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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
The Summit League basketball conference is geographic mish-mash that extends from eastern Michigan to North Dakota to southern Utah to Louisiana. In the center of that expanse is Macomb, Illinois, home of the Western Illinois University Leathernecks.
The Leathernecks play their home games in the Western Hall, a venue that seats 5,139 and was opened in 1964. It is a bare bones college basketball experience, with very little that rises above expectations.
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".
Be sure to grab a bite to eat before the game, or plan on going hungry. There is almost nothing worth eating at a Western Illinois game. You can grab a hot dog for $2, nachos for $2, some (extremely salty) popcorn for $1, or a candy bar ($1). That's it. The whole menu.
To drink, you can choose from a 20-ounce Coke product, Powerade, or bottle of water. Each option is only $2.
Nine rows of mustard yellow plastic seats roll out from each side of the court. There are no cupholders, but the leg room is adequate.
On each end there are purple plastic bleachers with the pep band on the opponents end and the student section of the end nearest the Leathernecks' bench. The 31-member pep band seemed a bit muddled and apathetic at first, but turned out several toe-tapping numbers. As the night went on, I began to appreciate them more and more. I realized how much better a pep band is for the atmosphere, than whatever piped in music comes in over the PA.
The best part of a trip to Macomb for a basketball game, takes place a mile or so away from the arena. Downtown Macomb has a cute little square where you will find several options to grab some grub. I tried Chick's on the Square, a place that seems like a sports bar, and I suppose it is, but it is also frequented by many families, while still selling itself as a martini bar. It's a versatile place that serves up great pizza and its signature "chicken lips," a chicken breast cut to resemble a beak before being breaded and deep fried. Overall, it is a great place to stop, and gets my recommendation.
Another option you may want to try in Rocky's Bar & Grill. It looks like a hole-in-the-wall, dumpy sort of joint, but inside it is warm with walls adorned with local sports memorabilia and jerseys. Meat is their specialty- ribs, steaks, and chops. They also have very friendly service, so don't let the looks deceive you.
The student section remained seated for the majority of the game, and with the lone exception of a few members of the "Purple Haze," never made much of an impact on the game. The crowd stands for the introductions of the WIU players, and that's about as excited as you will see them for the entire contest.
The good news is that parking is free, and there are plenty of spots in the lot. The only trouble I had was that the Student Recreation Center next door seemed like the place to go. There were more people headed that way, and it was a much better looking building. But alas, Western Hall is where you should be headed.
Bathrooms were adequate.
General admission tickets are only $8, and for just $2 more you can get a reserved seat. In fact, the entire experience is very affordable. A ticket, parking, food, and drink will only cost you $12. That's not a lot to live up to. But as they say, time is money, and I don't know that this experience is worth your time. You'll get your money's worth I suppose, but it's sort of like buying a ten dollar bill with your ten singles.
I do like the fact that the bulldog mascot can be found in many forms around the arena. There's the inflatable version in the corner near the pep band. There's the typical costumed mascot who makes the rounds high-fiving spectators. Finally, there's the live leashed version that takes laps around the arena pre-game, and then settles in to watch the game.
There are very few stadiums and arenas that I will recommend avoiding, because the fact is that every venue has its own distinct personality, and if you love live sporting events, then see as many as you can. That being said, this one comes close to the "skip it" list. Downtown Macomb, and the pep band save Western Hall from that fate. Check it out if you're nearby.
Member Review by jcamp74 on Feb 04, 2011
Please note that the neighborhood score reflects the downtown shops and restaurants. WIU campus is a typical state school campus and doesn't really offer much to the outsider.
Member Review by WIUFan on Apr 06, 2014
This is a kind of field house set up and is in need of updates. This being said they have adequate seating and have seen success in last few years under their head Coach Jim Molinari. This has brought a new found fan base to the stands that have in recent years packed capacity here. The school has announce plans to place a video board in the arena which will be a nice addition. The school does have plans in its master plan to build an arena just east of where western hall is located which is needed as this is a step between either a low end D1 gym or a high end DII gym. All in all access is good and they have quite a few little events during game to keep it interesting during breaks. Pep band is good and when team is playing well students can get excited though this most recent season they saw a slight drop in performance. Tickets are cheap and if you are in the area and just are looking for a fun event it is worth going to.
103 S Side Sq
Macomb, IL 61455
1420 W Jackson St
Macomb, IL 61455
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