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  • Matt Finnigan

CU Events Center – Colorado Buffaloes

Photos by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

CU Events Center 950 Regent Drive Boulder, CO 80309

Year Opened: 1979

Capacity: 11,064


The University of Colorado’s CU Events Center

The CU Events Center (“CEC”) on the campus embodies utilitarianism. Its exterior projects a parking garage-meets-military bunker type of patina. Mustard yellow chairbacks in the seating bowl date back in time and style to the Carter Administration. Yet there’s more to the CEC than aesthetics. The university has continuously renovated and improved the CEC, which debuted on November 8, 1979. The CEC has received structural, technological, and cosmetic upgrades throughout its existence that have helped the Buffs establish a strong home-court advantage.

The Buffaloes’ play since Head Coach Tad Boyle’s arrival before the 2010-2011 season reinvigorated the CEC’s atmosphere. Five of the Buffs’ 15 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances have come under Boyle, the program’s all-time winningest head coach. Boyle also guided CU to a title in the 2012 Pac-12 Tournament. It was CU’s first year with the league after membership since 1948 in the Big 12 and its predecessor conferences.

Boyle has also recruited players such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Alec Burks, and Derrick White to Boulder. With this level of talent and the CEC’s altitude at more than a mile above sea level, the Buffs have been among the Pac-12’s more successful programs.

With strong fan support – especially from students – the CEC is a fun place to watch top-level college basketball.

Food & Beverage 4

The CEC’s food and beverage offerings are nothing exotic. It’s more fixins bar than haute cuisine. Nevertheless, the quality of food is good and fans should have no trouble finding something to eat and a tasty beverage to wash it down. At the Ralphie’s Market concession stands, fans can find pizza, bratwurst, hot dogs, and all the familiar favorites. CU is a Pepsi campus, with bottled, canned, and fountain soft drinks.

A decent selection of adult beverages are sold at the CEC. The arena bore the name, Coors Events and Conference Center, from 1990 to 2018 so it should come as no surprise that Coors and Coors Light are ubiquitous here. There are also several craft beers sold. Try a Stampede, from Boulder’s Avery Brewing Company. It’s a gold lager that Avery developed with CU. Don’t like beer? There are Topo Chico and Vizzy hard seltzers, cocktails in a can, and wine.

For those with dietary restrictions and those not wishing to inject themselves with traditional stadium food, check out Chip’s on the arena’s east concourse. Chip’s serves gluten-free, peanut allergy-free, and vegetarian options that include gluten-free hot dogs and hamburgers, black bean burgers, hummus platters and salads. “Healthy” and “arena food” are no longer mutually exclusive concepts.

Atmosphere 4

A main concourse with concession stands, restrooms, and a small team shop circles the top of the seating bowl. There are both bleachers and seatbacks in the stands below, with a capacity of 11,064. The best seats are along the floor’s sidelines or in the corners.

The outstanding Golden Buffalo Marching Band plays in the CEC’s southwest corner, while a high-quality Bose PA system plays music during breaks to spell the band. CEC’s main scoreboard hangs over center court and has a high-definition video display board for highlights, replays, and in-game promotions.

CU Events Center Scoreboard, Photo by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey

Neighborhood 5

The CEC is in a great neighborhood: Boulder. The town has many bars, restaurants, and shops within a short drive or long walk from the arena – all set against the Rocky Mountains’ Front Range. There are not many towns that can match Boulder’s beauty, let alone its more than 100 restaurants and bars. The CEC is sandwiched – pun intended, sadly – between two great burger joints. A short walk to the southeast is the Dark Horse (2922 Baseline Road, Boulder, CO, 80303; (303) 442-8162). It’s been a favorite of CU students since 1975. Also appurtenant to campus, albeit on the other side, is the Sink (1165 13th Street, Boulder, CO, 80302; (303) 444-7465). The Sink has been open on The Hill in Boulder since 1923 and, in 1955, employed screen legend Robert Redford as a janitor while he was a CU student. Both the Dark Horse and the Sink have full bars and excellent food beyond burgers.

The Hill will also be home to two new hotels that have a combined 439 rooms but will not open until 2025. Until then, a small cluster of hotels that sits near the corner of 28th Street and Canyon Boulevard, less than a mile from the CEC, might be the best bet for lodging. The Boulder Marriott Hotel Spa (2660 Canyon Blvd., Boulder, CO, 80302; (303) 440-8877), Embassy Suites (2601 Canyon Blvd., Boulder, CO, 80302; (303) 443-2600), Hilton Garden Inn (2701 Canyon Blvd., Boulder, CO, 80302; (303) 443-2200), and Residence Inn by Marriott (2550 Canyon Blvd., Boulder, CO, 80302; (303) 577-7300) are all a five-minute drive from the CEC.

Boulder is one of the best places in the country to get outside. Chautauqua Park (900 Baseline Road, Boulder, CO, 80302; (303) 413-7200) is a hiker’s dream, offering access to the Flatirons and to Boulder’s extensive trail network. Boulder Creek runs through CU’s campus, providing a home for trout and the fly fishers who chase them. A 5.5-mile, paved trail parallels the creek from lower Boulder Canyon to the west to Boulder’s 55th Street to the east.

Fans 4

The Buffaloes enjoy good fan support, with the Pac-12’s fifth-highest average home attendance (6,955) in 2021-2022. CU’s student section, the C-Unit, generates most of the energy from behind the basket at the CEC’s south end. The C-Unit organizes cheers, tries to distract opposing free throw shooters, and effectively harasses visiting teams.

Access 4

The CEC sits within walking distance of every point on the CU campus, with many different ways to reach the arena. There’s plenty of parking in adjacent lots and in the garage to the CEC’s north. Leaving the CEC after the game, a nautilus of a traffic jam typically forms out of that garage. University staff keeps the cars moving, however.

Entrance to the CEC can be a challenge. The main entry, on the building’s west side, requires either a climb up stairs or a longer walk south to access a pedestrian ramp. Bathroom entrances and the concourse around the seating bowl can present challenges for those with mobility limitations or a general disdain for humanity.

Return on Investment 3

Single-game tickets start at $30 for general admission, ranging to $85 for a reserved seat near the center of the CEC. Tickets can be found for substantially less than that on secondary ticketing sites such as StubHub or Seat Geek. Food and beverage prices compare well with other sporting events in and around Denver. Pizza ($13), bratwurst ($9), hot dogs ($6), and nachos ($6) are all priced within the bounds of decency, as are premium ($13.50) and domestic ($12), 20-ounce draft beers. Bottled soda and water sell for $4.

Notably, parking is free for games at the CEC. This is a huge benefit, particularly because parking on any college campus is difficult. But CU has a garage and several lots within close distance. This sets CU apart and means that fans can enjoy Pac-12 basketball without digging into their kids’ college funds.

Extras 4

One wouldn’t normally expect to find great art in a 43 year-old, mostly concrete arena. However, the CEC has a 12 foot-by-22-foot mural of two buffaloes on a wall along the arena’s south concourse that is well worth the effort to see. It’s on the wall across from the entry to section 15, at the top of the student section. Lindsey Malone created the mural in 2020, bringing some needed color to the CEC’s cinder block walls. Not only is Malone a gifted artist, but she is also an assistant coach on CU’s track and field team. Malone earned her bachelor’s degree in art at Colorado State University, where she was a member of the Rams’ track and field team.

CU Event Center Mural, Photo by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey

The CEC earns another point because of something that every basketball venue should have, but many don’t: scoreboards displaying an in-game box score. The scoreboards in the CEC’s southwest and northeast corners display the name and uniform number of each team’s players, along with each player’s fouls and points. It’s nothing fancy but it enhances the experience for a stat-minded fan and, surprisingly, many arenas don’t provide this.

Another point goes to the “Where Are They Now?” photo display on the west concourse, showing former CU players in their current, NBA uniforms. The Buffs have consistently produced NBA-level players under Boyle and these photos are a nice touch, just to the right of concession stand to the right of the arena’s main entrance.

Finally, a point because the CEC hosted someone whom very few college basketball venues have hosted: the Dalai Lama, himself, twelfth son of the Lama. He brought his robes and grace to the CEC in July 2016, speaking to a sold-out crowd.

Final Thoughts

The CU Events Center is a throwback. It doesn’t have the modern beauty of newer arenas, nor the classic charm of places like Allen Fieldhouse or Cameron Indoor Stadium. But that’s okay. It’s still a great place to watch Pac-12 Conference basketball and enjoy the high caliber of basketball that Boyle’s teams have played since his arrival.

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