John E. Worthen Arena – Ball State Cardinals
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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 in the Mid American Conference (MAC) since the 1971/72 season. They have 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 center court. Prior to the opening of the Worthen Arena, the Cards called the 6,600 seat capacity Irving Gymnasium home.
Food & Beverage 3
There is a decent variety of food and drink at Worthen Arena. Fans you can choose from a hot dog ($3), chili cheese dog ($3.50), bratwurst ($4), nachos ($4), or pretzel with cheese ($4). Get the Charlie Cardinal Special for $6 which includes a hot dog, chips, and a 24-ounce drink, a savings of 75 cents.
Worthen Arena does offer pints of beers despite being on campus, a rarity in the state. Pepsi products are offered, with the large for $3.75, or small for a dollar less. To hydrate, you can go for either Gatorade ($3) or water ($2.75). To caffeinate, you can choose from Starbucks energy drinks ($4), or the classic cup of coffee or hot chocolate ($2 each).
Overall, you will find anything that you need at affordable prices at Worthen Arena, but you’re probably best served to eat anything substantial before or after the game and save your money on the food options.
Worthen Arena is somewhat a mixed bag in terms of atmosphere; this may be due to the fact that it was built right before sports stadiums started to focused 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 seats, 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 states 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 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 is just $5 and parking is free for all games. Concession prices are reasonable and the arena is one of the only a few college venues in the state that serves alcohol.
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 center court is a nice addition to the arena and provides stats, replays, information, and player profiles.
Worthen Arena is probably the only college venue in Indiana that offers alcohol sales. Fans can choose from three types of draft beers for $8.
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.
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