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  • Writer's pictureSean MacDonald

Mizzou Arena - Missouri Tigers

Photos by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

Mizzou Arena 1 Champions Dr Columbia, MO 65203

Year Opened: 2004 Capacity: 15,061


Don’t Mizz Mizzou

Mizzou Arena opened in November 2004 and has a capacity of 15,061, making it the sixth largest in the SEC. Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie and her husband Bill donated $25 million toward construction and were allowed to name it Paige Sports Arena after their daughter.

This was widely criticized since Paige attended the University of Southern California, but the problem was solved when Paige was involved in a cheating scandal that forced the Lauries to relinquish the naming rights after just three games.

Thankfully, the university has resisted the temptation to sell the naming rights since then, and Mizzou Arena has become an iconic name, if not an iconic destination. Which is unfortunate, because during Stadium Journey’s visit there, we found it to be an excellent venue for college basketball. Read on to find out why.

Food & Beverage 4

After entering through the main doors, you will see three unique concession stands directly in front of you, all offering rather different fare. Chick Chicken Salad has five flavors of chicken salad (for example, Sassy Scotty comes with ranch dressing, bacon, and cheddar cheese) that can be combined with sides such as broccoli salad or fresh fruit and a buttercream cookie for $13.

Dickey’s BBQ Pit provides a Big Barbecue Sandwich for just $8, the same price as four wings; your typical BBQ sides such as baked beans and cole slaw are available for $4. Those with a sweet tooth will appreciate Andy’s Frozen Custard, where half-pint cups start at $6, but you will probably want to splurge an extra two bucks for the Mizzou Tiger Streak, which contains Oreo, Crème Caramel, and Hot Fudge.

More typical concessions can be found along the other concourses, with a bacon cheeseburger basket running $11, the same as a basket of chicken tenders. Small nachos with cheese are only $5, which is what a hot dog costs, so perhaps the former is better value if you are hungry. Snacks include Cracker Jack ($3), chips ($4), peanuts ($5), and popcorn ($7).

There is one concession stand behind the student section where you can order online or at a nearby kiosk and your food would be delivered to a secure locker, thus eliminating the need to wait in line and miss some of the action. Offerings here are similar to elsewhere, though you can get a Nachos Grande or a Walking Taco for $10.

Coca-Cola provides the beverages, with bottled soda going for $6, while Dasani water is a dollar less. Iced tea, Powerade, and Smart Water are all $7, and you can find souvenir sodas for $8. Alcohol is sold here with all beer going for $10; if you prefer craft there is a stand with some local options.

Atmosphere 5

Before you even enter the venue, you must genuflect in front of the statue of Norm Stewart, who coached here from 1967-99. Below the statue is a list of his incredible accomplishments, which include some from baseball, as he was a pitcher on Missouri's 1954 championship team, tossed a no-hitter against Arkansas, and signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

He was also a basketball star and was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks, for whom he played five games in 1956-57. He moved to college coaching in 1961 and amassed 731 victories in his career, with 633 coming at Mizzou. The court is also named in his honor.

Suitably humbled, enter via the main doors just behind the statue and once your ticket is scanned, wander through the Hall of Champions, a collection of trophies and other memorabilia won by past teams. There are several glass cases here so try to get here early to get a look at everything if you are the type that appreciates when history is recognized.

Walk around the single concourse and appreciate how the banners spell MIZZOU down the hallways. The Mizzou name can be found throughout the venue because nobody here actually says Missouri. The Athletics Hall of Fame stretches along one hallway and honors those from all sports.

The arena design is excellent, with corner seats pointing directly at the court. The colors naturally are the black and gold of the school, and it goes very well with the playing surface, which contains the ferocious tiger logo inside an outline of the state of Missouri.

Above the seating bowl are dozens of banners, including several retired numbers, while conference championships are celebrated with gold banners for the men, and black for the women. Looking up, you can see the small windows that let some natural light into the building.

The student section is known as The Zou and they were out in force for the game I attended. A Cheat Sheet is distributed beforehand and gives the students some humorous tidbits about the visiting players. During the game, there are your typical college cheerleader routines and a few promotions.

Neighborhood 3

The arena is on the southern edge of campus and a bit of a drive from any sort of neighborhood. The downtown area is about 2 miles north of the arena and has dozens of local restaurants and bars that provide the typical college town charm, with the streets filled by a black and gold-clad army before and after the game.

Harpo’s – a sprawling brick bar and grill with a second-floor patio – is a favorite of Mizzou fans, and Shakespeare’s Pizza offers some of the best pie in central MO. Meanwhile, Broadway Brewery offers their craft beer. The closest hotel is the Hampton Inn and Suites, just four minutes by car from the arena, while the vast majority of lodging can be found at the intersection of I-70 and US-63.

If you have time, you can drive about 30 minutes southeast to Fulton, where Westminster College is located. This is where Winston Churchill spoke in 1941 and coined the term Iron Curtain; there is an excellent museum dedicated to him that should satisfy any history buff, as well as a segment of the Berlin Wall.

Fans 5

Since the Tigers moved to the SEC, attendance has been a problem, so much so that other schools are mocking them. But for the game I attended, a Big 12/SEC challenge matchup, the place was sold out, with students lining up an hour before gates opened and making noise throughout.

The alumni were all wearing school colors as part of a Stripe Out promotion, with sections alternating between black and gold, and it worked pretty well. It seems like attendance is increasing this year, helped by a team that was ranked early in the season, so I have to give full points here.

Access 4

Getting to the arena takes a few minutes once you are off the I-70. All lots around the stadium are reserved for season ticket holders, known as donors. There is a public parking option at Truman's Landing, which is about a half mile down a hill; free shuttles are available before and after the game. If you do happen to park in a donor lot, expect to wait a few minutes to get out.

Some prefer to park downtown and walk over, thus saving on the postgame hassle. There are several garages in the area, so if you plan to party before or after, this might be a better option.

The concourse is spacious, though at some places, party areas take up space, but I never had any problem wandering about. Your typical halftime lines at concessions and restrooms can be avoided by getting there early or using one of the many media timeouts to do what you need to do.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets for conference matchups start at $30 and go up to $60, but for most games, you will be able to get in for less on the secondary market, except for the Border Showdown against Kansas. Non-conference games should be cheaper as well. With concessions reasonable and parking free, you should get a good bang for your buck for a power conference basketball game.

Extras 5

Outside, there is a plaza listing the school's All-Americans in every sport. Add this to the statue of Norm Stewart, the Hall of Champions, and the Athletics Hall of Fame, and you have an excellent tribute to the school’s storied athletic programs.

It was Star Wars Day, and there were many characters on the concourse wearing costumes that were far better than I had ever seen. A pair of giant Chewbaccas was the rage, while Truman the Tiger took down Darth Vader (wearing an Iowa State logo) before the game. Make sure to learn the lyrics to Mr. Brightside as it is sung by The Zou, with some additional words thrown in regarding Kansas.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this is an impressively designed venue that looks much younger than its 20 years and it was rocking for the game I attended, making it one of the best college basketball experiences that I have enjoyed. Of course, things will be different if you attend a non-conference matchup in mid-November, but still, the history on display combined with the aesthetically pleasing design make this a worthwhile stop if you are traveling between St. Louis and Kansas City during hoops season.

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