As I approached Carver Hawkeye by car, I thought my GPS had perhaps led me astray. The building looks like it may be the art building or perhaps a performing arts center. It certainly doesn’t look big enough to house a 15,000+ seat stadium. What you’ll find is a pleasant surprise indeed.
FANFARE Score: 23 (out of 35)
F ood and Beverage: 2
I didn’t find anything unique inside Carver Hawkeye. I did appreciate that I was able to bring home a souvenir cup. I had some pizza and some popcorn—nothing to write home about.
A tmosphere: 4
When I entered the arena, I was immediately happy. First of all, there are exits completely surrounding the corridor for easy entrance and exit. The court is dug into the ground with 42 rows rising from courtside. The other unique feature of Carver Hawkeye is that there is no center court scoreboard. Instead, there are large scoreboards at each end. The result is a feeling of openness that is not found at any other Big Ten arena. It feels simple, and it feels right.
The bottom line is that there is truly not a bad seat in the house. I sat in the 36th row, right at center court, and I would be perfectly content if those were my season tickets at Carver.
N eighborhood: 3
As for food and drink reviews for before or after games, I would definitely recommend heading downtown towards the Old Capitol for the bars and restaurants rather than the relatively closer Highway 6 establishments.
I especially liked Shorts, where they have a variety of burgers, all made from 100 percent Iowa beef (I always appreciate local products). They had good fries as well, and overall the menu was very appealing. The beer selection was fine but not great, and the place is a little small, although it seemed as though there would be room right up to game time.
I also recommend the Airliner bar—excellent pizza with a nice crisp crust. They sell slices as well in case you don’t want a whole pizza. My third stop was 808, which I would go back to if I was just drinking and I wanted good beers; they had the best selection of the three with several local options, although I tried the Bare Knuckles Stout.
F ans: 4
For my appraisal of the fans there is both good news and bad news. The good news is that many of the fans are seemingly more intelligent in their basketball than some others I have seen. They were also very ardent, standing at several junctures where I think lesser fans would have sat and applauded. This may be due in part to the fact that Iowa is the only state of the Big Ten without a professional sports team, causing Iowa’s fans to put more proverbial eggs in the Hawkeye basket.
Now the bad news—the student section was absolutely the weakest of the student sections that I’ve seen. Part of it is the seating alignment; they are very spread out and not in large numbers in any one location. I will say that the pep band did their best, and the tuba players were especially active, but all said this student body needs to get it together. Granted, Iowa has been bad for a few years, but that’s where real fans show their metal.
A ccess: 4
After confirming with an attendant that I was in fact in the right place, I headed up the hill to the public lot, about 1/2 mile away. Parking cost $5 and I was glad that I chose to not park at the nearby Vine Tavern and Eatery, a popular place a little further down the road that charged $10 to park during the game.
R eturn on Investment: 4
I look forward to a return visit to Iowa City. It’s a great venue, a nice town, and its priced right. For $25 you get a great seat with an unobstructed view.
E xtra Points: 2
One extra point for the deep pit that is Carver Hawkeye Arena. I really like entering the arena at the very top of a building that appears to only be a couple of stories high from the outside.
An extra point for the power of the non-student section fans, who were a very basketball-intelligent bunch, as well as being fan-friendly.
Paul Swaney is the co-founder of Stadium Journey , where this article was originally posted.