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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
FIU basketball isn’t exactly steeped in historic excellence. Known more for its hiring and firing of Isiah Thomas as their head coach a few years go, the FIU program has had a rough go of it the last few years. Ironically, their facility seems to show the same dreary emotion. In an arena that looks state of the art from the outside and in the lobby, the reality of what awaits inside is rather disappointing.
FIU Arena opened in 1986, and has a capacity for 5,000 spectators.
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".
There isn't anything spectacular about the FIU Arena concession stands, nor is there anything inherently bad. Food is not very expensive, ranging from pizza to hot dogs and sodas with some chips and candy mixed in. The cost of a pizza slice, a Coke, and a bag of chips will run less than $10. Another item is nachos, which is usually not much more than round corn chips with melted cheese on the side for dipping.
It is hard to feel much excitement for a college basketball team when very few students show up, let alone general fans. In addition, it is hard to find much to cheer for when the team is in the midst of mediocrity. The arena echoes a lot, so the little noise that is made by the few fans in attendance is amplified, making it seem even more empty.
The upper stands are also rarely ever opened all the way for fans. The seats are uncomfortable and the entire inside of the arena seems old, stuck in the midst of the 1980's. In fact, it is hard to tell any differences between now and when the arena was used for the filming of an episode of Miami Vice.
The nicest part of the arena is the exterior, complete with new entry doors, ticket booths, landscaping, and a statue of a Florida Panther. Once you get past this and the lobby, the rest is very disappointing.
FIU Arena is located on campus, which makes it convenient to attend for students. Unlike stadiums in the middle of a city, there is a sense of security on campus, as you are seemingly separated from the rest of the neighborhood around it. However, there still remains the issue of how that surrounding neighborhood looks, and it isn't exactly the best in Miami.
Sweetwater is a town known for political corruption and severe street flooding during hurricanes, and not much else. Put a college campus in the middle of it, and you have FIU.
The campus itself is growing by the day, with new construction all over the place and new buildings popping up. FIU Arena is on the far west end of the campus, situated in a corner near FIU's tennis courts and a parking garage. Very few hotels are nearby, making the idea of an overnight trip hard if you wanted to stay close to the action.
It is hard to get really excited about college basketball when few fans show up. Most students who do show up only stay for part of the game. Few are actually passionate fans who follow the progress of the team on a game-by-game basis. Some student athletes do attend to support friends, but that also is on a "as I was passing by" status.
One of the most disappointing things is the fact that the arena, as old as it is, looks even more so without fans, and the lack of excitement and electricity in the facility is hard to ignore during college basketball games.
Getting to any stadium at FIU isn't too hard, but traffic can sometimes be problematic. As is typical in Miami, traffic backs up right around the exits nearest FIU's campus on a daily basis. If you find yourself hoping to get to a game and rush hour happens to have lasted a little longer on that day, you may be in for a late arrival. Plan accordingly and give yourself more time than you may think you'll need. The campus is right off of Florida's Turnpike, and the softball field is visible from the road itself.
The investment of a ticket, travel, and concessions may be average in terms of what you get back, but there simply isn't anything to get overly excited about. It would be a different story if the arena had anything that set it apart, featuring a state-of-the-art interior that wowed your senses. But aside from a basketball court with a beach scene design, and the curbside "cabanas" that cost a lot of money to sit in, the arena is nothing more than a glorified gymnasium. For the same amount of money and investment of time and travel, one could travel to the eastern side of Miami for another NCAA basketball experience that far outperforms FIU.
There are often giveaways to students and fans at FIU basketball games, and that is never a bad thing.
FIU's mascot Roary also is a frequent visitor to the games, mingling with fans and trying to pump up the energy.
Finally, the FIU dance team, cheerleaders, and band are always on hand to liven up the experience.
If you are looking for a top notch, exciting, and comfortable college basketball experience in Miami, you likely arrived at the wrong campus. FIU basketball is like the color beige; sure there isn't anything wrong with it, and people use the color often in their home, but it signifies nothing exciting and nothing to wow your senses when you're there.
Member Review by Jackson Wolek on Jan 29, 2012
Since opening in 1986, U.S Century Bank Arena has hosted a variety of events, including concerts, graduations and comedy shows. Recently during the NBA lockout, FIU hosted an sold out All-Star type game featuring Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and many other NBA superstars. However, for the school's own sporting events, there is usually minimal attendance. Despite hiring legendary NBA star Isiah Thomas as their head coach in 2008, the men's basketball team is posting the worst attendance for the Sun Belt Conference (1,130) in the 2011-2012 season. This could be because Florida International University is located in Miami, Florida, which is known to be an "event" type city. With South Beach and the Miami Heat just 20 minutes away at AmericanAirlines Arena, there are plenty of other things to do.
The arena recently just got remodeled on both the inside and outside. With the 11,000 square feet of renovations, there is a new plaza built outside, a brand new lobby, and suites that have yet to be bought. Inside the new lobby, you can find a brand new concession stand, and flat screen televisions. A new huge scoreboard was put into place in 2011, along with a videoboard.
In the future, there is planned to be a team store and a wall to commemorate past championships the school has won.
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