Williams Arena, home to Minnesota Gophers basketball, opened in 1928. It has been renovated a few times over the years but has maintained its original look and feel. The concourses and seating setup may seem dated and charming, but the on court and technological aspect of the stadium is anything but dated.
The building has had many uses over the years including hosting the 1951 NCAA men’s title game (which Kentucky won against Kansas State), and hosted Gophers hockey games until 1993 when Mariucci Arena opened. It is currently known by most fans as “The Barn” and home to one of the most unique experiences in college basketball. While the Gophers haven’t had any championships, their history is displayed proudly throughout the arena.
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".
The food selection at Williams Arena is vast and plentiful. Standard fare such as hot dogs, brats, and nachos are in the $3.50-$5.25 range and are available in different areas around the arena. Soda or bottled water is in the $3.50-$5.25 range. Unlike TCF Bank Stadium, alcoholic beverages are not served inside The Barn. Snacks such as pretzels, popcorn, ice cream, and candy are offered. The concession lines are packed at halftime and before the game but lines move quickly. Soda and snack vendors work the crowd during the game but are few and far between.
What really makes this venue unique is the specialty food offered at various locations. Famous Dave's BBQ, Domino's Pizza, Dino's Gyros, Kemps Ice Cream, Subway, and Mayslacks have booths here. These specialty restaurants have various offerings for those who are looking to have an actual meal instead of a snack.
The Famous Dave's booth has chopped pork and chopped brisket sandwiches for sale for $7. The obligatory BBQ sauces are stocked nearby for these tasty dishes. The Mayslacks offerings include roast beef sandwiches, cheesesteaks, bbq chicken wraps, walking taco and a beef stew bread bowl. Subway offers four different kinds of subs here and all are pre-made except for sauces. The Kemps booth is a popular treat during games here as the lines are always long.
When entering the main lobby, fans are greeted with a mural that reads "Welcome to the Barn." There are six ticket windows available for fans who need to buy their tickets at the arena. A few televisions are hung on the wall to keep fans entertained as they are waiting in line. These televisions show the Big Ten Network which gets fans in the mood for the collegiate atmosphere inside (no Sportscenter showing pro highlights here!).
There are half a dozen ticket takers and some security people as you walk in the gates. The Gopher staff and security team do a great job of getting fans into the arena efficiently and in a timely manner. Once inside, Williams Arena does a great job showcasing their men's and women's basketball history. There are some trophy cases, jerseys, and various NCAA tournament memorabilia. There is a timeline around part of the concourse which highlights the famous Gopher players, wins, and tournament runs for the men's and women's teams.
Getting to your seats is easy and well-marked. Going to your seats in the upper deck means climbing a steep flight of stairs and crossing a wooden ramp to get there. This experience makes me think of going to an attic in an older building. For a less strenuous experience, there are plenty of elevators around the arena as well.
If taking a few quick pictures before the game, the ushers are good about your going court side for a minute. The closer it gets to game time, the less likely you are able to sneak a few quick photos down below. Beware of the crowded concourses, it can be hard to maneuver around the building at halftime or minutes before tip-off, so make sure you're not trying to get there at the last minute.
The seating pitch at Williams Arena is one of the most angled I have seen at any stadium. The great part about this is you will rarely ever have a problem seeing over the person in front of you. The seats and pitch make you feel like you are on top of the action. There isn't much legroom but this wasn't an issue when the stadium was built in 1928. Older stadiums such as Hinkle Fieldhouse, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field all have the same drawbacks when it comes to legroom.
Getting up to go to the bathroom can be a challenge and most fans have to stand up to let someone by them. Chair back seating is available in the front or the upper deck and lower deck sections and cost a bit more. The rows towards the back of each section are bench seating with seat numbers and lines painted on the benches. There are some seats in the lower and upper bowls that are obstructed and are only sold for big games or when the stadium sells out.
Buyer beware of the last few rows on the east and west sides of the arena. Interestingly, there are some corner lower bowl seats that are mostly unsold due to the upper deck overhang. The view from these seats means only watching the court and not the big scoreboard. Thankfully, there are televisions hanging up in all obstructed seating areas.
The playing surface is raised off of the arena floor by a couple feet and is one of only three arenas in D-I basketball to have this feature. This gives fans in the first few rows a unique view of the game. It is always entertaining to watch players go for loose balls here only to hold up due to this raised floor. Opposing teams' benches will put their arms and hands out to catch or stop an opposing player from falling off the court if need be. To go on the court, some players will simply jump up while others will use their seat as a step and then jump to the floor. Members of the press have court side seating and an extension of the floor acts like a table for them.
For those lucky enough to have suite seats, you are in for a treat. The suites are entirely open air and are designed like old basketball locker rooms. There is a place to hang your coat along one wall, a food staging area on another side, private bathrooms, a television, and an open seating area. The seats in the suites are high up but the views from the east or west sides are phenomenal. Due to the high angled pitch of Williams Arena, these seats aren't far from the action.
Various promotions throughout the game keep fans entertained during halftime and timeouts. Various in game contests include a t-shirt toss, mini basketball toss, scoreboard races for prizes in specific sections, and a quiz via texting an answer for a prize. There is a dance off between an inflatable pig, chicken, and cow which is quite humorous. Goldy the Gopher entertains the crowd during timeouts as well. The animals fit into the atmosphere here as Williams is affectionately known as the "Barn."
The scoreboard is top notch and shows highlights and stats. There is a circular board between the two seating bowls which shows player stats and out of town scores. The curved roof does a good job amplifying the sounds during the game. One drawback is there is a lot of piped in music rather than the band playing during timeouts and intermissions.
The University of Minnesota Campus is located in a neighborhood called "Dinkytown." The campus is split between the east bank of the Mississippi River and the west bank. The campus fits into the neighborhood so well that it is hard to tell when actually arriving until you see bigger classroom buildings and the stadiums.
Williams Arena is located in the sports complex that includes Ridder Arena, Baseline Tennis Center, TCF Bank Stadium, and Mariucci Arena. The open end of TCF Bank Stadium is a block away from the entrance to the arena and is perfect for photo opportunities.
This neighborhood has a college atmosphere with lots of campus buildings, housing, restaurants, and shops. There are lots of food options around the arena including fast food, bars, and coffee/sandwich shops. These places can have an eclectic mix of people including college students studying, sports fans before a game, friends gathering, or students working on a class project. For sports fans who want to catch a game and drinks with friends before the game, there is a Buffalo Wild Wings located a block away from the main entrance.
The student section here is nicknamed "the barnyard" and is quite vocal before and during the game. The chants from this section are clean and family-friendly. As the visiting team is announced during introductions, the crowd chants "Who's he?" During home team introductions, the student section will yell out each player's name as announced.
The fans will stand until the Gophers make their first basket and then clap and settle in for the game.
When the opposing team holds onto the ball with ten seconds to go on the shot clock, the student section will count down from seven and make a buzzer sound at the end of the countdown. Of course, the students' countdown is deliberately three seconds off to try and induce an opposing player to rush a shot. If a player is in a panic, this doesn't help him or her out!
Another chant here is when a player fouls out of a game. To further agitate a disqualified player, the crowd will chant each time the player takes a step: Left! Right! Left! Right! When the player sits down the crowd will yell "sit down!"
Most fans I have been around at Williams have been knowledgeable and attentive. The crowd isn't as loud as in some places, but gets louder at the end of close games.
Williams Arena is easily accessible from I-35W and I-94. Take the University Drive exit off of I-35W and head towards campus. The stadium complex is a mile away from the freeway. From I-94, follow the signs to the east bank campus of University of Minnesota. You will see the football stadium looming in the distance shortly after getting off the freeway. Driving to the stadium is easy, however traffic could be heavy at times depending on other events going on before or during the games.
Parking is easy to come by for basketball games. There are plenty of parking garages around the arena and most will set you back around $10. For fans lucky enough or who don't mind a walk, street parking can be had. Pay attention to the signs or meters. Free parking can be found but some spots charge seven days a week and some only six days and the hours for those vary.
For fans of mass transit, there are quite a few bus lines that will take fans near the stadiums at Minnesota. Also, the new green line extension of the Twin Cities light rail system will open in June 2014. A convenient stop on the green line will drop fans off two blocks from the stadium. This will open up new opportunities for fans around the metro to reach campus easily.
Gopher basketball tickets can be tough to come by, especially for top notch big teams and rivalry games. Tickets run from $30-$40 dollars at the gate and about the same on the secondary market. For rivalry games such as Iowa and Wisconsin, prices can double on the secondary market. There are enough games and highlights to keep fans interested during breaks and timeouts.
The architecture and way this stadium is designed deserves extra points. Like the Palestra in Philadelphia or Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Williams Arena is a must see for any college basketball fan for this very reason. I would suggest getting to a game when gates open an hour before tip-off to climb the many sets of stairs and see the different angles of the court. The raised floor is a sight to see in person as well.
Another point is given for the careful attention to the history of the Gophers men's and women's basketball teams. The timeline inside the main gates is a nice touch and shows off the all-time Gopher greats. The rafters are full of banners celebrating tournament runs and retired numbers. Glass showcases are prominent on the concourse as well with memorabilia from past greats and tournament runs.
Williams Arena truly is more than that old arena with the raised playing surface. It is a historical yet quirky treasure. With older buildings, you know the amenities, seat dimensions, and concourse layout will not be as comfortable as newer arenas. However, it has managed to keep its charm over the years. Recent renovations have added to the experience while not taking away its historic feel. True college basketball fans as well as casual fans will enjoy their experience at The Barn!
I love universities that are part of a major city. It just adds an element of excitement. More traditional "college towns" are fun as well because of the community's devotion to a particular school, but one of the things that makes the University of Minnesota special is its placement in Minneapolis.
When I visited Williams Arena (commonly known as "The Barn"), I had a great experience at the game as well as getting to know the area. Built in 1928, and named for former football coach, Dr. Henry Williams, this has that historic feel without any of the discomfort that can come from a really old arena that hasn't had the proper facelifts over the years.
Only in Minnesota would you tell your friends that you are going to “The Barn” to watch a basketball game and have them respond with something like, “Aww…I wish I could be there tonight.” Actually, let me amend that, it’s probably the only place in the world where people would be jealous of someone going to an 80-year-old building called The Barn, but that’s Minnesota for you—don’cha know?
Yes, it is true: named after Dr. Henry L. Williams, a former football coach, Williams Arena is home to the University of Minnesota men’s and women’s basketball programs, and was opened in 1928. It was built around the same time as the Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and just after the Palestra in Philadelphia. Sadly, it’s still more than a decade younger than longtime Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman.
All old man jokes aside, The Barn may be a bit rustic, but it still has up-to-date amenities. The University of Minnesota hasn’t used its age as excuse to go cheap: There are LCD televisions in the concourse, a new jumbotron and a spectacular club level. In short, the U of M has done a good job of mixing the old and new with their basketball facility.
This place was a good place to watch a game if you had the right seat. I made the mistake of getting a cheap ticket which ended up being an obstructed seat. With that seat, I had a great view of the court but not much else. Luckily, I was a able to move around a bit. Building reminds me a lot of Hinkle Fieldhouse. My only complaint is how tough it is to get from section to section. The wooden floors and ramps upstairs was fun to see. Very easy to get to and free parking is plentiful if you want to walk four-eight blocks.
2001 SE University Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55414
315 14th Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
2418 University Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!