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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Pavilion at ARC is a beautiful facility on the campus of UC Davis, 15 miles west of Sacramento. The "at ARC" addition to the name happened when the school finished the attached Activities & Recreation Center, where many students go to get their daily work out in.
When walking up to the box office at The Pavilion, the ARC looks far more imposing. The windowed walls reveal an elevated track, a climbing wall, and table tennis, as well as opportunities for many other activities.
Back in 1977, the then Recreation Hall, opened its doors for intercollegiate and intramural competition. Though the Aggies recently began play in Division I, the basketball team was Division II National Champions in 1998.
Since joining the NCAA's top division they have had mixed success. They are currently struggling through a season in which they've only registered one win.
Perhaps the most infamous event held at The Pavilion is the yearly Doxie Derby, held on the school's "Picnic Day". Thousands of spectators crowd into The Pavilion to watch the lovable dachshunds during the most popular day-drinking day of the year for students, residents, and fun-seekers. Officially it's the campus' open house, a day for parents to come and visit with their kids and for prospectus students to check out the school.
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 highly recommend eating before arriving at The Pavilion. If not for the lack of options there, then for the plethora of options in the neighborhood.
In the gym, they operate a fold-up table at one entrance where you can find chips, nachos, and candy. Drinks available are bottled soda and water ($3). The concession area is well staffed but otherwise less than thrilling.
Notably, many UC Davis students were away on break when I attended the Thursday night matchup between the Aggies and UC Riverside. This was apparent by the sheer number of empty seats at The Pavilion.
The Aggie band was quite energetic and helped to pick up where vacationing students left off. They played many pep band staples and their own renditions of today's popular songs. When the opponents shot at the basket in front of them, they made sure their presence was known.
The Pavilion is a beautiful venue in which, with a general admission ticket, you can move around a bit and pick your favorite spot. What I really liked was that they pulled up the excess seats that weren't going to be filled on this particular night. This forces (allows) the fans to sit closer to the action and creates a more intimate atmosphere. This also allows for wider promenades as the entire second level was pushed back against the walls.
The UC Davis campus butts up against the downtown Davis neighborhood. This area is a vibrant mix of students and families and visitors should take advantage of the atmosphere that the neighborhood provides.
If looking to grab a bite before the game you truly can find a little of everything. KetMoRee is an upper scale Thai restaurant with good happy hour deals while Sophia's is more moderately priced Thai food.
There is also pizza (Woodstock's), brunch (Crepeville), burgers (Burgers and Brew), sushi (Fuji), and Mexican (El Mariachi) all within walking distance of The Pavilion.
If you're looking for more of a party atmosphere before or after the game, I'd recommend Froggy's or The Graduate, affectionately known as "The Grad".
Microbrew enthusiasts take note that there is indeed a brewery in Davis serving up some suds. Sudwerk is a brewery that creates their own versions of traditional German-style beers while still providing some of the California staples like pale ales and IPAs.
A farmer's market is held year-round, rain or shine, on Saturdays at Central Park.
Lastly, it should be noted that the city of Davis is very much a bicycle friendly town. They take special care to ensure the safety of bicyclists on the city streets, and the town logo even has a bicycle on it. You may even see funky, old-school bikes cruising around town.
As noted previously, the gym was not close to full. There certainly is a lot at play here; students on vacation, Thursday night, struggling team to name a few.
Those in attendance were quite engaged with the Aggies performance. Logistically, a younger crowd sat on one side (general admission) and an older crowd on the other (reserved, mostly season tickets). Each side brought plenty of energy and knowledge to The Pavilion.
The UC Davis campus is located conveniently off of highway 80, 15 miles west of Sacramento and 75 miles east of San Francisco. Getting there isn't difficult but you should certainly expect significant traffic during peak hours after work.
Downtown Davis is easy to get around for first-timers as many of the streets progress numerically and alphabetically, so you never feel like you're unsure of your location.
There is a local bus service, UniTrans, operated by UC Davis that services much of the city and all of the campus. Buses are driven by university students and cater the inevitably odd schedules of college students.
Beyond the local buses, there is also an Amtrak stop that stops downtown. This train goes through Sacramento with bus connections that can take passengers as far as Tahoe and Reno. Going the other direction, the "Capitol Corridor" train passes through Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose, with connections to San Francisco.
When games are sparsely attended, The Pavilion is a one-level venue, allowing for huge walkways around the perimeter of the lower level. These areas are so wide that you may be able to fit another couple basketball courts above the actual playing surface. Because of this getting to and from restrooms and the concession stand is no problem at all.
As for single-game tickets there are two price ranges. General admission tickets are $10 and reserved seats are $12. I didn't see much of a difference between the two except that the general admission seats are on one side and the reserved on the other. Sometimes at venues, reserved seats would have seat backs and general admission would be on bleachers, but that wasn't the case at The Pavilion.
There's not a lot to get excited about at The Pavilion other than the play on the court. It is fun to follow along, through the hanging banners, the Aggies progression through Division II play, to Division II prominence, to finally being a Divisin I program.
I'll definitely be back for another basketball game at The Pavilion when it's better attended. The venue is nice and the amenities good and I'd love to see the building rocking. It seems that the Aggies are still trying to find their way in the NCAA D-I landscape and I'm exciting to see what they do the next few years.
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