University Arena in Read Fieldhouse (map it)
2009 Howard St
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Year Opened: 1957
There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
In 1957, Western Michigan University, located in Kalamazoo, opened University Arena, located in Read Fieldhouse. Sitting near the football team's Waldo Stadium, and the baseball team's Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field, the basketball arena holds just short of 5,500 fans. It feels like the perfect size for MAC basketball.
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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".
You won't find anything that will blow you away, but there's enough to get you through the contest. There are two concession stands, one under each seating section behind the baskets. The concession nearest the Broncos bench closes shortly after halftime, so keep that in mind (although it's not that long of a walk to get to the other side).
Your options include hot dogs, Polish sausage, cheeseburger, and soft pretzel with cheese ($3). Boxes of popcorn, candy, and buckets of cotton candy ($3) round out the menu. Beverages are provided by Coca Cola. Overall, everything they serve is exactly what you expect, no disappointments, but no highlights.
The scoreboard doesn't have the capability to do anything fancy, and overall you will have a very low-tech experience. Sometimes the loud and flashing lights with pump-you-up music and over-the-top announcers can be a lot of fun. Other times, you just want the basketball speak for itself. That's what you get at University Arena for Western Michigan Broncos basketball.
The entertainment is reliant on its timeout and halftime promotions, the pep band, and the basketball on the floor. It's a basic, but enjoyable mix.
The best promotion of the night happened during halftime when four college students were dressed in football helmets and asked to sort through mini-footballs, in an attempt to find balls with the word "TV" printed on them. The winner got a new TV. Pretty cool. The worst promotion was a guy trying to make two free throws in 30 seconds. His prize? A bottle of Coke. Please.
The pep band, with its 30 or so members, was solid throughout. More importantly, they were great fans. Sometimes the best venues (and even the lesser venues) depend heavily on their band to be into the game. This group, situated under the opponents' basket, was certainly musically strong and devoted to the game when the horns were down as well.
If you're a fan of microbrew beers, you have likely heard of Bell's Brewery, located in Kalamazoo. If you're making the trip to a Western Michigan Broncos sporting event, then I would highly recommend a stop at the Bell's Eccentric Cafe and General Store. They have a rotating selection of beers on tap, offer a tasty little menu, and even have some options for the kids. It's located only about 2 1/2 miles away from the game, although make sure to have a designated driver if needed.
Another beer lover's delight can be found at the Shakespeare Pub, just a little further down the road. They have 37 beers on tap, all of them interesting in their own way, and a solid menu of only slightly atypical pub fare. Located in the same building as the Globe Theatre, you may also be able to catch some live music, comedy, or a play.
Closer to University Arena is the University Roadhouse Bar & Grill. It's a comfortable setting, and within reasonable walking distance of the arena. They've got great burgers, so stick with that section of the menu, although I've heard good things about some other items as well.
I like fans that grumble when the team is playing poorly. It's realistic. You should be upset when your team is doing bad, you just shouldn't be calling the players name or booing. I was really lucky to experience a game where the Broncos got off to a horrific start. The fans responded by asking legitimate questions like, "Who's guarding that guy?!" or yell for the players to "MOVE!"
When the team recovered (and went on to win) I was able to experience the positive energy of these fans, which was there in spades. My only disappointment in the fans came when I looked at the two levels of student fans sitting in the "Zoo" section. Other than about 5 true die-hards, the section was rather apathetic, killing the chances for this venue to be a really special place. I would love to see this place packed, with the students in full throat, but what you see is what you get. For now, what you get is a good, but not special experience.
Free parking is always a good thing, and I appreciate it when teams or universities don't create unnecessary obstacles like charging $5 for a parking spot. My criticism in this area is the lack of good signage to direct fans toward the right place to park their vehicle. With so many large sports complexes in the immediate vicinity, it's easy to miss the correct turn, especially without some indication for University Arena. Once you find the right turn, the first parking lot you reach is for donors only, although you won't know that until you've already turned in, and have to circle around. Only then will you find the parking lot off of West Michigan Avenue.
Inside the arena, it is very easy to find your way around. There is a black indoor track circling the outside of the seats. Restrooms are large enough to keep you from waiting in line.
A trip to University Arena is a great value, and a good opportunity to see Division-I basketball on a budget. Chair seats are the most expensive and will cost you $18 per seat. Bleacher seats will cost you either $16 or $12, depending on how close you want to get to the floor. It's a small enough arena that you should go with the cheaper option, unless you want a seat with a back, in which case it will cost you $18. With free parking and affordable concessions, you won't break the bank on a trip to Western Michigan.
The only extra point I'll award is for the mascot, Buster the Bronco. He does a good job of interacting with the kids.
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