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Official Review by Steven Burke, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
In the world of Division I college basketball, the venues and geographic location of the institution are keys in recruiting. One of the better combinations of these categories sits on the near west side of Chicago. The University of Illinois at Chicago Flames combine a great location in Chicago with an above average basketball facility that makes the UIC Pavilion one of the most desirable locations in the Horizon League.
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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".
The two main concessions offer hot dogs ($4), jumbo dog ($5), Polish sausage ($5), bratwurst ($5.50), hamburger ($5), and cheeseburgers ($5.50). You can also grab a chicken sandwich ($5), chicken tenders with fries ($7), nachos ($5), fries ($4), popcorn ($5), or a jumbo pretzel ($4.50).
Beverages include Pepsi products for $4.50 for a 24-ounce cup, or $5.50 for a 32-ounce cup. Gatorade is $5 and Starbucks coffee is available for $4 for a 16-ounce cup, or $5 for a 20-ounce cup. There is a small Dippin Dots stand that caters to children with ice cream, cotton candy, & popcorn.
The real treat is the Robinson's Ribs Concession. There you will find everything on the menu priced at $5. They have a great BBQ pulled pork sandwich with a spicy sauce that's just spicy enough to make your mouth water when you think about it hours after. Other possibilities include BBQ turkey sandwich, BBQ rib tips, grilled boneless ribs, chicken strips, or the footlong Polish. You can grab a side of something spicy or sweet depending on whether you want the Cajun fries or the funnel cake fries.
Behind the basket on the east end is a section for groups, a 6 - 7 foot wall secludes this area from the court and allows for large catered groups.
With a capacity of 8,000 the UIC Pavilion is capable of hosting decent sized rowdy crowds. However, when the upper portion of the venue is closed, the size of the venue is cut in half and the rowdiness of the crowd dissipates. With those upper sections closed, the entire venue feels significantly smaller. On this occasion the lower section was relatively full against crosstown rival Loyola however I was told the lower section is far from full on a regular basis.
The atmosphere is pretty lively with the crowd into the action occurring on the court. There are no bells and whistles during timeouts, just the usual dribbling and shooting contests for children in the crowd.
The usual scoreboard or video board hanging above center court is missing at the UIC Pavilion as the main scoreboard/video board is located on the east end of the venue. A fairly large video board with good resolution and bright lights ensures that spectators from all seating areas can easily read the scoreboard and see the video clips.
The seats are comfortable with above average legroom, and they are properly angled to face the court. The seats are orange fold downs with spacious seating area. Behind the west basket you'll find the pep band which has grown in members in recent years, but is still relatively small with 20 or so members. Just behind the pep band is a tarp that covers 5 or 6 rows of seats. The tarp is navy blue with UIC Flames in red letters.
The UIC campus is located about a half mile on either side by Little Italy and Greektown, although neither is really close enough to be considered part of the immediate neighborhood. That being said, either would be a fine destination for pre-game or a post-game meal.
If you want to see some sports memorabilia, check out the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame (1431 W Taylor St). It's less than a mile away, and right in the heart of some great restaurants. I recommend Rosal's (1154 W Taylor) for great Sicilian fare.
As far as a place in the immediate vicinity of the Pavilion, I would recommend the Union Park Grill. There are at least 20 flat screens all featuring sports, they have ten beers on tap, and better than expected bar food. They describe themselves as a gastro-pub, and after trying two of their three house specialties, I think they live up to that term.
The fried calamari are big, and cooked perfectly. Best of all is the Spicy Burger - a half pound burger with blue cheese, Dijon mustard, a house spicy sauce reminiscent of buffalo sauce, served on a brioche bun. Looking at my notes I have a buffalo sauce stain next to the phrase "really, really good. Yum." That says it all.
Another good spot about a mile from the UIC Pavilion is Haymarket Pub & Brewery; located on the other side of I-290 at 737 W Randolph, Haymarket provides a wide variety of beers with both in house brews as well as other regional craft favorites. I would recommend any of the pizzas. I had "the heavy" which included house-cured bacon, pepperoni, Italian sausage, smoked pork, & caramelized onions, but all their pizzas are delicious. Haymarket also has a brunch menu if you are attending an early game on Saturday or Sunday.
The crowd is into the game and the student section remains lively. This could be attributed to the rival opponent and is far from the norm.
The crowd remains interested and involved in the game, making noise at appropriate times. The crowd is a mix of students, adults, and young children. Many in attendance are wearing something to show their allegiance to UIC.
The UIC Pavilion is within easy access of major freeways in Chicago including I-290, I-90, and I-94. There is parking available across the street and a parking garage adjacent to the arena. Parking in either location is only $5 for basketball games, but more expensive for most concerts and other events. Another great option is the CTA train with easy accessibility from both the UIC-Halstead and Racine stops. The only thing preventing Access from getting full marks is the Chicago traffic that can make your route difficult to navigate for a weeknight game.
The one main concourse is wide, and even with a large crowd, congestion of the concourse is not a problem. Restrooms are large and clean too, so no need to skip out of any of the game play just to avoid a wait.
Ticket prices have risen in the last few years with two pricing options available, $24 or $47 per ticket. The $24 option applies to the lower bowl tickets while the $47 price point applies to the seats on the floor. Even with reasonable parking and concession prices the overall experience can add up quickly. While you can expect a good college basketball experience, the current price is a little too high for what you get.
Extra points to Sparky the Dragon, the UIC Flames team mascot, who does an excellent job of interacting with the crowd. Another extra point to the "Dancing Flames," the UIC dance squad. Instead of the sultry performances you see from many dance teams, this was almost interpretive dance. I'm not a dance connoisseur by any means, but this was a very good performance.
Member Review by paul
The Pavilion, located on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) opened in 1982, and has served as a venue for concerts as well as basketball, soccer, and boxing. It seats just under 7,000 and could be cozy site to see some college basketball.
Member Review by paul
In a city like Chicago, you can find a college or professional sporting event on pretty much every single night. There are the obvious choices like the Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs, and White Sox. But it would be a disservice to ignore some of the other options in the second city. One of those options, on the city's near west side, is the UIC Pavilion, home to the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames.
The UIC Flames are a part of the Horizon Basketball League, and offer an entertaining level of basketball. The visit won't change your life, but it is still a nice way to pass a January evening.
Member Review by CigarBoy on Dec 20, 2011
This is a hockey arena that is used for basketball, but for some reason I like it.
The crowds are not huge so it is easy to get a great seat.
You will see good college hoops for a fair price and there is plenty of free parking for night games.
228 S Racine Ave
Chicago, IL 60607
737 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661