Swinney Recreation Center (map it)
5100 Rockhill Rd
Kansas City, MO 64110
Year Opened: 1940
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Official Review by Jack Winter, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The on-campus Swinney Recreation Center plays home to the University of Missouri Kansas City Kangaroos. This modest, makeshift basketball venue was originally built as Swinney Gymnasium by the University of Kansas City in 1940. Once the school branched under the University of Missouri system, the arena was eventually renamed in honor of Edward F. Swinney, chairman of the First National Bank of Kansas City. It wasn’t until 2010, though, that the Roos finally decided to call “Old Swinney” their permanent home, after splitting their time as an NCAA member between it and downtown KC’s Municipal Auditorium.
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".
The available concessions at Swinney would be more appropriate at a low level high school contest than a NCAA game. There's absolutely nothing special about the menu, as the typical fare of burgers, hot dogs, and popcorn are offered. The only redeeming part of this Swinney experience are the prices - no item costs more than $4.
The atmosphere at Swinney seems perfectly befitting of low-level division one basketball. The Roos play on the middle floor of a three court arena, with either side being covered by removable bleachers. Like the concessions, if you weren't told this was a NCAA event, you could very well think this was the home of a smaller Kansas City high school. At times you can hear a pin drop in Swinney, as the crowd lacks in size and enthusiasm, and an echo is almost evident in the sprawling gymnasium.
A redeeming quality of Swinney's atmosphere is the undeniable sense of community. A children's group hosted a cancer fundraiser, and KC staple the Marching Cobras - a talented drum line of grade schoolers - provided charming and enthusiastic halftime entertainment.
The area surrounding Swinney is easily the most impressive aspect of this stadium experience. Located just minutes from KC's historic Country Club Plaza and other areas of food and entertainment, it offers a vast array of awesome pre and post game options. Gourmet eating, upscale shopping, and Seville, Spain inspired architecture highlight The Plaza, considered the world's first outdoor shopping center.
Pizza 51, a student and neighborhood favorite, sits just west of campus offering New York Style slices and local beer. A block farther west is Main Street, where a myriad of local and chain restaurants reside, as well as KC's oldest and - in the opinion of many - best bar, The Peanut. A quarter mile up the road is Loose Park, a sprawling stretch of grass and trees frequented by seemingly the entire city. It's often named among the country's best parks and certainly should not be missed.
KC's fans consist mostly of player family and friends. There's no student section to speak of, there's nary any cheering nor chanting, and the gym's general lack of energy is only perpetuated by the crowd. There's interest in the game, sure, but - like most things about Swinney - it all seems too amateur and unorganized for division one college basketball. The Roos haven't had success of late, but as long as home games are played in this huge, cold gym, it will be tough for fans to yield much of a home court advantage.
Parking is easy when attending a Roos game, as a huge parking lot is just a couple hundred yards northeast of the arena and is free of charge. Likewise, there's nary a line at admission for UMKC games, and Swinney is surrounded by roads drivable to the public. Ushers quickly help you locate your seat among the small bleachers, and bathrooms are easily accessible.
Like a lot of smaller NCAA sporting events, this all depends on expectations of the fan. Ticket and concession prices are exceedingly low at Swinney - for less than $30 two people could be seated close to the floor while eating and drinking. But, as previously stated, the atmosphere is lacking. If you're a rabid basketball fan or a family looking for a cheap, easy sporting event to attend, this is very good option. But if you're looking for an experience indicative of what makes college basketball great, go elsewhere.
The Marching Cobras and an overall pervasive feeling of "neighborhood" deserves special mention. Other than that, though, nothing stands out about attending a UMKC basketball game.
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