger with fries ($4.25), chicken strips with fries ($3.75), kid's meal (hot dog, 16 oz soda, and fries or fruit cup for $4.50), or the family pack (4 hot dogs, churros, and 20 oz sodas for $19).
Smaller side items included the churro or pretzel ($2), french fries ($2.75), soup or chili/rice ($4), Enjoy-brand snacks ($2.50), popcorn ($1.75 for regular or $2.75 for kettle), and peanuts ($2.50).
Other popular and unique to Hawaii items include saimin (fried $2.75 or cup $2.25), edamame poke ($3), and macadamia nuts. Possibly the priciest item in regards to portion was the Spudniks potato chips, lacking trans fat or preservatives (snack pack for $4 or large for $6). Desserts were also on hand including Dippin Dots ($3.25), assorted candy ($1), cream puffs, cheesecake, large brownies, cookies, and rice krispie treats.
The beverage options were plentiful, offering Ito Ens teas ($2.75), bottled water ($2.75), Pepsi products (20 oz for $2 or 32 oz for $2.50), hot coffee, tea or cocoa ($1.25), bottled soda ($2.75), Gatorade ($3), and Sobe Life Water ($2.75).
Finally, in what I would deem the best value in all of sports is the beer pricing. At most sporting events on the mainland, its rather simple to pinpoint the fans that are interested in alcoholic beverages. At Stan Sheriff, I seemed to notice quite the variety of age/gender/races all enjoying a beer. I quickly learned that this is likely because of the pricing; better than most local watering holes. The mass Domestic drafts provided a16 oz for $5 or a 32 oz for $7. The more premium names such as Heineken, Gordon Biersch, or the local Kona Brewing Company offered a 16 oz for $6 and 32 oz for $8.
Most Hawai'i events start off with not only the National Anthem, but also the playing of Hawai'i ponoʻī, which is the former national anthem of the state when it was a territory.
The basketball team took the court with the tunes of AC/DC's Thunderstruck as the cheer team held signs urging fans to get on their feet and support the Rainbow Warriors (whereas the football team is simply the Warriors and the baseball team is simply the Rainbows).
The game I attended was senior night, and some fans nearby did comment that the atmosphere was a bit more elevated than usual. During the player introductions, the players native to the islands of Hawaii received markedly more applause than the balance.
There was the pep band and the cheer team constantly helping the atmosphere, but I did not notice a formidable student section. Regardless, the cheers being led by the cheerleaders were some of the most unique I have ever heard including "Come on Bows, Let's Go." There were several "Defense" chants, but very different from the typical chants you hear in 99% of sporting venues.
The excitement was in the air despite the team trailing for most of the first half. Once the Rainbow Warriors tied it up with about four minutes left to play, the arena became obnoxiously loud.
Events throughout the night to keep fans engaged included the t-shirt cannon (see photos), the dance cam during timeouts, an interesting hybrid of basketball and musical chairs at halftime, and a Hawaii blimp that dropped Jack-In-The-Box coupons.
Outsiders who visit Honolulu may be amazed by how close the campus is to a robust downtown area and Waikiki Beach. I would argue that few campuses nationwide offer such a diverse number of restaurants in the general vicinity of campus. Many of the nearby establishments offered sushi, fast food, Indian, Korean, Hawaiian BBQ, Thai, and even Vietnamese.
The baseball and basketball venues sit on campus, as opposed to Aloha Stadium (home of the Hawaii Warriors football team), Stan Sheriff is still in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor (and USS Arizona Memorial), the Diamond Head Crater, and the Punchbowl National Cemetery.
With such a diverse offering, its nearly impossible to pin any one local eatery as the best. I would recommend driving down the nearby King Street or Kapiolani Boulevard and choose the taste that best suites you. Some of the more popular options include Down to Earth (vegan), Café Maharni (Indian), Peace Café (hot and cold beverages), Pacific Soul (fried chicken), Sweet Home Café (offering their free desserts), Café Kaila (buttermilk pancakes), Teddy's Bigger Burgers, or if you have a larger budget; Chef Mavro or Alan Wong's.
Without a professional or minor league sports team on the island of Oahu, there is tremendous support for the UH athletics.
Many of the fans arrived early to the venue and enjoyed the pep band just outside of the arena prior to the start of the game. Most fans also purchased the white t-shirts for sale to participate in the "white-out," which produced a nice contrast to the green seats in the arena.
I give credit to the fans for two major contributions. The first being the unique cheers they engaged in to show support for the team and the second being the extreme amount of enthusiasm demonstrated as the Rainbow Warriors closed the gap in their opponents' lead.
A nice benefit of the arena is that one basket faces what appeared to be an overflow media section as the other faced the Hawaii fans. It should come to no one's surprise that Hawaii shot against the media section in the second half, and the Hawaii fans made it a rather challenging free throw for opponents.
The Stan Sheriff Center is easily spotted from the H1 freeway and is just a few turns off of the exit. I was surprised (and probably a bit naïve) with the amount of traffic congestion, especially on weekdays and would advise fans to leave plenty of time to get to the arena.
Parking required a permit that ran at a cost of $6 daily, which is probably fair considering how developed the region is.
I did feel that the restrooms were a bit small for the size of the arena and the crowd that was in attendance for that particular day. While I did not check out every one, the one I stopped by only served 5-6 patrons at a time.
The concourse was spacious, but I most appreciated the scoreboards and videoboards in the arena. The 4-sided scoreboard above center court provided all the information fans could need, but there were also 4 large videoboards in each corner of the arena, providing extra perspective or advertising opportunities.
I must say that I was rather pleased with the modern feel of the arena and the engagement of the crowd. While I was a bit taken back when I initially saw the prices, the experience did sell me on the value. Lower level seats went for $26 and upper level seats for $18 ($16 for seniors and $5 for students).
I will re-iterate that the food was an excellent value, better than most local eateries and the parking was average. All of this makes for an excellent value on the island of Oahu, especially if rain may be in the forecast.
While nothing in particular blew me away, the arena did offer several "extra" items for the sports fan to enjoy.
Probably most noticeable was the Sports Circle of Honor, found in the interior of the arena between the upper and lower levels. While I did enjoy reading the plaques of previous Hawaii Athletics contributors, including Jason Elam, I did have to question the location, considering the amount of foot traffic near them as I seemed to be obstructing many fans from getting to their seats.
Next is the many sculptures around the arena. While not all relate to the Men's Basketball program, they are interesting to take a look at. Outside the main entrance is a brightly colored rainbow and just inside the main doors is a bust of Stan Sheriff. Outside of the cleverly named Rainbowtique (gift shop) are sculptures dedicated to volleyball; one is a large arm/hand that appears to be serving a volleyball and another that appears to be attempting a block. On the main concourse is a statue of Dr. Donnis Thompson, who made countless contributions to the progress of Women's Athletics at UH.
A few other items I'd like to call out are the free roster handouts, the NCAA Tournament appearances banner, a phenomenal court design, and the four pillars in the concourse that celebrate the history of Wahine Athletics.
Lastly, as the Los Angeles Lakers have captured quite the audience in Southern California, they have conducted several of their preseason training camps at the Stan Sheriff Center in hopes of gaining a following in Hawaii as well.
While Aloha Stadium may be the more recognizable facility due to the NFL Pro Bowl and other large events, the Stan Sheriff Center certainly offers more modern amenities and an equally good experience.
Follow Drew's Travels through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew
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