Ector County Coliseum – West Texas Warbirds
Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Ector County Coliseum 4201 Andrews Hwy Odessa, TX 79762
Year Opened: 1954
Permian Basin Football
Ector County Coliseum is located in Odessa, Texas, in the heart of the Permian Basin. The Permian Basin is best known for its oil, and as you drive through the region you will see numerous oil derricks in the fields. These oil derricks tie-in to football here, as during indoor football games at Ector County Coliseum, you will see oil derrick imagery all along the walls that surround the field.
Ector County Coliseum opened in 1954 and holds 5,131 fans – the venue is used by indoor football’s West Texas Warbirds of the National Arena League (NAL), as well as by junior hockey’s Odessa Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The arena is built like the Idaho Vandals’ Kibbie Dome, curved on both sides and flat on the ends.
Food & Beverage 4
While not all the concession stands are open during West Texas Warbirds games, there are plenty of options for fans. Being in Texas, both Mexican and barbecue are available, including beef or bean and cheese tacos, beef fajitas, and either chicken, pork, or brisket for BBQ (nachos or sandwiches). You can also find your traditional burgers, hot dogs, Philly cheesesteak, corn dogs, nachos, and mac ‘n cheese, and prices are reasonable / slightly on the high side (tacos start at $5, with burgers and hot dogs starting at $6).
For sides, desserts, and drinks, the variety is even better – fans can find fries, tater tots, chips, pickles, and popcorn, as well as a wide selection of packaged candy, including Laffy Taffy, Sour Patch Kids, and numerous varieties of Skittles, instead of just the one option (red package) that is available at most sports venues.
Drinks include Coke products, including orange soda and Mr. Pibb, as well as coffee and hot chocolate, and a wide selection of beer; Coors Light, Miller Lite, Bud and Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, and several flavors of White Claw. There is even a full-on restaurant as you enter, called The Blue Line Bar & Grill.
The Warbirds do a lot to make the experience fun – along with their mascot, numerous other local mascots are invited to the game, for example, McGruff the Crime Dog, Texas Roadhouse’s Armadillo, and the mascot from a local grocery store. The mascots do fun things all game long, including having a popcorn fight at one point when the other team scored, and challenging kids from a local peewee football team to a game during halftime (the kids won, of course). There are also motorcycles on hand when the team takes the field, and smoke and multi-colored LED lighting during player intros.
The Warbirds do not have a dance team of their own, but they do invite local cheerleading squads, from high school down to kindergarten age, to perform throughout the game, which is a nice nod to the local community. There is also the traditional fan content, like a cornhole competition, and the MC is top-notch – he genuinely thanked the visiting team for coming (“…without visitors, we have no games…”), but then also mocked them mercilessly all game long, for example calling them ‘Goldfish’ instead of using their team name, the Sharks. The PA announcer also plays a special song for each opponent, in this case, ‘Baby Shark’ when the Jacksonville Sharks came to town.
Ector County Coliseum is right on the main drag in Odessa, so there are numerous restaurants within walking distance of the arena, both fast food and regular sit-down restaurants. Local favorites in Texas include Whataburger (try the Dr Pepper milkshake) and Chicken Express, or anything Mexican – my all-time favorite is Mexican Inn. There are also plenty of hotels in the vicinity, and even grocery stores and other shopping.
One great attraction to check out while in town is the Petroleum Museum, which is over in Midland about 20 miles east of Odessa, but well worth the drive. There you can learn about how oil is produced, including some great geology lessons, learn about oil’s effect on the region, and even see an exhibit on how they make race cars go faster – a great place to stop during your trip to Ector County Coliseum.
Very few fans show up for West Texas Warbirds games, which is unfortunate due to the great experience the team provides on gameday. However, the low attendance is most likely due to the team still being in the nascent stage – the Warbirds have only existed for 4 seasons, including this one, and will play more games this season than in all their prior seasons combined, thanks to the Covid pandemic. The Warbirds are also in their fourth league in four seasons, due to various issues, so I expect attendance to improve as the team gets settled in Odessa.
As you may have heard, Texas is big! It will take you 5 hours to drive to Odessa from Dallas or San Antonio, so just getting to the coliseum will be your biggest challenge. Once you get to Odessa, however, traffic is very light, and you can park for free right outside Ector County Coliseum.
Once inside the arena, though, getting around is as easy as pie – there are plenty of bathrooms and short concessions lines, and you can sit pretty much wherever you want, no matter what ticket type you purchased.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets to West Texas Warbirds games are only around $12 including all taxes and fees, which is almost as low as this writer has ever seen for indoor football, and parking is free. Concessions may be a little on the high side depending on your perspective, but since that is the only thing you have to pay for (potentially), a trip to Odessa to see the Warbirds represents a great return on investment – the game experience is guaranteed to be fun, and I had a blast in Odessa itself, visiting the Petroleum Museum and driving around seeing the oil derricks. I would go if you can make it.
One of the sights around town is the jackrabbit statues (or maybe they are jackalopes) in various places which are painted by local artists – similar to what you might see in Huntington, WV (painted locomotives) or DeKalb, IL (painted huskies in support of Northern Illinois); it might be a fun scavenger hunt-type game to find as many as you can. The team also has a great logo, reminiscent of WWII fighter planes.