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  • Lloyd Brown

Colonial Life Arena – South Carolina Gamecocks

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Colonial Life Arena 801 Lincoln St Columbia, SC 29208

South Carolina Gamecocks website

Colonial Life Arena website

Year Opened: 2002

Capacity: 18,000


The Gamecocks Roost

The Colonial Life Arena in downtown Columbia, SC serves as the home of the University of South Carolina basketball. It opened in 2002 with a capacity of 18,000, making it the largest arena in the state of South Carolina and the eighth-largest college campus arena in the country.

The South Carolina Gamecocks have a long history of success in basketball. It won the SEC Championship in 2017 and won back-to-back NIT Championships in 2005 and 2006. In 2017 the Gamecocks won the NCAA East Regional and went to the Final Four.

The Gamecock women’s program is also one of the strongest in the nation. They have made a consistent appearance in the postseason tournament, often as the #1 seed in their region. They were the SEC Champions from 2014-2017 and won the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in 2017.

Food & Beverage 4

The concession stands in the Colonial Life Arena carry a mix of your regular concession stand items and regional fare from around the Palmetto State. Make sure to check out the Carolina Marketplace, which carries Kayem brats, Carolina slaw dogs, and Carolina-style BBQ, which is known for its sweet sauces.

The Iron Grill sells your more typical stadium/arena fares such as hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and pretzels. Doc’s BBQ features pulled pork sandwiches, smoked chicken sandwiches, and beef brisket sandwiches.

Coca-Cola brand beverages are sold at Colonial Life Arena. The facility only began selling beer and wine in 2020. Alcoholic drinks are sold at separate stands from other concessions, as purchasers are carded, and they are restricted on the number of beers they may buy.

Atmosphere 4

Colonial Life Arena is unusual in that it offers much plusher amenities than are typically found in an on-campus facility. Seats in the arena are plush and very comfortable featuring chairbacks and drink holders. The garnet color scheme of the Gamecocks brand is used throughout the facility. Since it is the main concert venue in the state of South Carolina it offers an above-average sound system. The Colonial Life Arena also features thirty-eight luxury suites.

The basketball programs do a great job of creating energy from the crowd at each game. The pregame introductions follow a longtime Gamecocks athletic tradition as the lights go out and the team enters to the heavy metal sound of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Other things to look forward to at USC games include the antics of Cocky, contests, t-shirt throws, and video features during breaks in the action.

Neighborhood 5

The arena is in the Congaree Vista neighborhood in downtown Columbia. It is a very walkable area, with easy access to the University of South Carolina, the various state museums, and a wide variety of lodging and dining options. Columbia is a foodie’s paradise, and the Vista District alone offers more than forty-five restaurants and bars. Among the local favorites are Motor Supply Company (it used to be a garage) and the Liberty Tap Room and Grill.

Attractions located near the Colonial Life Arena include the Horseshoe on the USC campus, the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, and Segra Park, the home of the Columbia Fireflies baseball team.

Fans 4

The basketball program at USC draws large crowds due to its longtime success of the program. The average attendance at games is 13,396 and the team also has several sellouts each season. The Gamecocks are ranked in the top thirty for total attendance nationally over the past five seasons.

The main source of noise during Gamecocks games is generated by the student section. Known as the “Garnet Army,” they are seated behind the baskets to confuse and distract visiting teams when they are shooting or are at the free-throw line.

Access 2

It is not hard to find the Colonial Life Arena, but it is difficult to find a parking space once you get there. The arena does not own or manage any parking facilities. There are several parking garages within a few blocks of the facility, but they fill quickly. We suggest you arrive early to nab a space.

The arena itself offers ready access to the seating bowl. There are four main gates to the venue. We suggest that you enter through the front of the arena near the fountain. This will bring you into the very elegant lobby. Be sure to check out the mosaic Gamecock design inlaid on the floor and the many exhibits about both the men’s and women’s basketball programs at USC.

As you enter the seating bowl area, you will find both the upper and lower concourses to be wide and easy to navigate. Signage to help you locate your seats is clear and easy to follow. Doors open one hour before tipoff.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets are reasonably priced for a program playing at the level of SEC basketball. 200-level seats for conference games go for $20. 100-level seats are priced at $22 for seats at the end of the court and $25 lower-level corner seats are priced at $25.

Midcourt seats on the lower level are for season ticket holders and tickets are typically available on the secondary market for each game at a range of $45-$50. Non-conference games have variable pricing depending on the opponent. There are numerous parking garages located nearby that offer game day parking at $5.

Extras 3

The Colonial Life Arena hosts the South Carolina High School Basketball Tournament Championships on an annual basis.

The arena is the major concert venue in the state of South Carolina. It has hosted a who’s who of musical talent with appearances by Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, hometown favorite Hootie and the Blowfish, and dozens more.

The University recently unveiled a statue of Gamecocks star A’ja Wilson. Wilson led the team to a National Championship in 2017 and has gone on to stardom as the MVP in the WNBA.

The rafters are filled with banners recognizing the many postseason accomplishments of both the men’s and women’s teams. In addition, banners are honoring many elite Gamecock players over the years.

After each home game, the Gamecock players and fans stand for the school’s alma mater while holding their hands high with their fingers forming “the talon.” This resembles the claws of a Gamecock when it prepares to fight.

Final Thoughts

The game day experience at Colonial Life Arena rivals the experience you would have at a venue in a much larger city than Columbia. It offers excellent amenities and a quality product both on and off the court. Columbia offers a surprising number of dining opportunities and attractions for fans' pre or post-game enjoyment.

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