Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Big 12 Tournament Trip: Day 1

Good Evening. Pun City is reporting from its hotel in Kansas City tonight. It's been a long day, but a pretty good day.

This blog left Wisconsin at 8:00 AM, with plans to stop at 3 schools before winding up in Kansas City. In hindsight, leaving right as Milwaukee rush hour was in progress was not the brightest move in the world. Fortunately, after getting through that, Pun City didn't see any more traffic the rest of the day (a consequence of driving through western Wisconsin and Iowa, this blog thinks).

The first stop was the University of Northern Iowa, the newly crowned Missouri Valley Conference tournament champs. Visitor parking was relatively easy to find, and very cheap. 50 cents for an hour, that worked. T-shirts were on sale in the Union, so Pun City grabbed one for 10 bucks. The McLeod Center, UNI's basketball arena, is connected to their football stadium (and former basketball arena), the UNI-Dome. It was easily accessible, so Pun City walked in. This blog heard voices, but couldn't place them. Pun City was under the assumption that workers were in the tunnel under the bleachers. Oh well, this blog was able to walk on to the court and jump to grab rim, plus take a couple pictures. When leaving, this blog realized that the voices were actually coming from the catwalk above the arena, and the workers must have either not noticed or cared that this blog was on the court.

The hall that connects the two facilities has a Northern Iowa Hall of Fame and museum that is pretty cool. Pun City walked through that, then got to the dome, where it looked like a track practice was in progress. This blog was still able to get some pictures, so that worked out well.

This blog drove off to Ames, Iowa, to visit Iowa State University. Most of the drive thus far had been extremely foggy, and it probably got even worse this leg. It was bizarre in that you'd see nothing for 20 to 30 minutes, then all of a sudden a car silhouette about a quarter mile in front of you. A nice part about the drive was that Pun City had looked in to which call numbers would have sports radio along the route, so there was no need to constantly scan the dial. Made for a good amount less stress than some previous trips.

Arriving in Ames at about 2:45, and not having eaten lunch yet, Pun City made a beeline to a Wendy's. Good Double Stacks and fries, although the service was slow and they initially gave this blog Barq's instead of Pibb Xtra. Fortunately, they did correct the error. Pun City then went over to the ISU ticket office, on the off chance that they'd have some unused or returned tickets for tomorrow's Big 12 games. As expected, no dice on that. Because of a deluge, and a desire to get out of ISU fairly quickly, Pun City didn't make much of an effort to get in to their football stadium. This blog was right next to it though. On to Hilton Coliseum, their basketball arena.

The Coliseum was a somewhat tough nut to crack. First off, there was free parking near the arena, so that was appreciated. The difficulty was getting in to the building. Most arenas house the ticket office for the school, so one can just walk in to that part and proceed to the rest of the arena. No such luck here. As an extra hassle, there were workers setting up fencing around the perimeter of the arena. This blog isn't sure what the goal was with this fencing. It's possible they have an event there soon that they wanted to funnel foot traffic for, but it was too early in the setup process for this blog to make an educated guess.

After several tries, Pun City finally came across an entrance that was open. It seemed like some administrative offices are housed in the Coliseum, and the door near these offices stays open. This is good, but if one of the workers thought you looked out of place, you could get booted pretty quickly. Pun City kind of slinked past the windowed offices and went immediately to stairs that were marked with directions to "Main Concourse" and "Floor Level." First, this blog checked out the concourse. This was cool. The concourse was empty, so Pun City had free reign on it.

Looking in the seating bowl, this blog noticed the basketball floor was gone, and a bare concrete floor with large curtains hanging seemed to indicate a performance of some type was scheduled. There was a group of people on the floor talking, they were bunched up and all wearing street clothes. Pun City's best guess is that they were a stage crew working on preparing the arena for an event. That said, this blog has no idea. In any case, Pun City didn't want to get thrown out and intentionally avoided them.

Next up, it was time to try and get to floor level. Not wanting to be seen by the office workers, Pun City walked to the far side of the arena, then went down to floor level. Two problems became clear: 1. The basketball hoops weren't in storage on this side of the arena, and 2. The stage crew people were milling around on this side of the arena.

Unfortunately, there is no "floor concourse" that would allow one to walk around the outside of the floor level without being seen. This blog didn't want to be seen by the stage crew, so walking across the floor was out of the question. The best option was to go back the way Pun City came from, then navigate the main concourse to the office worker stairwell, then descend right next to the hoops. At this point, it seemed like the crew would be much more likely to notice this blog than the office personnel.

The assumption proved correct, and this blog was able to descend unnoticed (or at least un-yelled-at) near the hoops. As this blog got to floor level, it noticed that a maintenance worker was waiting for the elevator right along the route this blog needed to take. After quickly considering the situation, Pun City decided to just proceed as if it belonged here, and wave hello to the maintenance guy. A main factor in this decision was that this blog wasn't dressed too much differently than the stage crew group, and also that the maintenance guy wasn't security, so he probably wouldn't care. As this blog walked past, waved, and said "Hi" to the maintenance worker, he said "Yello" back to me. Worked out pretty perfectly. As such, Pun City accessed the hoop storage room, and grabbed collapsed rim. Very cool stuff.

To "cap off" the Ames stop, Pun City bought an ISU cap. That should come in handy tomorrow if this blog is able to get into the second session of games. (Iowa State plays Texas around 8:30, still no tickets for this blog).

A final stop was Drake University. This one worked out pretty well. First off, the bookstore had wristbands in the right size, so this blog picked up a pair. Secondly, the basketball arena (The Knapp Center) was accessible through the student rec center, and Pun City was allowed in as a visitor. Unfortunately, a women's team practice was in process, so this blog wasn't able to attempt a rim grab, but it was a great facility to see up close.

This is a fairly nice hotel, so Pun City expects to be able to update more in the next few days. Stay tuned to find out if any tickets can be had for tomorrow's two sessions. This blog sure hopes so, seeing as probable NCAA tourney teams Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Texas take the floor.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear all is well. You should have asked Morgan Herrick if you could have touched rim @ Drake! Oh, well. . . Safe travels.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Cooler Brian said...

Ha, yes, probably so. But I don't know if the timing would have worked out, I'm sure that interrupting their practice wouldn't have gone over too well. But it was a cool stop!

9:13 AM  

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