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  • Andy Mantsch

Robert A. Mott Gymnasium – Cal Poly Mustangs

Photo Courtesy of Cal Poly Athletics

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Robert A. Mott Gymnasium One Grand Ave San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

Year Opened: 1960

Capacity: 3,032


The Asylum

Located smack in the middle of California’s Central Coast region, California Polytechnic State University is a remotely located member of the public California State University system. Far from the bustle of Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cal Poly is surrounded by an oasis of wineries, beaches and mountain charm. The centerpiece of San Luis Obispo, the university is home to over 20,000 students in a town of just over 45,000 residents. San Luis Obispo County however makes up a large coastal county north of Santa Barbara with a population of over 250,000, giving the Mustangs a large local fan base to draw from.

Robert Mott Gymnasium (aka Mott Athletic Center), the home of Mustangs basketball, is a portrait of well-maintained longevity. Opened in 1960, the facility manages to look brand new while simultaneously harkening back to an era of low bluegrass basketball played in a quaint fieldhouse. Seating just 3,032, it’s easy to question the need for a larger and more modern arena. But if you asked the Cal Poly faithful, it would no longer be The Asylum.

Food & Beverage 2

At first, it’s hard to even tell if food is an option at Mott Gym. The one concession stand (two tables pushed together) is tucked away in one corner of the gym practically underneath the end court bleachers. Operated by two friendly college students, the concessions include tri-tip, Johnsonville brats, hot dogs, nachos (with plenty of toppings), kettle corn and beef sticks. Fortunately, the brand quality is considerably better than the high school concessions stand setup. Aside from the $7 tri-tip, everything is available for under $5. Beverages peak at a $4 Jamba Juice and include coffee, cocoa, Monster energy drinks and a variety of sodas.

Atmosphere 3

Nicknamed “The Asylum,” the arena really is a surprisingly raucous atmosphere. What Mott Athletic Center lacks in size, it compensates for with noise. The Mustang fans normally pack the house and get behind their team in green. The seats are packed around the court on all sides with an excellent acoustic setting to deliver maximum noise. The energy is really only limited by the size of the gym. Any small school debate on whether it’s better to have a massive half full stadium or a tiny gym bursting at the seams with fans is encapsulated in Mott Athletic Center.

On one end of the court is a small bleacher section mostly packed with a very engaged pep band. Although not large, this group of energetic students play their instruments loud and do their best to impact the game. In front of the band section the cheerleaders also engage heavily with the small, but mighty arena. Overall, the energy in the building is palpable for a Mustangs game. There’s also plenty of activity during each time out with t-shirts flying and typical basketball promotions rolling.

Take the butts out of the seats though, and this is just a really nice high school gym that happens to host a Division I college team. Seats are broken into four sections that require walking along the sidelines to go between. Practice hoops hang from the four corners of the court and it would appear all of the bleacher seating retracts into the wall. New video boards have been installed at either end of the court giving a modern feel to the arena and the green and white paint is crisp and looks new.

One of the cooler features is a long hall behind the media booth side of the court that acts as the Cal Poly Hall of Fame. This hall consists of glass casing extending from one end of the building to the other. While most of the names here will likely be unrecognizable, you’ll definitely recognize the faces of Ozzie Smith, John Madden, and Chuck Liddell.

Neighborhood 4

San Luis Obispo and the surrounding area is one of California’s hidden treasures. It’s likely not on your list of must see cities in the Golden State, but I guarantee the area won’t disappoint. Just up the road from some of the Central Coast’s most popular beaches and surrounded by wineries, rolling hills, breweries and excellent restaurants, the area promises relaxation and comfort.

Closer to the arena in downtown San Luis Obispo, you’ll find a gem of a downtown chock full of wonderful pre-game options. If a drink or two before tipoff suits your fancy, there is a myriad of choices nearby. Central Coast Brewery, SLO Brewing Company, The Library, Black Sheep, and Mother’s Tavern are just a few of the choices waiting for you less than five minutes from campus.

For food, High Street Market & Deli, Ciopinot, Novo, Big Sky Cafe and much, much more offer delicious options in the immediate area. I would strongly recommend parking downtown and just strolling the beautiful streets to step inside the most tempting locations.

Fans 4

Maybe they get credit for the lower capacity of the Mott Athletic Center, but the fans pack the place. I appeared at a game once only to find that no tickets were available. For this reason I’d definitely recommend buying tickets in advance. Outside the arena, a tent is setup and passionate fans congregate in what appears to be a more formal than usual tailgate setting. And it’s not just numbers that make the fans formidable. Once inside the gym the Mustang faithful are passionate, knowledgeable, and loud. Perhaps the recent successful trip to the NCAA tournament in 2014 has boosted their following, but it’s hard not to question if the Mustang’s following has outgrown the venue.

Access 3

On a wide scale, San Luis Obispo isn’t particularly close to anywhere. While that makes it a hidden gem of a small town in the central coast, it also means it’s not easy to get to. Driving from any direction will require winding roads up the coast or through the mountains. Beautiful drives for sure, but not an easy day trip from most locations.

Once in the area however, it’s incredibly easy to get to the campus and gym. The university is located just off of US 1 and US 101. Parking is a straight shot into a large garage or a large lot if you’re willing to walk a bit further. The Mott is located a bit off the road on campus, so anything other than the garage will be a short walk along a sunken sidewalk.

Once inside the gymnasium, it’s small enough that you can easily access any seating. Keep in mind, it will likely be crowded and the bleachers have some long sections where you may have to climb over other spectators to get to your seats. Because of the high school gym layout, you’ll have to pay attention to game action as you walk the sidelines. To cross the baselines in particular, make sure play is safely on the other end of the court.

Return on Investment 3

Ticket prices are very reasonable, in the $10-$20 range. Parking is $6 for bigger games, but apparently free for others. Food may not be spectacular, but it’s definitely cheap. Overall this is a relatively inexpensive outing for such a raucous atmosphere. Just be sure to buy your ticket in advance.

Extras 2

There aren’t a ton of extras to speak of, but a couple of cool features come to mind. It doesn’t seem like an extra, but a packed gym at such a small size is unique for modern D-I basketball. So many teams nowadays are playing in cavernous arenas that aren’t even half full. In addition, the Hall of Fame is a very cool touch and adds a hint of history to a program and school you wouldn’t normally associate with tradition.

Final Thoughts

While not the biggest, baddest or most impressive of venues, Cal Poly basketball at the Mott Athletic Center brings with it an experience all its own. Add in the beauty of the surrounding area, and it’s more than worth a trip into town in your best green and gold attire to cheer on the Mustangs.


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