Photos by Michael Davis, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Foster Pavilion 650 S University Parks Dr Baylor, TX 76701
Year Opened: 2024 Capacity: 7,500
New Year brings New Venue for Baylor Basketball
The 2023-24 basketball season for the Baylor University programs is historic, and a footprint to the future of Baylor basketball. The teams said good-bye to the Ferrell Center, the programs’ home for the last 35 years, on December 22, 2023. Two weeks later, on January 2, 2024, the program opened their new home, Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion, with a win versus Cornell.
Foster Pavilion is a 223,547-square foot facility that has a seating of 7,000 with a standing room only area for another 500, bringing the venue’s capacity to 7,500. Foster Pavilion will be the first part of a multi-use development along the Brazos River in downtown Waco. The basketball arena cost $212.6 million and was designed by AECOM, and built by Austin Commercial, who also built Baylor’s McLane Stadium located across the interstate.
Food & Beverage 3
Foster Pavilion has an impressive food selection for their premium seating, but for the rest of the fans the food and drinks options are basic. This isn’t a bad thing, as college basketball fans spend less time in the arena compared to other sports. The basic food menu is perfect for a basketball game timeframe, and can be found at the Bear Fuel concessions located in the middle of the concourse on both sides of the arena.
The food items available are double and single cheeseburgers, chicken tenders with a combo of French fries, sausage wraps, and snacks like popcorn, pretzels, nachos, peanuts, chips, and candy. In addition, Foster Pavilion has stands from outside vendor Chick-fil-A, chicken sandwiches and their well-known waffle potato fries, while Pizza Hut covers the fans craving pizza at the Bear Bistro concession.
In terms of drinks, Foster Pavilion offers fans a choice of Pepsi and of course Dr Pepper products, as Waco is the birthplace of Dr Pepper. Upgrading to the souvenir soda is the way to go if you plan to have more than one soda, as the few dollars more becomes unlimited refills. The other drink choices are Gatorade and water; I did not see any alcohol options for the general seating area.
The concession stands are in perfect locations, cashless, and top-of-the-line with technology, keeping the time needed to get food and drinks down to a minimum, which helps fans spend more time watching the game.
Foster Pavilion was built on the concept of bringing fans closer to the court and giving Baylor a true-home court advantage – the first few games in the new building have done just that. The intimacy of Foster Pavilion has all the seats right on top of the court, providing a great view no matter where your seat is located. The 2 large videoboards above the upper baseline of the pavilion have advanced technology, as do the mid-level banner scoreboards, which offer everything a fan needs to assist in watching the game with the score, time, fouls, and video replays.
The college basketball experience is largely relied on by the college students; Baylor has a great student section known as the Bear Den, located along the court behind the team benches and at the baseline end by the visiting team bench. This set up puts the Baylor students around the visiting team, with the Baylor band just on the far side – the band even keeps a tracker of how many foul shots the visiting team has missed since the pavilion opened. The Baylor spirit squad and the Bears mascots, Bruiser and Marigold, keep the crowd entertained during the game.
The best way for me to describe the atmosphere in Foster Pavilion is a comment; an employee of the pavilion asked me when I arrived, “Do you have ear plugs?”.
Foster Pavilion is along the Brazos River on the west side of Interstate 35, across from Baylor University’s campus in Waco, Texas. The arena is nestled in the corner of I-35, off the frontage road and South University Parks Drive behind the Clifton Robinson Tower, with a future stop along the Waco Riverwalk that will offer walking access to the Baylor University campus and downtown Waco.
There are plenty of fast-food places within walking distance of the Pavilion. However, if you want more of a gathering place, Buzzard Billy’s Restaurant along the Brazos River is the closest restaurant to Foster Pavilion. However, Waco has numerous other restaurants to enjoy while attending a Baylor sporting event – one of the more popular is Vitek’s BBQ, which is on the south side of Baylor’s campus. Vitek’s BBQ is home of the Gut Pack, which includes brisket, sausage, Fritos, 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 arriving early, however – Vitek’s does serve outside as well as inside, but the wait can be long no matter which one you choose.
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 here are large, so be prepared to get there early. Or if you are a person looking for Tex-Mex, then Trujillo’s Comedor Y Cantina is my suggestion – Trujillo’s is located a few miles down the interstate on S. Valley Drive, at the circle just past Magnolia Table.
Waco has so many wonderful restaurants that you’ll easily be able to find something that suits you. But if you want to do something in the neighborhood besides restaurants there is the Dr Pepper Museum, which is open on Saturdays. You’ll get to see how the popular Texas soft drink is produced, walk through its history, and even get your own Dr Pepper drink. Waco has also been popularized by Chip and Joanna Gaines thru their TV show – you can visit their Magnolia Market or stop at their restaurant. Or if you want to stay closer to the arena, on campus you can visit the Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat, a habitat that is dedicated to black bears.
Baylor has a wonderful fan base, and Foster Pavilion will only enhance the fan support of Baylor basketball. The fans that attend games are energetic, fun, polite, respectful, and knowledgeable. Also, Baylor University being the centerpiece of Waco, the city is decked out in green and gold, with the local shops decorated to show support for the Bears. Foster Pavilion and the Baylor fans create a unique atmosphere and contribute to the pavilion being a tough place for any opponent visiting Waco.
Foster Pavilion is located in Waco, Texas – Waco is located between the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and the Texas state capital city of Austin. Waco does have a Regional Airport about 15-20 minutes away, but it will probably be cheaper and have more flight options if you fly into DFW or the Austin airport and drive the 90 miles.
Once in Waco, Foster Pavilion is easy to locate as the pavilion is just off Interstate 35. There are about 1,600 public parking spaces within walking distance of Foster Pavilion; the private parking for Bears Foundation members is on site at Robinson Tower, and there are also shuttles from the McLane Stadium parking lots. In addition there is parking around the neighborhood, with the rate around $15. Basketball fans are encouraged to utilize the free parking in Waco’s downtown parking lots, while for ride-share services the designated drop-off location is on Second Street between Jackson and Clay Avenues. There are also ADA-accessible shuttles at Heritage Square, at the 300 block of Austin Ave. For a better understanding of the parking situation, please plan ahead using Baylor’s website.
Foster Pavilion has 3 entrances, however, most people will use the main entrance, as the others are only for students and those with premium seating.
Once inside the pavilion there is plenty of room throughout the main concourse to get to your seat; the only issue to be aware of is the baseline seating – due to its closeness and the way it was designed, the baselines seating has a steep angle, so it may be harder for people with seats in that area to access.
Return on Investment 4
Foster Pavilion is one of the smallest basketball arenas in the Big 12; just a few hundred seats more than the Fertitta Center in Houston. The return-on-investment score is a little difficult for me at this point, due to Baylor basketball tickets only being available through the resale market, such as SeatGeek. Those prices are close to $100 plus fees per ticket – instead you can try buying one of the standing room only tickets (500 sold per game) through Baylor University itself at $40 each. I don’t suggest the SRO area unless you happen to live near Waco and just want to see a game; this area is great if you are the first on the baselines, but the sideline area for these tickets makes it hard to see the game. However, if the cost of tickets is in your budget, then the ROI is well-worth seeing a game in state-of-the-art Foster Pavilion.
Foster Pavilion is a top-level basketball arena that can make any basketball fan want to return every game. The architecture allows outside light into the arena and brings back an old basketball feel, with the most updated technology available to date. Baylor connects its past history with murals around the concourse displaying Baylor success in both the men’s and women’s program, including their National Championship and Final Four banners in the rafters. The most important, however, is the continuing memory of Baylor’s Immortal 10 – the story, for those that are unfamiliar, is that in 1926 the Baylor basketball team was headed to Austin to play Texas. Heavy rain obscured the bus driver’s vision of an oncoming train, causing the bus and train to collide, killing 10 of the 21 student-athletes, coaches, and fans on the bus. For one game every year, the Baylor players wear these individuals’ names on the back of their jerseys, and the Baylor students wear t-shirts with the names as well.
The Baylor basketball program, fans, and the City of Waco have a gem in Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion. The pavilion will no doubt become a special basketball destination for fans, and in time it could be one of the top basketball arenas in the country. Although construction is still ongoing and the full vision has yet to be achieved, the details already inside (and the landscape outside) make Foster Pavilion already a venue that any basketball fan will truly enjoy.