American Airlines Center – Dallas Mavericks
The Other Palace in Dallas
In 1980 the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks were born to become the association’s third pro franchise in the state of Texas. While they were mired in many years of mediocrity, the team’s fortunes began to turn when they drafted Dirk Nowitzki in 1998, and owner Mark Cuban took over the team in 2000. In 2001, the Mavericks moved into their state-of-the-art new home – the American Airlines Center, and the team rewarded their loyal fans with an NBA title in 2011.
The Hangar, as it has become known, has quickly risen through the ranks of the NBA’s best home courts. Located smack dab in the middle of downtown Dallas, the American Airlines Center has one of the best locations and one of the best looks in all of pro sports.
Food & Beverage 5
The food scene at American Airlines Center is insane! You can pretty much find whatever you’re looking for at the nearly two dozen food kiosks throughout the arena. Burgers, hot dogs, nachos, Mexican food, barbecue – all can be found on every level of the arena, and all are comparably priced compared to the rest of pro sports venues.
Some highlights include a BBQ sandwich ($8.50) and BBQ nachos ($10.25); other great options include a bottomless bucket of popcorn for $9. The AAC also offers a pretty nifty bundle of items as a combo meal – for $20 visitors can get a hot dog, a bag of peanuts, and a large soda; for the budget conscious this is a great bargain.
When it comes to beverages, there are beer stands throughout the arena, including a Texas Craft Beer Hall, where you can purchase some of the best microbrews in the state – Karbach Brewing (based in Houston) and Deep Ellum Brewing (a Dallas favorite) are some of the more popular brews to be on the lookout for. If you don’t feel like indulging in an alcoholic beverage, 7-11 has Slurpee stands on every level of the AAC, too.
Running theme – American Airlines Center is a great venue for basketball. One aspect in particular that stuck out for me was how immaculate everything looked; the exterior and interior are done up in a glistening white.
The banners hanging from the rafters (for both the Mavs and the NHL’s Dallas Stars, who share the building) tout the many accomplishments of the franchise, as well as the retired numbers of Derek Harper, Rolando Blackman, and Brad Davis – these banners all add to the history of the franchise and speak of its success.
A great feature that American Airlines Center has that I’m not sure others do is what is called the Dr Pepper Lounge on the third level. This is a “quiet” area away from the on-court action where attendees can grab a soda, beer, or wine and catch the action on TV. You can use this area to take a phone call or talk to someone and still watch the game – and when you’re done, you head back to your seats!
Also, another nice feature is that the main team store, The Hangar Fan Shop, is open near the main entrance and has satellite kiosks throughout the arena.
Dallas is one of the best cities in the United States – there is something to do both before and after a Mavericks game for everyone no matter what their interests. A highlight that is not to be missed is the world-famous Perot Museum of Nature and Science. This incredible facility, whose unique facade has quickly become a standout on the downtown Dallas skyline, is home to an amazing collection of natural history artifacts (this means dinosaurs!) and will be a hit for the entire family.
However, if this is going to be a grown-up trip to the Big D, make sure to check out the aforementioned Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s brewery tour. Located in the historic – and eponymous – Deep Ellum section of Dallas, this brewery has quickly become a favorite among locals. The brewery tour gives you samples of their fantastic craft beer, and there is always some sort of event going on; the kitchen is also extremely popular.
When it comes to food, the city and its arena are in lockstep – you can find great food no matter what your tastes are in the Dallas area. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that some of the country’s best restaurants can be found within the borders of the Metroplex.
Tex-Mex is a staple cuisine of the Lone Star State, and that style is basically defined by El Fenix Mexican Restaurant. Entering its 100th year in business, this is the original Tex-Mex joint, and has remained one of the most popular in the city. If you want more of a sports bar feel though, check out the Victory Tavern City Grille – this eatery has more of an upscale bar food menu, and is within walking distance of American Airlines Center.
Your options for hotels are abundant in and around the area surrounding the AAC, but really the choice depends on your what you are willing to spend; you can go high end with the Ritz-Carlton, or a little lower end with the Hyatt House Dallas. Again, this all depends upon you and your budget.
As the Mavs have waxed and waned in terms of quality on the court, so has the attendance at home games. However, the team has a loyal fan base that has been with them through the thick and the thin. You can expect to see tons of Nowitzki jerseys in the stands, as well as lots of other Dallas Mavericks paraphernalia.
The crowd’s enthusiasm never really dips through the game, and depending on which team is visiting, it can get pretty frenetic in here.
Dallas is one of the major transportation hubs in the country – there are no less than three major airports in the vicinity. Flights come in and out from across the country literally every hour of the day, so that should not be a problem. And if you are driving in from one of the other major cities in Texas (Dallas is three and a half hours from Houston, or four hours and change from San Antonio), the Hangar is easy to get to off of Interstate 35E.
When you get to American Airlines Center, there are multiple parking garages and lots on the streets lining the way – there is also an Uber station conveniently located outside the AAC. Dallas also has a pretty efficient public transportation system, but you can expect some delay as fans try to navigate the streets of Downtown Dallas.
Return on Investment 3
Single-game tickets for Mavericks games can be had for a surprisingly inexpensive cost – upper level seating can be had for as little as $7 per ticket depending on the opponent. But like most NBA teams and venues, the lower the seat (i.e. the closer to the court) the higher the cost; some tickets can go for upwards of $1,445. Again, this all depends on your budget.
Overall, the cost at American Airlines Center is pretty comparable to other NBA venues, with some notable exceptions. Depending on what you want to spend on game tickets and what you want to do in terms of transportation, you can do a game in Dallas and not spend a fortune – this is always a plus.
The Mavs have done a lot to make the entire game experience at the AAC a memorable one. There are the usual accouterments – such as the dance team (the Dallas Mavericks Dancers) and the mascot (Champ); however, there is a lot more going on during the game.
The Dallas Mavericks Drumline is a team of trained percussionists that beat their drums nonstop from the Budweiser Sound Stage on the second level of the AAC. Next to them are the Dallas Mavericks ManiAACs, an award-winning hip-hop dance troupe in their 16th year with the team, who have become fan favorites in Dallas.
One last thing that adds to the overall game experience is that the Mavs have mic’d up the rims and backboards on the court. Having that added extra sound reverberating throughout the arena is pretty great, and gives everyone – no matter where they’re sitting – the impression they’re right there on top of the action.
While I haven’t been to every NBA arena, I have a hard time envisioning any that would be much better than what they have going on in Dallas at American Airlines Center. The facilities are gorgeous, the amenities are first-class, and the experience overall is flat out great. If you’re an NBA fan, you have to make a visit to this arena part of your sports bucket list.
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Food and Drink Recommendations
The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas
2121 McKinney Ave
Dallas, TX 7520
Hyatt House Dallas/Uptown
2914 Harry Hines Blvd
Dallas, TX 75201
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Latest Crowd Reviews
The food and beverages options are top-notch, but the prices are the typical over-priced stadium prices. The atmosphere depends on the product of teams on the court. The fans are among the best in the NBA. The Mavericks are constantly,in the top 5, in league average attendance. The AAC is one of the top-entertainment venues in the country. While Dallas,being one of the best travel destinations for restaurants, lodging, and attractions, is the perfect compliment for making a trip to the AAC,a Stadium Journey must for the sports fan.