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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Watsco Arena – Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Watsco Center 1245 Dauer Drive Coral Gables, FL 33146

Year Opened: 2003

Capacity: 7,972


These 'Canes Are Able

The University of Miami (more popularly known as simply “the U”) was founded in 1925. It currently has a student body of nearly 20,000 students on its Coral Gables campus. The “U” is a private research university, and is known for its work in the fields of medicine, international business, and marine biology.

The University of Miami first fielded a basketball program in 1926. The program has run continuously since then, with the exceptions of the 1971-72 and 1984-85 seasons. In 1991 the program joined the Big East Conference, then moved on to the ACC in 2004. In the 2012-2013 and 2022-2023 seasons, the Hurricanes won both the ACC regular season title and the ACC Tournament title. The “U” is no Johnny come lately as far as success on the basketball court. It has been to March Madness twelve times and the NIT twelve times. The Hurricanes have made the Sweet 16 five times (as of 2023), the Elite 8 twice and the Final Four once. In 2023 they lost to eventual national champion UConn in the finals.

The on-campus Watsco Center is home for both the men’s and women’s basketball programs. It opened in 2003 and has a seating capacity of 7,972 in its basketball configuration.

Food & Beverage 3

There are eight concession stands along the concourse as it encircles the court. Each stand includes at least one specialty item, plus the typical arena standards. The Chicken Stands have crispy chicken sandwiches ($13), grilled chicken sandwiches ($13), and chicken nachos ($12). The Burger Stands offer hamburgers w/fries ($13), cheeseburgers w/fries ($14), veggie burgers w/fries ($11), specialty burgers w/fries ($15), and hot dogs w/fries ($6.50). The Pizza Stand has cheese pizzas ($11), pepperoni pizzas ($12), and meat lover’s pizzas ($14).

Dessert items include cotton candy ($6), candy bars ($5), Dippin' Dots ($9), popcorn ($6.75), nachos ($7), pretzels ($6), and Icees ($7).

All stands feature Coca-Cola brand sodas ($5.25) and water ($4.25). Premium beers are $12, while domestic brands are $10. Hard seltzers are $9 and wine is $11.

Atmosphere 4

The exterior of the Watsco Center is relatively plain, with the exception of the palm trees that front it. However once inside you’ll be greeted by the vibrant green and orange colors of the Miami Hurricanes. There are a number of displays featuring highlights of past Hurricane teams, as well as information on upcoming events at the “U”.

Once inside the seating area, you’ll notice how close the seats are to the action. A majority of the seating bowl is lower than the concourse, putting you closer to the court. There is a much smaller set of seats above the concourse. Seats surround the court on all four sides, with the pep band, cheerleaders, and student section filling the seats behind the baskets.

The court graphics feature the green and orange Hurricanes color scheme, with a huge “U” at midcourt. A four-sided center-hung videoboard constantly provides game stats and highlights from the action on the floor.

There are a large number of banners hanging from the rafters. They include banners representing each ACC member institution, the retired numbers of Hurricane elites, and the various championships that athletic teams have brought back to the “U”.

Banners Hang from Watsco Center Ceiling, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Neighborhood 5

The Watsco Center is in Coral Gables, FL, which is located just five miles south of Downtown Miami. The city is known for its preservation efforts, resulting in lots of Mediterranean-style architecture, beautiful fountains and tree-lined streets. Coral Gables is also known for the Miracle Mile, a district filled with great restaurants and shopping.

Restaurants and nightlife near the Watsco Center include the Shake Shack and the Titanic Brewery and Restaurant. Lodging near the arena includes the Miami Marriott Dadeland and the Courtyard Marriott Dadeland. Two tourist attractions in the area are the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the Coral Gables Museum.

Fans 4

The Hurricane fanbase has really become energized by the 2023 trip to the Final Four. The ACC portions of the schedule are typically sold out before the season gets underway. The basketball program is extremely popular with the students, compared with the football program, whose home games are more than 30 miles from the campus. The student section fills up well before the game gets underway, allowing the students to good-naturedly taunt the visitors during warm-ups. The student body is strategically located behind the baskets, where they can do the most to confuse the players at the free-throw lines.

Like many fanbases, Hurricane fans do not sit down until the home team scores its first basket.

The Hurricanes cheer squad and the Miami pep band do a terrific job in keeping the energy level high throughout the game.

Access 4

Despite being located in the largest city in South Florida, the Watsco Center is easily accessed via some of the main thoroughfares in the area.

The Watsco Center can be reached via either I-95 coming south, or via US 1 coming north.

An economical way to reach the Watsco Center is via the METRORAIL light rail system. Take the rail system to the University Station, which is located across the street from the arena. The fare is $2.25 each way.

While on-campus parking is pretty much limited to season ticket holders and boosters, there is plenty of parking located along Ponce de Leon Avenue.

The concourses and lobby are large and easy to navigate. The concession stands tend to get backed up at halftime.

Return on Investment 3

After the run to the Final Four in 2023, a ticket to a Hurricanes basketball game is now the hottest ticket in town. Unfortunately, the Watsco Center is one of the smaller venues in the ACC. To allow the widest number of people to attend games during the season, the “U” offers a five-game ticket package in addition to its season ticket package.

The five-game ticket package identifies games against FSU, UNC and Duke as marquee games. The ticket package pairs one marquee game with four games against lesser opponents. The fans get to choose which games they want to pair with the marquee game. Marquee games cost $65, and each of the four less in-demand games are $15.

Tickets can also be purchased for individual games, as long as they are not marquee games. Midcourt tickets nearest the floor are $45, lower sidelines are $35, upper sidelines are $30, tickets in the corners are $20 and baseline tickets are $15.

The nearest on-campus parking lots to the Watsco Center are reserved for season ticket holders and boosters. There are several large pay lots along Ponce de Leon Boulevard that charge $11 for parking on game nights. The METRORAIL light rail system stops right in front of the campus and only costs $2.25 each way.

Concession prices are priced at movie theatre prices.

Extras 3

In addition to Hurricanes basketball, the Watsco Center has hosted concerts by Coldplay, John Mayer, Drake, and Green Day. Other events held at the venue include the Billboard Latin Music Awards, The X Factor, All Elite Wrestling, and presidential debates in 2004 and 2016.

Win or lose, the Hurricanes team and fans stand and sing the alma mater at the end of the games.

Sebastian the Ibis is one of the top mascots in NCAA sports. He roams the stands throughout the game and is happy to pose for photos.

Sebastian the Ibis Mascot, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Final Thoughts

The Hurricane warnings are out… University of Miami basketball games have become the hottest ticket in a very competitive sports market. The Watsco Center figures to be filled to capacity for the foreseeable future.

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