Farris Center – Central Arkansas Bears
Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Stapleton
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Farris Center 201 Donaghey Ave. Conway, AR 72035
Year Opened: 1972
The Farris Center is the home of the University of Central Arkansas Bears basketball program. The arena opened in January 1972 and seats 6,000. Nestled in the typical college town of Conway, Arkansas, the Farris Center is a multi-purpose arena that also houses many classrooms.
As with any arena of its age renovations took place in 2010 that included new scoreboards and signage. Two years later a new floor was added to the building. The school’s only NCAA Tournament appearance took place in 2005 at the Division II level. However, its most famous alumni is 6-time NBA champion and Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.
Food & Beverage 2
The Farris Center is a small venue, and as a result the concession selections are sparse to say the least. Sadly, most high school facilities will have better concessions. The selection is extremely limited, and I could only find one concession area the entire time I was there. The few stands the Farris Center does have carry soft drinks (Pepsi products), popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, and candy.
This gym is a very small one, although that is not necessarily a bad thing. The atmosphere in the Farris Center is lively despite its size. While it is not the most fun atmosphere you will find, it is great for families who want an inexpensive college basketball experience.
The PA announcer was a plus in this category, as he did a good job of keeping the crowd engaged in the activity on the court. The classrooms in the hallways around the gym area also add a sort of academic feel to the setting, reminding us something we often forget: That colleges are for more than just sports.
The Central Arkansas campus is very pleasing to the eye. It is obvious that the school, like many others across the country, has made campus beautification a priority. However, there is also very little on campus for non-students to do.
Conway is a traditional college town though, so you will not have to go far to find something to do. It has many of your chain restaurants, but also some nice local places like Mike’s Place and Stromboli’s. Woolly Hollow State Park is nearby for those who enjoy the outdoors, and the Faulkner County Museum for those who would like to learn the history of the area is also worth checking out.
The crowd was bigger than one might expect given the size of the facility and the town. The fans were also very invested in the game, which is always nice to see at smaller venues. The fans were particularly when you consider how many of them were there. The stands were less than half full and the top level of seating was actually blocked off.
While the fans in the stands were invested in the game, many others were in the hallways socializing. It was an interesting, unique aspect of the experience. It sounds like a negative, but it did not feel like one.
Parking can be found pretty close and cheaply. As with many venues, the farther you are willing to walk, the more likely you can find free parking.
The seating is a bit uncomfortable, and I found it difficult to stay in my seat for extended periods without stretching my legs.
The lobby and hallways around the gym were a bit awkward, and it took a little exploring to get from the lobby to the actually seating in the arena. This is not a huge problem though, because it is a very short exploration. The restrooms are extremely old-fashioned, but they were also extremely clean and well-kept.
Return on Investment 5
From what you have already read, you might be thinking that a trip to the Farris Center is not worth your time. However, the return on investment is strong when you consider that a general admission ticket costs just $2.
Courtside tickets were only $8. You will not find any other venue where a family of five can get in for $10. Say what you want about the size of the Farris Center, but its value is one of the best out there.
One extra point goes to the Farris Center for allowing local elementary school students perform at halftime. These students danced their hearts out for everyone, and the crowd was just as enthused for them as they were for the game. It is important for college basketball programs to be involved in the community.
Another extra point is for Scottie Pippen’s jerseys, which hang in the hallways of the Farris Center where he played college ball. The fact that Pippen came out of a place as small as Central Arkansas just proves that greatness can come from anywhere. His Team USA, Chicago Bulls and Central Arkansas Bears jerseys hanging in that hallway add a neat bit of history to this arena experience.