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Behind Enemy Lines: Auburn Arena

I’m hitting the road to cover the Cats’ SEC away games! As part of my adventure, I will rate each venue on atmosphere, food, crowd…you name it, I’ll rate it. I’ve come up with 20 criteria, each of which I will judge on a scale of 1 to 5 for a possible high score of 100. Next up: Auburn Arena.

Auburn Arena
Built: 2010
Seating capacity: 9,121

Concessions: 3

Your typical fare of hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, and nachos. Dippin’ Dots continues its odd monopoly of SEC arena ice cream offerings, but as usual, no one was partaking in the ice cream of the future. The price of a jumbo hot dog? $4.

Popcorn: 4

You know I love me some movie popcorn. Auburn’s was delicious and hot from the popper. Sadly, I could only finish half a bag, and had there been more space in my computer bag, I would have saved more for later. I did have to take a point off for excess butter, which made blogging and eating popcorn at the same time very difficult. My OCDness won’t tolerate greasy keyboards.

Signature food: 3

I asked one of the guys working the concession stand what their “signature item” was. After trying to sell me on a souvenir tub of popcorn, the guy finally went with the War Eagle BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich, which comes with home fried chips for $10. It seemed to be a popular choice among the people in my concession area, so I’ll give it a solid 3.

Bathrooms: 5

The best part about Auburn’s beautiful arena? The large, clean bathrooms. Everything was automated and they had both turbo hand dryers and paper towel dispensers. Add in slate floors and beautifully tiled walls and I was so in awe that I literally told the lady next to me at the sinks that they were the nicest bathrooms I’d ever seen at arena. She giggled proudly. Want to win over your lady fans, athletic directors? Build nice bathrooms.

Scoreboard: 5

Like everything at Auburn Arena, the scoreboard was top of the line. In addition to the main jumboscreens on each side, there were two more displays for ads and promotions. This allowed them to keep the player by player stats up at all-times, which is oh-so-useful for live blog purposes.

PA System/announcer/music: 3

Music wise, Auburn might as well have popped in the last “NOW! That’s what I call music” CD. I’ve never seen a group of people so excited to hear “Party Rock” in my whole life. LMFAO is their Chief Keef. The announcer was a little too over the top for me as well, taking twenty seconds to read three syllable names. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s Vince McMahon’s long lost cousin. However, they incorporated the “NBA organ” a few times throughout, which made up for it.

Fun stuff: 5

Chick-Fil-A is everywhere at Auburn, from the press area to the giant cow mascots walking around taking pictures with the kids. That’s all fine and good, but when tiny cow figurines parachuted down from the rafters, I was sold. I almost knocked down three kids in a ill-fated attempt to get one. Auburn “gets it” when it comes to crowds: they love free stuff. If the parachuting cows weren’t exciting enough, they brought out the t-shirt cannon late in the second half, causing some fans to turn around at the exits to try to catch one. As one live blog reader put it, can you imagine the hysteria if they had a t-shirt cannon in Rupp? They also had the standard fan cams, kiss cams, and even a trivia contest.

Pep band: 4

Auburn’s pep band was pretty impressive, if only for their rendition of “Eye of the Tiger,” one of my favorite late night party workout songs. They also performed the National Anthem and did an admirable job.

I need to work on my iPhone panorama skills.

Halftime show: 5

I’ll admit, I was in the concessions line during halftime, so I missed Auburn’s new football coach Gus Malzahn’s introduction. Trust me, if you thought the crowd was loud during the game, the minute Malzahn stepped on the court, you were reminded that Auburn is indeed a football school. Malzahn stirred up the crowd by promising to bring back the edge to Auburn football and typical rah-rah propaganda. The crowd lapped it up, and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t enjoy a similar halftime chat from Stoops at Rupp some point this season.

Souvenirs: 1

As far as I could tell, there were no major souvenirs, save some orange pom poms for the somewhat unsuccessful “Orange Out.” But being in that arena is gift enough.

Ticket price: 4

Single game tickets range from $10/$15 for non-SEC games to $25/$30 for the Kentucky game. When you consider that the upper level is only maybe four rows and there’s not a bad seat in the house, that’s not bad. I asked a scalper outside what tickets for the game were going for and he said $100/piece. I feel really bad for any Auburn fans that paid that much for what turned out to be a pretty sad performance by the Tigers.

Exterior: 5

Auburn Arena was built in 2010, and is absolutely gorgeous. The outside is brick and glass with white trim around the large windows. The building cost $92.5 million and includes a separate entrance for students. The arena is located across the street from Jordan-Hare Stadium, with which it shares parking facilities. The best part? Parking is free.

Interior: 5

If I were a rule breaker, I’d give it a 6. The inside of Auburn Arena is clean, modern and drenched in orange and blue. DeWayne Peevy told me that the UK staff studied Auburn’s locker room when drawing up plans for the new locker room at Rupp, so you know it’s good. Because the arena only seats 9,000, there is a very cozy feel to it, with the student section taking over one whole sideline and both end zones. As a result, it can get very, very loud. There are also several court-level luxury suites, along with a loge level with it own food facilities and even a VIP court lounge that I unsuccessfully tried to sneak into (where else would Sir Charles hang out?). All of that being said, it still feels like a college arena, probably due to its size.

Flow: 5

Moving around the arena was easy, even at the end of the game. Plus, there are several elevators to help the older fans get to and from the Loge and upper levels.

Ushers: 3

Standard “Guest Services” polos. Very nice, but can’t compare to the Blue Blazers at Rupp.

Press area/meal: 5

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about games on the road is the interview room, where the players and coach speak to the press from a podium. This is in stark contrast to Rupp, where reporters swarm the players, who sit in chairs against the back of the media area. If you don’t stake your spot early, you pretty much don’t have a chance at hearing or seeing them, unless you want to press yourself right up against Alan Cutler’s armpit (no thank you). At Auburn, both the players and the coach address the media from a raised podium, making note taking much easier. Even better, the pregame meal was Chick-Fil-A BBQ sandwiches, cookies, and all the Coke products you could fit in your bag. The “press box” was really just half of Section 118, which I was at the very top of. There was no separation between the press areas and the rest of the concourse, so there was a big crowd watching the game literally over my shoulder. One older fan was brave enough to take the media tags off the table and make herself right at home next to me. Maybe she was covering the game for AARP or Blue Hair Monthly?

Student Section: 4

Auburn’s student section is called “The Jungle,” and as I mentioned earlier, lines the court on three sides. They’ve been named one of the top ten student sections in the country, with good reason. They’re loud, even if they need some help in the cheers department from a cheat sheet. The only reason they didn’t get a five was their inability to abandon the Ryan Harrow “AIRBALL” chant long after Harrow had hit several shots and their seriously unimaginative and slightly hypocritical “This won’t count” chant late in the second half. That, along with a gutsy “This will be vacated” sign just made them seem like poor losers.

BBN Effect: 5

Blue got in both to the student section and the general crowd. I learned that Auburn and UK have a partnership so that if you go to UK, you can go to Auburn’s vet school for the price of in-state tuition, and a similar swap is available for Auburn students who want to go to UK’s med school. Neat, right? Because of this perk, there was a strong Kentucky presence in the student section who led “Go Big Blue” and C-A-T-S chants throughout the night. By the end, the Auburn fans just gave up and let the Big Blue Nation take over, something which Cal noticed and tweeted about this morning:

My GBB chant count: 7.

Campus: 5

Auburn is the quintessential college town. The campus is beautiful, but I was more impressed with the town. There are two main streets with bars and restaurants that intersect at the infamous “Toomer’s Corner,” where the beloved oak trees still stand after being both poisoned and set on fire. Despite continued efforts, the trees won’t come back to life and are going to be replaced with two mature oak trees soon. The town revolves around the college, and I can only imagine what it’s like on a Saturday during football season. Hopefully the scheduling gods will give me a chance to find out in the coming years.

I was only in town one night, most of which I was working, but I did find time to enjoy the local hot spots, including 1716 (shout out to the awesome group of UK fans who let me tag along on their “boy’s weekend”). Other happening spots included Skybar, The Vault, and the Supper Club, a mysterious off-campus dive that is so popular a shuttle runs students to and from campus. Next time.

Overall atmosphere: 5

A beautiful arena, a beautiful town, and a mostly beautiful performance by the Cats. All in all, a great SEC road trip for any fan. Tuscaloosa, this will be hard to beat. Bring it!

Total score: 84/100

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

25 Comments for Behind Enemy Lines: Auburn Arena

  1. BBN
    3:13 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    The Arena is for STUDENTS. Unlike Rupp Arena where old codjers and old money get priority seating.

  2. Woods
    3:16 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Mrs. TT, this is one of my favorite segments on the site. UK fans are being spoiled by the refreshing creativity on this site. Go Big Blue!!

  3. Awe Man
    3:17 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    What, No photos of Katherine Webb?

  4. dude...
    3:22 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    I hope BBN shows up in College Station for our first away game at our newest SEC brother. I’m pretty dang excited to see my CATS in Texas

  5. FakeTeo
    3:25 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Nice article TT.

  6. Rockfield, KY
    3:44 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Supper Club opens at 2am on the weekends, or it did when I was visitng there, multiple times. Auburn kids seriously party all night. It’s the most fun gameday location I’ve ever been, and that includes Oxford. The bars are fun, food places are open till 3 am, and the entire area around campus is great. My second favorite SEC school.

    Also, where are the pics of the women’s bathroom? I know a few guys would appreciate those.

  7. Michelle e
    3:48 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Auburn accepts so many students from the state of Kentucky every year into their vet school- you pay instate fees- I wish my 4 years there was free but in state sure helps- obviously most of that group, being an educated bunch, are UK fans and wouldn’t miss a chance to see our boys play!

  8. Craig McKinney
    3:58 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    I attended the game as well this weekend and would have to disagree a bit with the overall grade of Auburn Arena – I would give it a C+ at best. We had seats in 117 row 12 (behind the basket). there are 3 levels to the seating in the arena basically court side, lower level, and upper arena. We were Lower Level – which turns out half of this level is club level access only so we were only able to walk around on one side of the arena on this floor – we tried walking this way to get to our seats (we didn’t know) and were told to turn around and go the other way. Good idea with poor implementation – a normally public area was turned into members only. The arena is tiny (by any standards not just Rupp – we are talking several high schools in Indiana has more seats). They had an organ sound piped in throughout the game – I was waiting for them to play take me out the ball game. Toomers Corner looked down right depressing – since it was a basketball game there wasn’t anyone out on the streets. I have been to Auburn several times to watch the Cats play and although the arena is shiny and new – that doesn’t earn it a B in my book(I will say it is an upgrade from what they had). Don’t waste a trip to Auburn in the early parts of the year – during football season it is a pretty fun place though.

  9. paducahfan
    4:00 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    What’s the rating on Rupp?

  10. Wish it was free
    4:12 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Agree with #7. Vet school was not free, but much cheaper at instate tuition. The vet school students always enjoyed when the Cats came to Auburn. I sat next to Tubby’s wife one year. In general, Auburn fans could care less about basketball. It is a football school. Last time they sold out was against UK last year. We are everyone’s Super Bowl. Go Big Blue!!!

  11. BlueRedNeck
    4:18 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    That’s a sad thing that happened to the majestic old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner. You can’t just cut them down and replace them, it takes decades for them to get anywhere close to that size. What a dickhead that ‘Bama fan is. This loon actually named his daughter “Crimson Tide” and his son “Bear Bryant”. Sadly, most fan bases have a few idiots like that in their midst. Hopefully, none of the members of BBN ever goes to lengths like this to five his fellow fans a black eye like this numbskull did.

  12. BlueRedNeck
    4:19 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Tyler, if Rupp can’t muster up the noise for that game, I don’t know what to say!

  13. 44 Stitches
    4:24 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t know if Mrs. TT you have ever been to Athens but if you were impressed with Auburn as a college town then you will love Athens. Just comparing the towns and night life Athens, Ga blows Auburn out of the water. I don’t know if you have ever been to Tuscaloosa but I wasn’t very impressed. The Univ Of Alabama is incredibly nice but the town of Tuscaloosa not so much. I love the Houndstooth Bar in Tuscaloosa. It’s dump but what a beer cost at a normal bar will get you a whole pitcher of it for the same price at the Houndstooth.

  14. Boy's Weekend Representative
    4:29 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    You’re welcome to tag along to any future road trips. Very nice to meet you & we’ll see around the BBN. High five!

  15. TrinityPills
    5:10 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Agree with 15! Having at least one lady with us dropped our old-guy-in-the-club creepy factor by at least 18-20 %!

  16. UK Freshmen
    6:15 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Yea, crap. Rupp arena is a dump, isn’t it. And our campus wouldn’t score too well either. Truth be told.

  17. Queen City Cat
    6:17 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Supper Club is an experience in itself…best done between 2 & 3 am.

  18. Trip Rep
    6:22 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Pills, 20% isn’t enough to make it better. #oldmanproblems

  19. Roland
    6:44 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Thanks for this post. I enjoyed reading it.

  20. tdky
    6:50 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    If you liked Auburn for basketball you ought to see it for a football game!

  21. Bunny
    9:02 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Great job, Mrs TT!!

  22. StlCat
    9:33 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    Nice article Tyler

  23. maconvolfan
    11:19 pm January 21, 2013 Permalink

    much nicer than the old “Beard Eaves” that it replaced. Been to AU each time the Vols have played over there since I’ve lived in GA. B-E was a dump. The new place is great, albeit small. Perfect size for AU basketball. Best thing about the whole place is the luxury suites that face……the football stadium. People bought them, not for basketball, but for tailgating on fall Saturdays!

  24. Deacon
    10:14 am January 22, 2013 Permalink

    Went to Auburn game at old BE arena. This was during the Pitino Juggernaut years of 1996. Scalper hit me pretty hard for tickets and I complained. He said: “Mister, the only time we make money is when UK comes to Auburn”!!!!