Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Worthen Arena 1699 W Bethel Ave Muncie, IN 47306
Year Opened: 1991
Worthy of an Experience at Worthen Arena
In the heart of campus at Ball State University is the John E. Worthen Arena, the home to Cardinal basketball and volleyball since 1992. The arena dominates the landscape featuring an octagonal-shaped structure that has a capacity of 11,500. Its size is the perfect venue for commencement ceremonies, trade shows, concerts, and other special events.
The Cardinals basketball program began the year the school was founded in 1920, and they have been members of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) since the 1971/72 season. They won six conference championships in basketball during that time. The Cards have also made six NCAA Tournament appearances, losing to the eventual tournament champions UNLV 69-67 in the Sweet 16.
The arena received an upgraded court, new scoreboards in the corners of the court, and a new Daktronics six-panel video board installed above the center court. Before the opening of the Worthen Arena, the Cards called the 6,600-seat capacity Irving Gymnasium home.
Food & Beverage 4
The food and beverages have improved at Worthen Arena. There is plenty of options to choose from that are all served by A-Team Concessions. Fans can choose from bratwurst, pretzels, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, nachos, and bbq pork sandwiches. There is also Chick-fil-A and Papa John's available at the concession stands.
If you have a sweet tooth the Dippin' Dots kiosk has quite a variety and cotton candy and elephant ears are available for purchase. There is also a selection of candy and Pepsi products. Two beer kiosks have Bud, Coors, and Miller Lite, along with locally brewed varieties from Guardian Brewing Company, that are worth checking out after the game.
Worthen Arena is somewhat of a mixed bag in terms of the atmosphere; this may be because it was built right before sports stadiums started to focus on aesthetics and fan comfort. The 11,500-seat venue offers plenty of comfortable red theater-style seats, but the last ten rows are of the metal bleacher variety and are somewhat of an eye-sore. Seats in the corners are angled toward the court, providing a good view no matter where you sit in Worthen Arena.
Cheerleaders and the Code Red Dance team get the crowd excited with energetic performances during breaks in the action and at the beginning of the game. The large group is quite impressive and drowns out the student section that seemed to be absent the night of our visit. Adding to the festivities is Charlie the Cardinal, the school’s official mascot who greets fans at their seat launches shirts from a cannon, and cheers along with the band
The vaulted ceiling offers a myriad of banners from all three sports teams that utilize the arena, along with a couple of retired basketball jerseys. Graphic lettering and school sports are featured on larger banners on the top walls of the seating bowl to break up the rather gray and red tone in the interior of the building.
The main concourse features a small play area for younger fans that includes paint facing, balloon animals, and inflatable rides, Also, a small kiosk is set up that offers university-themed merchandise and schedule posters.
Worthen Arena is located on the main campus and a few miles away from the village area of town. The area can become somewhat congested at times with mall shoppers, but there are a few ideal locations to seek out before or after the game.
There are plenty of options for beer, pub food, and the college atmosphere during your visit. Amazing Joe’s offers giant tenderloins and steak dishes, and Savage’s Ale House is your typical brewpub that features juicy burgers, chicken wings, and a bevy of fried appetizers – try the aloha burger. Downtown Muncie features Heorot Pub and Draught House, and the Fickle Peach. Elm Street Brewing Company and The Guardian Brewing Company are two local spots for craft beer.
If you are interested in more basketball, the Muncie Fieldhouse is one of the state's oldest and most historic venues for high school hoops. The home of the Muncie Central Bearcats was constructed in 1928 and is home to eight state championships and an impressive historical room.
Crowds for Cardinals basketball games are around 3,000 per game, but the fans who are in attendance do an admirable job cheering for their team on the court. The student section appeared barren during our visit, something that was surprising since it was the last home game of the season.
Worthen Arena is located on campus, just a few blocks south of SR-332, the main drag that brings motorists off of I-69 from Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne. Fans enter the building at floor level and take the stairs to the main concourse and seating bowl.
There is a main outer concourse that wraps around the seating bowl and provides access to concession stands, bathrooms, exits, entrances, and the stadium club room. Large exposed piping and windows add a touch of character. The seating bowl does not offer a wraparound concourse, but once the game is over, fans can exit either from the main concourse or at floor level.
Return on Investment 3
The price of a ticket to a Ball State game is quite affordable on the wallet or pocketbook. The lowest cost ticket is $10 while the highest priced ticket is $20. There are certain games when prices for upper deck seating are just $5 and parking is free for all games.
Concession prices are reasonable with food products costing between $4 and $6, while beer sells for $7 and $8. There is a souvenir stand with shirts, caps, and hoodies for fair pricing as well. The Cards offer a $16 ticket that includes two 20-ounce beers from Guardian Brewing Company.
The Ball State cheer and dance team are both energetic and provide a good old-fashion college atmosphere during breaks in the action or when the crowd needs to be fired up. During certain breaks, the group throws out t-shirts to fans and waves flags around the court. The updated video scoreboard above the center court is a nice addition to the arena and provides stats, replays, information, and player profiles.
The Worthen Arena does not stand out like quite a few other college venues in Indiana, but it is rather easily accessible, affordable, and a great canvas for MAC basketball. Muncie is certainly close enough to the state’s major cities of Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne that making a trip is quite easy during the basketball season.