- Chris Green
Watsco Arena – Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Watsco Center 1245 Dauer Drive Coral Gables, FL 33146
Year Opened: 2003
A College Experience Waiting to Burst
The college basketball experience at the University of Miami is one that has grown exponentially over the past few years. Fans of the annual NCAA Tournament will have noticed “The U” making more and more appearances and deeper runs in the playoffs than in years past. Indeed, as with all Miami-based sports teams, with success comes a bigger crowd and better fan experiences.
The experience for a men’s and women’s basketball game at UM differs. Regardless of these differences, not much can change the fact that UM experience far surpasses that of other local college basketball experiences (FIU, Miami Dade College, Barry University, FAU, etc.).
Food & Beverage 3
There isn’t anything mind-blowing about UM’s food selection. Then again, there isn’t anything wrong with it either. Food options range from the basic burger and fries to chicken fingers, popcorn, peanuts, and drinks.
The major outlier in this category, however, is the Cold Stone Creamery booth that is open during men’s games.
Food booths line the sideline concourses, with nothing on the end zones but hallways. During women’s basketball games, the only food option open is two booths right inside the main entrance.
The one thing that sets this category back is the fact that a standard sized Coke will run you upwards of $4, a price that would make even Disney World blush.
The atmosphere at a men’s basketball game is set to be on par with the best of them. The student section at UM is constantly rocking, and the fans all are in tune with college basketball traditions. Nobody sits until UM scores their first points of the game. Chants of “Ref you suck!” ring out after a call that doesn’t go the Hurricanes’ way.
The team and players join the fans and students in singing the Alma Mater after the game, win or lose.
With every run and slam dunk, the almost always near capacity crowd erupts. However, the women’s games set themselves apart. Seating at a women’s basketball game is extremely limited, with large black curtains covering the majority of the area, exceptions including the lower bowl and suite level on one sideline. Nonetheless, the crowd and student section can get just as loud when UM is on the attack.
UM’s campus is situated right in the middle of the nicest part of Miami, in Coral Gables. To the south, east, and north are more great neighborhoods, with Pinecrest/Palmetto Bay, Coconut Grove, and Brickell bordering the area respectively.
The architecture of the area, all the way down to the old stone corner street markers, makes the area feel as if it is still in the older days of Miami. The trees are large, old, and majestic.
The food and shopping options are plentiful, with Sunset Place mall just a stone’s throw away, and Dadeland Mall not much farther.
One of the safest feeling places in Miami, Coral Gables also has plenty of places to stay, with everything from your basic hotels to upscale resorts just a few minutes’ drive away.
The fans at UM are pretty rowdy, under the right circumstances. If they’re facing a top flight or in-state opponent (UNC, Duke, FSU, Florida, etc.), then the arena gets wild. When UM faces someone from a smaller conference or a lower-tier school, they tend to be average and not as rowdy the whole game through.
In a 2015 game against FSU, which Miami lost in a blowout, the majority of the crowd were made up of FSU fans, doing the arm chop and singing the war chant in the dying minutes of the contest.
UM isn’t exactly close to the highway. In fact, it isn’t at all close to the highway. However, it is only a few miles down the road from an exit of one of the offshoots of the highway and is right on US1, one of the main roads in South Florida.
For those who do not wish to drive into Coral Gables, there is a Metrorail station literally across the street from the arena, making it perfect for a park-and-ride situation.
There are also several metro bus routes that pass by or around the UM campus. On-campus shuttles (the Hurry Cane) can take students (and anyone who happens to just blend in with students) across the campus and even to local places of interest like the Sunset Place Mall.
Additionally, there is plenty of parking on-site, so you won’t have to walk far if you do decide to drive up to the school.
Return on Investment 3
The school’s basketball scene has a lot to be proud of lately. But much like any other major sports team in South Florida, that pride has the potential to go away really fast should a losing streak begin.
That said, it is a great family atmosphere and can be a really awesome experience for college basketball fans.
The campus is absolutely beautiful, the people are very nice, the team is talented and exciting, and the fans generate enough energy during big time and close games that it makes this a site that begs to be visited.
UM sports one of the coolest mascots in college sports, with Sebastian the Ibis. He is great with kids, always is the life of the party, and stands out from other college mascots.
Additionally, the UM band sets up every game (men’s and women’s) in the end zone and plays throughout the game, and leads the arena in the Alma Mater after the final horn.
For performances, the UM cheerleaders are also on hand during the game, as are the dance squads. Both perform throughout the game during timeouts, media commercial breaks, and halftime.
During each men’s game, a member of the US Air Force Reserves is brought out onto the court and is recognized for their service to their country, a moment that is both emotional and patriotic, inciting chants of “USA!” from the fans in attendance.
If you are looking for a way to get a college basketball game under your belt, visit a campus that is as beautiful as everyone says, and has a rising program with tons of action and energy, then a UM basketball game may be your best bet.
Checking off “The U” from your college basketball must-see list is easy to do, and it won’t break your bank.
There isn’t a bad seat in the house, as the arena is just big enough to not feel like you’re in a high school gym but small enough to still feel intimate.