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  • Writer's pictureMatt Colville

UWF Field House – West Florida Argonauts



Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71

UWF Field House 2344 Campus Dr Pensacola, FL 32514



Year Opened: 1971

Capacity: 1,180

 

Basketball in the City of Five Flags

Nestled amongst the Florida wetlands of north Pensacola lies the beautiful campus of the University of West Florida. The medium-sized, public university a little shy of 13,000 students is fairly new. Ground was broken in 1965, and in 1968 58 students received degrees during the first commencement ceremony.


The team’s nickname, the Argonauts, reflects Pensacola’s Naval history, as the city is home to one of the largest naval bases in the country. The school’s first basketball team started in 1967 and originally was an NAIA independent. Because the Argos did not have an on-campus arena to play in at that time, they played their first four seasons on the road and in various high school gyms in the Pensacola area, before moving into their on-campus home, UWF Field House, in 1971.


The Argos had some success during their early years, even reaching the NAIA national championship game during the 1975-76 season, but when the team arrived back in Pensacola after that game, they learned that UWF was suspending their athletic department and downgrading their sports to the club and intramural levels. UWF would reinstate the athletic department in 1980, but it wouldn’t be until the 1993-94 season that basketball would return full-time. The following year the Argos would make the transition to NCAA Division II, and begin playing in the Gulf South Conference, where they remain to this day.


Since joining the NCAA the Argos have made 13 GSC conference tournaments, with their most successful season being the 2017-18 season, when the Argos won the tournament and subsequently made their first D2 NCAA tournament, with a regular season record of 28-4.

 

Food & Beverage   2

As soon as you walk into the UWF Field House there is one concession stand located in the east side lobby. They sell the basics here you would find at other arenas; nothing stands out on the menu, but the prices are fairly cheap and the food is quite good.

 

Atmosphere   3

UWF Field House originally opened in 1971 and currently has a capacity of 1,180 seats. The building is a one-story brick structure with a white metal exterior roof – the older style building, reminiscent of most buildings built in the 70s, ties in well with the surrounding architecture, so if you didn’t know where you were going you would think the field house was just another building on campus.


The grounds around the facility are quite pretty, and it has a well-lit walkway lined with palm trees that provide an impressive backdrop for the building. UWF Field House is located amongst a sports complex that includes tennis courts, a health & leisure center, and football facilities, and a practice field. Attached to the field house is the state-of-the-art, beautiful UWF Aquatic Center, home to UWF’s swimming and dive team.


The court at UWF Field House faces north and south, with the main entrance on the east side of the building. The east side entrance features a large lobby with ticket offices, a concessions stand, trophy cases, and an interactive display showing off the UWF Athletics Hall of Fame.


There’s also an entrance to the Argo Club located here as well, which is a lounge area with food and drinks for alumni and members of the club. UWF Field House also houses the athletic department, coaches’ offices, several classrooms, weight rooms, a training room, and another full-sized basketball court used for practice.



When basketball returned to UWF in 1993 the field house installed seating on both the east and west sides, bringing the capacity to 4,500 bleacher-style seats. This number proved to be kind of large for a school of this level, so in 2001 the west side seating was removed, and cushioned chairback seats were installed on the east side, reducing the capacity to about 1,100 seats; at present there is just seating on the east side with a curtain draped over the west side blocking the view of the court.


Renovations over the years include new scoreboards being installed in 1997, a new sound system in 2000, and new floors in 2009. Both ends of the court are lined with banners from all the Argos accomplishments, and there is an impressive LED ribbon board on the scorer’s table on the west side, which is lit up with sponsor names and various graphics during the game. This is quite cool, and something you don’t see a lot of at D2 basketball games.

 

Neighborhood   3

UWF’s campus is located in kind of a secluded area in the northern part of the city – the campus was built on wetlands in former Indian territory but is now part of a nature preserve, and is located on a bluff above the Escambia River.  Nature lovers will love the campus, as it has several nature trails and boardwalks where you can walk back into the woods and through the swamps.


The school also has an area where you can rent kayaks and go out on the river and view the Florida wildlife – everything from cranes, pelicans, osprey, alligators, and even manatees can be found on the Escambia River and in the swamps on campus. You can also take a trip across the river to the small town of Milton; this picturesque town lines the Blackwater River, where many people can be found kayaking, canoeing, and swimming along the sand bars during the summer. Milton has been nicknamed the ‘canoe capital’ of Florida.



Besides spending time on the water there is not much else to do in the area, but just south of campus is 9 Mile Road where there are a few restaurants, including Chick-fil-A as well as a Target store. Another restaurant in the area worth checking out is Foosackly’s, right across the street from campus, which is known for its cheap prices and fried chicken.


There are hotels closer to the interstate, and you are about 15 miles north of the nightlife of Seville Quarter and Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola. Pensacola Beach is about 20 miles south of campus as well, so it is possible to go to the beach before the game. A visit to the National Naval Aviation Museum, located at Pensacola Naval Station, is also a must-visit if in the area for more than a day – this is probably Pensacola's most popular attraction.

 

Fans   2

The Argos only average about 300-400 fans per game, which is pretty normal for D2 basketball. Many of the fans are scattered around the stands, and I didn’t see a whole lot of students at the most recent game I was at. For UWF football games the student support and turnout is a little better than at the basketball games, which is unfortunate because the Argos athletic department does a fantastic job in presenting the game day experience.


During basketball games, Argie the mascot does a great job of getting fans into the game, and the staff also does some promotional contests during timeouts, so it’s a shame more students don’t come out. The athletic department also does various promotional nights such as an outside tailgate, Faith & Family Day, Christmas in the Field House, Boy Scout Day, and the Mardi Gras Game; they also have giveaways such as UWF player cards and t-shirts given out at select games.


UWF’s alumni base is largely from the panhandle area of Florida, so it seems like the majority of fans are alums. The fans here seem very into the game, and there is a lot of blue (the school’s color) being worn in the stands.

 

Access   2

One drawback in getting to UWF’s campus is the location itself, as well as Pensacola’s horrendous traffic. The campus is located in the northern part of the city, far away from the beach and downtown, so if coming from the east and west I-10 will be your best bet – just take the Davis Highway exit and follow the signs until you reach the University Parkway split, and you can take that road right into campus.


Or, if coming from the beach or downtown you can take I-110 to Davis Highway and follow that. Alternatively you can take the beautiful Scenic Highway, a winding road that travels north and south and has spectacular views of Escambia Bay. All along this highway, you can pull off into the different areas and look out over the water; this highway is noted for its lavish mansions as well.


The arena is located at the front of campus, so just take University Parkway toward the school, and UWF Field House will be the first thing you see.

 

Return on Investment   3

All general admission tickets are $7 and allow you to sit wherever you like. On most nights the women’s team plays before the men’s team, so the men’s tipoff never starts as scheduled. Because of this the ticket office often closes early, so you might be able to come to the game for free depending on how long the women’s game lasts.


Tickets for a night out watching the Argos play basketball will not break the bank, and the level of talent is quite good for D2 basketball. Factor this in with the cheap concession prices, and I consider this a good return on investment.


 

Extras   4

Pensacola is a supportive sports town, with Blue Wahoos minor league baseball in the spring and summer, and Ice Flyers hockey in the fall and winter, so no matter when you come to Pensacola there should be plenty of sporting options for you to see. Because there is not a big-time college in the area, the closest being Florida State three hours away, the Argos are Pensacola’s college team. Everywhere you look in town you’ll see UWF signs and banners, and you’ll see people out and about wearing UWF gear.


Pensacolians treat UWF as their big-time college program – the local ESPN radio station has UWF coach’s shows and call-ins throughout the week, and they show highlights of UWF sports on the nightly news. Most D2 programs do not get this kind of press and access, but in Pensacola, they treat UWF as their own D1 program; for such a small town UWF gets constant press and coverage, more so than a regular D2 program.


The UWF athletic program has captured nine national championships in 15 sports, even though neither the men’s nor women’s basketball programs have won a championship yet. Perhaps the most famous and well-known sports program at UWF is the football team; the Argos 2019 Division II national championship banner hangs high above the court at UWF Field House for all to see.


UWF has had one player make it to the NBA – journeyman point guard Moochie Norris played for the Argos during their 1995-96 season and was drafted as the 33rd overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft. Most famous for his enormous afro, Norris played eight seasons for the Rockets, Knicks, and Pelicans.


UWF Field House has also been used as a concert venue and has hosted university-related events. Some of the notable concerts here over the years include Bob Dylan, Charlie Daniels Band, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffett, and BB King. Pensacola native and World Heavyweight Champion boxer Roy Jones Jr. also fought here a few times in the early 90s back when he was a promising young fighter.

 

Final Thoughts

Coming to a game at UWF Field House remains a great experience for this level of basketball. You will not experience a lot of bells and whistles, but a game here involves visiting a beautiful campus in a wonderful city, and I highly recommend it.

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