Review originally posted on www.stadiumjourney.com
The Pavilion, located on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), opened in 1982 and has served as a venue for concerts as well as basketball, soccer, and boxing. It seats just under 7,000 and could be cozy site to see some college basketball.
FANFARE Score: 22 (out of 35)
F ood & Beverage: 5
There are two concession stands open during UIC basketball games. I approached the first, called the Racine Street Grill, and found very typical, and I thought overpriced, items. There is good variety including hot dog, polish sausage, bratwurst, cheeseburger, chicken sandwich, nachos, Pepsi products, Gatorade, and Starbucks drinks.
At the opposite concession, the Harrison Street Grill, you’ll find the same offerings plus a plethora of BBQ goodness from Robinson’s Ribs. I tried the pulled pork sandwich for $5. It was big and delicious, and certainly worth the price.
A tmosphere: 2
It’s a tough thing to rate. On the one hand, there really isn’t a bad seat in a small arena like this. They close the upper deck for most games, so everyone is down in the main bowl with great views of the action. On the other hand, it’s a pretty stale environment.
If all you care about is seeing the UIC Flames or the opposing team play live, then you’re set. If you’re looking for a dynamic experience however, don’t expect to find it here.
I was happy to see that they had a pep band, even if there were only twelve members. By the way, what the hell is the point of a piccolo player in a twelve member pep band? Somebody please tell me.
N eighborhood: 3
The UIC campus is located about a half mile on either side by Little Italy and Greektown, although neither is really close enough to be considered part of the immediate neighborhood. That being said, either would be a fine destination for pre-game or a post game meal.
If you want to see some sports memorabilia, check out the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame (1431 W Taylor St). It’s less than a mile away and right in the heart of some great restaurants. I recommend Rosal’s (1154 W Taylor) for great Sicilian fare.
As far as a place in the immediate vicinity of the Pavilion, I would recommend the Union Park Grill. There are at least 20 flat screens all featuring sports, they have ten beers on tap, and better than expected food. They describe themselves as a gastro-pub, and after trying two of their three house specialties, I think they live up to that term.
The fried calamari were big and cooked perfectly. Best of all was the Spicy Burger—a half pound burger with blue cheese, Dijon mustard, a house spicy sauce reminiscent of buffalo sauce, served on a brioche bun. Looking at my notes, I have a stain next to the phrase, “Really, really good. Yum.” That says it all.
F ans: 2
The fans were a real disappointment on this venue. I must say that I was impressed by the small contingent of fans supporting the visiting Wright State. As for the home fans, they were barely present, with the exception of the free giveaways during timeouts, making efforts for a free pizza or a t-shirt. In their defense, the 2009-10 version of the UIC Flames is a hard product to watch and root for, but that’s what being a fan is all about.
A ccess: 5
If you drive to the game, you’ll find a lot directly across the street for $5. Street parking is available, but it is mostly metered with a two hour maximum. Public transportation is also a great option with the Racine Blue Line stop about a block away. Any way you go, you’re in good shape with easy entrance and exit.
R eturn on Investment: 3
With surprisingly good food options and good seats available, there is pretty good return on a minimum investment at the UIC Pavilion. I spent $49 for the ticket, parking, a t-shirt, pulled pork sandwich, and a small Mountain Dew.
E xtra Points: 2
Definite bonus for the unexpected and delicious BBQ. Also, I have to give it up for Sparky, the Flames dragon mascot. My two year old son loved that dragon instantly and spent much of the game watching him mingle through the stands. Props to a professional mascot doing work at a mid-major school.
A trip to the UIC Pavilion isn’t going to change your life, but it is a nice little place to catch a game in the middle of a beautiful city. It’s also close enough to the United Center to plan a college/pro doubleheader by taking in a Bulls game on a Saturday night after a Flames game.
Paul Swaney is the Co-Founder of Stadium Journey.