Review originally published on www.stadiumjourney.com
Ann Arbor is one of those quintessential college towns that seem to have everything. Great restaurants and bars, cultural diversity, and most of all great college sports venues can be found in abundance. While most people will think of football in the Big House when thinking of significant University of Michigan sports structures, Crisler Arena is a fine, but not exceptional, destination for college basketball junkies.
FANFARE Score: 22 (out of 35)
Food & Beverage: 2
With all of the great food options in downtown Ann Arbor its worth saving your money for before or after game eats. I had some roasted nuts which I suppose were decent, but nothing spectacular. My brother-in-law snacked on stale popcorn. I was pleased that they offered souvenir cups for your soda, and could add to my enormous plastic cups I never use collection.
With six final fours and an NCAA Championship banner from the 1989 campaign, there would seem to be enough tradition to rile the fanbase. Unfortunately, the scandals that plagued the program, and forced them to vacate their Final Fours of 1992 and 1993 have left the program, and thus, the stadium experience as a bit of a disappointment.
The arena rarely sells out to its 13,751 capacity, and the student section, while decent, has not been able to climb up to elite status.
Renovations are expected to begin in 2011, and new seats will be installed in the lower bowl area, which will be a nice upgrade. The upper level seems dark and far away from the action on the floor.
This is where the experience really shines. There are great bars and restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor. The bad news is it’s a bit of a hike from Crisler, but once you make it you can settle in for a good time.
There are three breweries within a couple of blocks of each other downtown: Grizzly Peak, Arbor Brewing Company, and the Blue Tractor are all fine places to try. Of the three, I recommend Arbor Brewing Company for the best beer, and Grizzly Peak for the best food.
For the best in beer snobbery though, I have to recommend Ashley’s, one of my favorite bars in the world. With 200 beers available, with many exotic samples, it’s what a bar should be.
The student section, known as the “Maize Rage” still has some work to do. They are positioned nicely down on the floor, but they need to find a way to sustain their energy throughout the game, and be as intimidating with lesser opponents as they are with rivals like Michigan State and Ohio State. They should be aided by a great pep band, and one of the best fight songs in sports.
There is plenty of parking near Crisler, and you should be able to find free street parking within reasonable walking distance. There are no lines for bathrooms even at halftime, and concourses are easy to navigate.
Return on Investment: 4
Despite its faults, Crisler Arena is a good value for college basketball. The lower level tickets go for $22 and the upper sections range from $10-15. In my opinion, it is worth it to go for the pricier seats, and the far superior view of the game.
I will always give a bonus point to sit in an arena that hangs under a NCAA Championship banner. Additionally, its location in one of the best college towns in America is worth an extra point in my book.
Paul Swaney is a Co-Founder of Stadium Journey