Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
American Bank Center 1901 North Shoreline Blvd Corpus Christi, TX 78401
Year Opened: 1978
Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi Islanders – American Bank Center
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) began playing hoops on the Gulf Coast in 1999 as an independent Division III program before ultimately moving to the Southland Conference. In their brief existence the Islanders have made the NCAA tournament once after winning the Southland in 2007. Since then, TAMUCC has made the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) four times (in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017); the Islanders even reached the tourney’s final in 2017.
From the beginning the Islanders have called the venerable American Bank Center their home. It is also home to the Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League and, since its construction, has basically been home to every major entertainment and sporting event to come to the coastal city. The Islanders have done a great job of marketing themselves to Corpus Christi as becoming the team for the city. With facilities like the American Bank Center, they are on their way.
Food & Beverage 2
Normally the American Bank Center would score much higher in this category; however, for TAMUCC games they appear to have closed off all the concessions areas on the upper level (at least this is what I encountered during my most recent visit). This is a bit of a hassle for fans sitting up in those areas as they either must get everything before the game starts or miss in-game action.
What was open for the game were the two main stands on the ground level concourse area, which sell your standard hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, soft drinks, bottled sports drinks, water, etc. The Dogfather stand sells jumbo and regular-sized hot dogs in addition to the other items listed above; it is located near the escalators that take visitors up to the second level. There is also one full bar and the Chick-fil-A stand near the main entrance.
The last game I attended happened to be Homecoming for the TAMUCC Islanders, so the atmospheric accompaniment was ramped up to a higher degree than on your typical night. This will be discussed more in the Fans section, but it definitely does play into effect here.
Right off the bat, walking up to the American Bank Center I noticed way more fans than normal involved in tailgating. One of the main lots was also filled with inflatables, a petting zoo, food and drink booths, a DJ, and more for the returning alumni.
Inside the arena the Islanders have banners hung up commemorating their various postseason accomplishments, both for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as for the volleyball team. There is also a team store set up near the main entrance for those looking to load up on TAMUCC merchandise. However, in terms of atmosphere, the main draw is the view that the American Bank Center has to offer – it looks right out over Corpus Christi Bay and visitors can get a great view from the second floor, and can even step outside for photo ops.
I have been visiting Corpus Christi for as long as I can remember. For most Texans it’s one of the first places they go for weekend getaways during the summer months. Since it’s less than a two-hour drive for most South Texans, it’s the closest beach that most can get to on regular basis, and for most the city’s North Beach is the first place they head to. It has 1.5 miles of beachfront that is lined with hotels, restaurants, shops, fishing spots, and tourist attractions.
These attractions include two that are annually ranked as the most popular in Corpus Christi – the USS Lexington and the Texas State Aquarium. Both are a short drive from the American Bank Center, and both are great options to visit before or after Islanders games. However, the Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures & Educational Center is just across the parking lot from the American Bank Center; this museum honors all the cultures of Asia and allows visitors the take part in some of the finer arts of each country.
In terms of dining options there are quite a few to choose from in the downtown area of Corpus Christi near the American Bank Center. The Railroad Seafood & Brewing Co. and Brewster Street Ice House are technically the closest options to the arena. Seafood, specialty burgers and sandwiches, and craft beer are on the menu at these locations. However, there are plenty of other options as you explore the area if you want something else.
For lodging you will also have plenty of options, as mentioned above, since the arena is in downtown Corpus Christi. Or if you’re interested in staying on the beach, venture across Harbor Bridge – the closest hotels to the arena that way are Quality Inn & Suites On The Beach and Radisson Hotel Corpus Christi Beach. As hotels tend to fill up fast during Spring Break and the summer months, you can also check Airbnb and Vrbo for other non-hotel/motel options if that’s a route you want to go.
The Islanders are averaging close to 1,200 fans per game this season at the American Bank Center. This ranks near the middle of the pack in the Southland Conference. For the homecoming game that I attended the attendance was up slightly from their regular numbers. Unlike in past games that I have attended, however, there was a lot more tailgating, which was good to see. Since the facility is not on campus, this all helps create that college atmosphere that is crucial for games like this.
As mentioned the American Bank Center is located right on the shore of Corpus Christi Bay (on Shoreline Drive) in downtown Corpus Christi before you cross over the famous (and sadly soon to be replaced) Harbor Bridge. As also mentioned, the city is close to a two hour-drive from San Antonio and nearly three hours from Austin, or three and a half hours from Houston. Parking is free in the multiple lots around the arena and is open for tailgaters, which is a nice perk.
For those that don’t want to make the drive (while it is short), Corpus Christi International Airport does have daily flights to and from Houston (both George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport) and Dallas (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport), which are huge hubs to virtually every other city in the country.
If you don’t want to drive when you get there, the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (CCRTA), which is the city’s public transportation service, runs a bus line that makes drops at the American Bank Center. You’ll just need to either check the CCRTA website or download their app for schedule times.
Return on Investment 3
Single-game tickets for Islanders games at the American Bank Center start at $11 per person for general admission seating. This was a little higher for the game I attended due to it being homecoming, but on a regular night, $11 is the starting price.
Concessions prices are pretty much on par with what you’d expect to pay at a minor league facility; nothing was more than $6 except for premium alcoholic beverages. With parking being free though, sports fans are getting quite a bargain in a great venue if they choose to catch an Islanders game at the American Bank Center.
Like most college programs, TAMUCC brings a lot of their traditional game day activities with them to the American Bank Center. The Islanders bring along the Islander Spirit Team (their dance squad), their cheerleaders, and the Islanders Pep Band.
The band can be seen playing behind one of the goals and heckling any unfortunate opposing player trying to shoot a free throw, as well as leading the home crowd in the “Shakas Up” chant when their team is shooting on the other end.
TAMUCC Pep Band, Photo by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
The Islanders did retire their costumed mascot in 2021 after some controversy and have not replaced it. Not having that extra bit of interaction does detract from the overall atmosphere at a college game.
The American Bank Center is a great venue. TAMUCC, as mentioned, has done what they can to make the Islanders the top sports attraction in the city. The team has been very competitive in recent years and that has helped with the atmosphere. With the costs relatively low and the location, if you find yourself on the Texas Gulf Coast and looking for something to do, you can’t go wrong with catching an Islanders game at the American Bank Center.