Ferrell Center - Baylor Bears
Photos by Michael Davis, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Ferrell Center 1900 S University Parks Dr Baylor, TX 76706
Year Opened: 1988 Capacity: 10,284
Baylor Bears Basketball’s Ferrell Center
Located in Waco, Texas, Ferrell Center is home to the Baylor Bears basketball and volleyball teams. The first-ever event held in Ferrell Center was a political rally by former President Ronald Reagan on September 22, 1988. The first sporting event here (a Baylor Bears women’s basketball game) took place a couple of months after that, on November 25, followed a few days later by the men’s basketball team versus San Diego State.
Ferrell Center, a building with a golden-domed roof, has a seating capacity of 10,284 for basketball and 6,000 for volleyball. The arena is named in memory of Charles Robert Ferrell, who died in 1967 during his sophomore year at Baylor. The actual basketball court is named after Paul J. Meyer Sr., in recognition of his contributions to Baylor University. The height of the facility is 111 feet, and the dome covers 3 acres. Ferrell Center continues to undergo improvements, keeping the arena updated while providing the best possible facility for students and fans. The university recently upgraded the floor and video boards, but the biggest improvement came in 2006 – the construction of the Lieutenant Jack Whetsel Jr. practice facility; this 42,990 square-foot facility includes practice courts, coaching staff offices, and a VIP receiving area.
Some of the notable events that have taken place at Ferrell Center include NBA exhibition games and training camps, as well as women’s and men’s postseason NIT games. The highest attendance record in Ferrell Center history is currently at 10,627, with the most recent mark being set on January 7, 2017 versus Oklahoma State.
Baylor University announced in May 2019 that a new Baylor Bears basketball pavilion will be built to replace the university’s oldest intercollegiate athletic facility on campus; while it will no longer host basketball, Ferrell Center will undergo a $30 million renovation and become the exclusive home of Baylor’s volleyball and national champion acrobatic and tumbling teams.
Food & Beverage 3
Ferrell Center has plenty of concessions stands inside the arena, which means short food lines and little congestion inside the concourse. The food is comprised of basic sports stadium fare with prices typical of other venues. The smokehouse loaded nachos ($9) are at the top of the list as far as pricing, and give you beef fajita meat, shredded lettuce, sour cream, onions, and jalapenos on top of nacho chips. For basic stadium fare at a cost of $5, you can choose between the arena dog, garlic sausage dog, basic nachos, and cotton candy, while other typical selections such as peanuts, popcorn, pretzels, and assorted candy are sold for $4.
There are a couple of money saving combos at the concession stands, for example the Bear Pack, which gives you a hot dog, kettle chips, and a small fountain drink for $10, or get two of each for $18, leading to a little more savings. Also, in addition to the basic fare there is Frito pie, which is a mixture of Fritos, chili, cheese, onions, and jalapenos. You can also find two types of chicken wraps, either chicken Caesar or blackened chicken; all three of the latter cost $7. Or, there is also a State Fair concessions stand selling foot-long corn dogs, funnel cakes, or sausage on a stick for $6.
Besides the main stands, Ferrell Center also brings in outside vendors such as Pizza Hut and Chick-fil-A. Pizza Hut sells a 9” cheese or pepperoni pizza for $8 a slice, while Chick-fil-A’s prices are higher here than at their regular stores. However, they do offer a chicken basket for $9, which saves you a dollar compared to buying a chicken sandwich and waffle fries separately; you can also add a chocolate chunk cookie for $2. An interesting thing about the concessions here at Ferrell Center is that the calories of all items are shown on the menu boards.
If you are looking for a beverage, the soda selection at Ferrell Center includes Dr Pepper, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sierra Mist, Mug Root Beer, and Mountain Dew; these options come in a small size for $3 or the souvenir 32oz size for $6. Besides soda, you can also find Gatorade, Aquafina bottled water, and coffee priced at $3 each, while fresh-squeezed lemonade and iced tea cost a dollar more. Note that Ferrell Center doesn’t offer any alcohol.
Ferrell Center’s food and beverage options will satisfy any hunger during the event, however, Waco has enough to offer in terms of restaurants that eating before or after the game is more strongly recommended.
The success of Baylor’s basketball program, coupled with playing in a competitive Big 12 Conference, elevates the atmosphere inside Ferrell Center to a wonderful environment that anyone would enjoy. The atmosphere becomes even louder and more serious when nationally ranked opponents, such as Kansas or their hated Big 12 rivals, the TCU Horned Frogs or Texas Longhorns, invade Waco.
The students sit along the baseline in an area nicknamed the “Bear Pit,” which continues all the way back to the upper level; this section is next to the Baylor band. The band, spirit squads, and mascot Bruiser keep the energetic crowd entertained throughout the game. In addition, during timeouts there are fan contests as well as the typical spirit squad entertainment. The video boards above the court and in the upper corners allow for replays to be shown, as well as other graphics that enhance the experience inside the arena. Overall, it is a wonderful college basketball atmosphere.
Ferrell Center is located on the Baylor University campus in Waco, Texas, at the corner of University Parks Drive and LaSalle Avenue, next to Baylor Ballpark and the softball facility, Getterman Stadium. Being on the northeast corner of campus, about 1 ½ miles from I-35 and the City of Waco, there isn’t much here but the sports facilities. However, Waco has numerous restaurants and lodging opportunities you can take advantage of while attending a Baylor event.
There are several places in Waco that offer Texas BBQ; Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ is a chain throughout Texas and can be found just off I-35 at the Circle Road exit. Rudy’s serves brisket, ribs, and sides in a cafeteria-style setting with indoor picnic tables. Another good option is Coach’s Smoke, located just west of the Baylor campus, in downtown Waco on Austin Avenue. Coach’s Smoke serves excellent BBQ, burgers, and a good selection of draft beer. If you want the best, however, my suggestion is Vitek’s BBQ – this local landmark is on the south side of Baylor’s campus on Speight Avenue.
Vitek’s is the home of the Gut Pack, which includes brisket, sausage, Frito chips, and beans. If you decide on this dish you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day, as it is heavy and filling, but delicious. You should plan on being there early, however; Vitek’s serves outside as well as inside, but the wait can be long no matter which one you choose.
If you are looking for something besides BBQ, the Tex-Mex scene in Waco is just as popular. Trujillo’s is a great Tex-Mex option, located at the traffic circle on LaSalle Avenue. Trujillo’s is a family-owned restaurant that will surely give you the authentic taste of Mexico. However, if Trujillo’s is crowded, or the game is on a Sunday, then try Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant on South 3rd Street in downtown Waco.
George’s Restaurant is also a popular place to meet before, during, or after the game. This restaurant has been serving Waco since 1930, and the crowds are large, so make sure you get there early. Another popular Waco landmark since 1948 is Health Camp on Circle Road; this restaurant is a classic roadside pit stop from the past, serving burgers, hot dogs, and a large selection of shakes, malts, and frozen custard. Although many of these restaurants aren’t exactly close to the arena, they are close enough to enjoy before or after the game.
There are plenty of attractions and things to do while in Waco, such as visiting the Dr Pepper Museum. Waco is the home of this popular Texas soft drink, and inside the museum you can see how the soft drink is made, learn the history behind it, and get free Dr Pepper to drink. Or, the latest trending attraction in Waco is Baylor’s very own Chip and Joanna Gaines Magnolia sites, from their Silos Baking Company to their Magnolia Café. Waco’s other attractions include Cameron Park Zoo, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame, all of which are worth a visit. If none of these seem interesting, however, then take a stroll through the beautiful Baylor campus, where you can visit the Bear Habitat, home to Joy and Lady, Baylor’s two live black bear mascots, and learn more about these creatures.
Along with numerous choices of restaurants and attractions, lodging in Waco is plentiful. Most of the hotels are located along I-35, where you’ll have choices such as Courtyard by Marriott, Comfort Suites, La Quinta, Holiday Inn, Homewood Suites, Hilton, and Hotel Indigo.
No matter the sport, Baylor Nation has a great following across the board. They are energetic, fun, polite, respectful, knowledgeable, and supportive of all Baylor athletics. While attending a basketball game at Ferrell Center, you’ll see lots of Baylor green and gold being worn, hear loud cheers for anything the Baylor team does, and of course, hear jeering at the referees when calls are incorrectly officiated.
Ferrell Center is located on the far northeastern corner of campus, away from I-35 and the normal Waco traffic. There is free parking for Ferrell Center events near the arena, and the flow of traffic seems to move well before as well as after the event.
There are two main entrances into Ferrell Center on the parking lot side, and getting into the arena is easy and fast. Baylor University enforces a clear bag policy at all sport venues including Ferrell Center. As you enter through the main doors, you’ll walk into a spacious circular concourse. The seating areas, restrooms, and concessions are well marked throughout the concourse, and you’ll also see banners supporting both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. As you walk around the venue, Ferrell Center’s unique domed roof and banners hanging from the rafters will grab your attention. The seating consists of green plastic chair backs, but there is plenty of room, and there isn’t a bad view of the court anywhere in the arena.
Return on Investment 4
Ferrell Center has free parking, terrific seating, and a wonderful atmosphere to watch a high level of college basketball. There are two levels of seating prices; reserved and general admission. Baylor’s reserved ticket have been sold out for the season thru the Baylor Ticket Office. However, there are plenty of general admission tickets available ranging from $15 (non-conference games) and $20 (Big 12 games) to $45. The Kansas tickets lead to the highest price for a single game ticket, but the third-party market is a good place to check even you want a cheaper GA or reserved seat at Baylor basketball games.
The Baylor Bears men’s basketball program continues to be one of the tops in the country. The reasonable price to watch top caliber college basketball, to have an entertaining and fun filled evening, along with free parking, makes it well worth the investment to visit Ferrell Center.
Ferrell Center is a well-maintained venue that is over a quarter of a century old, yet continues to provide a friendly environment during Baylor Bears athletic events. The Bear Pit student section and Baylor band bring excitement on the baselines, which provides a homecourt advantage that contributes to Baylor’s recent success.
When thinking about Ferrell Center, it is easy to think of the men’s basketball team, however, the women’s program has also been dominant over the last decade. The Lady Bears Final Four appearances, conference championships, and three national championships are celebrated throughout Ferrell Center.
The basketball program under Coach Scott Drew has found success in the last decade. The Baylor Bears men’s team has made the NCAA tournament in seven of the last nine years. Also, in 2013 when the Bears didn’t make the tournament, the team won the NIT, and on January 20, 2020, the Baylor Bears earned their second-ever number one ranking in the AP poll, putting the program in position, not only to return to the NCAA tournament, but possibly to earn a spot in the Final Four.
Baylor basketball will be getting a new arena soon, however, until then the program continues to develop future NBA players, which makes Ferrell Center a great place to visit for any sports fan.