The good old GCU Arena. It seems to create a lot of debate. Perhaps sometimes a lot of animosity. You know, just the usual banter between varying fanbases, right? Some have called the atmosphere the GCU Havocs create fake or like a big frat party.
Paging my colleague and friend Stephen Wagner on this one.
Went to a 40-minute frat party at GCU Arena last night. Think a basketball game was also played. Me and @PhotoJFish really needed brunch to recover from that one.
Next stop: El Paso pic.twitter.com/l5xWZWD3Ru
— Stephen Wagner (@stephenwag22) February 20, 2022
Everyone seems to have a take one way or the other. It’s actually a fun debate to have at times on Twitter.
— CBKReport – Parker Hamann (@CBKReport) July 13, 2022
Okay, but for real. Is a basketball game at GCU Arena the best atmosphere in the WAC? Based off the Twitter feed, there are mixed reviews. I know one fan base absolutely hates it. And that’s not calling anyone out. It is simply stating a fact. GCU Arena is an awful place for a basketball game, according to some.
Now that’s a student section!🤯 First time seeing the @GCUHavocs in their natural habitat at GCU Arena tonight as @GCU_MBB hosts @ACU_MBB. Lopes looking to extend their win streak to 6 straight. @azfamily pic.twitter.com/FNTOhD82Cs
— Julia Lopez (@JuliaLopez3) January 14, 2022
For others, the atmosphere within GCU Arena is ‘freaking amazing’ as some around the WAC put it. Following a 79-70 win at GCU Arena on Dec. 3, 2016, then-Louisville head coach Rick Pitino had some words to say about the GCU Arena atmosphere.
“”Second thing I want to say is this is, in my 40 years of coaching college basketball this is the toughest crowds that I’ve had to face,” Pitino said. “Awesome. You’ve got something special really special. Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that environment tonight. So I’m just extremely grateful we won, but just really, really impressed with what you have here. As soon as you get eligible for this tournament, you’re going to have something really, really special.”
Former Louisville Cardinal and current Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell had some words to say about the atmosphere inside the arena, as well.
I’ve been saying this the craziest arena I’ve ever played in! https://t.co/RZi4gfd98l
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) November 21, 2019
I will share my experience. This past season, I attended two games. It was the weekend GCU hosted Seattle U and California Baptist. Against Seattle U on Feb. 3, I sat on the scorers table. And on Feb. 5, I sat on the front row across from the GCU bench, courtesy of a WAC Hoops Digest fan. For the first time in 19 days, GCU go to play a home game. And the Havocs came to play. It was loud, crazy and overall a great atmosphere welcoming the WAC leaders onto campus.
And GCU got off to a quick 7-0 start and lead wire-to-wire in handing Seattle U its first conference loss of the season.
People often criticize the choreographed chants, cheers, dances or even theme nights at GCU Arena. One thing I always wonder about is, why only criticize the Havocs for having choreography? Most student sections have the same chants. Utah State and San Diego State both do the ‘I believe we will win’ chant prior to tip. And Utah State has ‘The Scotsman’ that it plays and sings around 10-12 times if not more during a game. I focus on Utah State because that is one fan base that another WAC fan base really doesn’t hold in high regard.
GCU Arena is 85% night club, 15% basketball venue (and I support that)
— Jim Root (@2ndChancePoints) February 6, 2022
But every school that has a quality student section has choreography in some regard or another. That isn’t a unique situation to GCU. One thing that stands out for me while attending games at GCU Arena is the band. The first time I went to Phoenix to cover again was Jan. 7, 2017. I was covering Utah Valley at the time. And I was mesmerized when the band came on and was literally marching on the floor. I have never seen that at a college basketball game before. Even my quiet, humble father and his friend who attended the same game were surprised at the band’s pre-game show.
The music is usually on point. And yes, it is loud. There is no denying that. But, why is that necessarily a bad thing? Isn’t it the goal of marketing teams and so forth to make it near impossible for opposing teams to hear each other? I could be wrong on that. But, any advantage a team can have seems to fit the mantra.
In terms of build, there are some things that could be done. A jumbotron, more video boards and enclosing the south side. But that will surely come at another time.
But I absolutely love the fact the student section is filled for EVERY game. It’s not just one game or when New Mexico State comes to town. It is EVERY game. Tell me how many other schools around the WAC fill their arena for EVERY game or, at the very least, the student section?
— GCU Men’s Basketball (@GCU_MBB) April 8, 2022
I graduated from Utah Valley in 2017. And there was/is really good student attendance when GCU or NMSU come to town. But, it’s not EVERY game. And at GCU Arena, on special nights like hosting Tarleton on ESPN2 or having New Mexico State in town, the atmosphere gets even more wild. Yes, GCU has not won at home as much as New Mexico State and that is the argument some will use to discredit this write-up. I get it.
This might be a record crowd tonight at GCU Arena for Lopes v New Mexico State Aggies. Havocs have the party started pic.twitter.com/OrIb6thFKK
— Richard Obert (@azc_obert) February 20, 2022
But, it’s hard to deny that the atmosphere inside GCU Arena is top-notch. The Lopes have figured out a way to reach its students. And, for what it is worth, outside the Havoc leaders, students that attend games ARE NOT paid. Attendance at basketball games is a priority for the marketing team and they have found a niche to get students to camp out in the yard outside GCU Arena just to get tickets.
People will say I am standing up for GCU. That is okay. I am just sharing my experience. And I respect that it is different for everyone. Coaches around the WAC that have played there loved the atmosphere and that includes a coach that isn’t in the WAC anymore. So, it is all in the eyes of the beholder. Utah Tech had some really good student sections/atmospheres in 2021-22. Same with CBU, Utah Valley, New Mexico State, and others around the WAC.
But, only one school in the WAC has the crazy, loud arena with a sold out student section for EVERY game. And that arena is GCU Arena.