Arizona Stadium – Arizona Wildcats
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New Meets Old at Arizona Stadium
Arizona Stadium and the Arizona Wildcats football experience is a unique one, and one that has seen many upgrades in recent years. But when you look at the stadium as a whole, there’s quite the contrast between the renovations and the relics. The opening of the new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility in the north end zone has completely transformed Arizona Stadium. The north end zone area is on the cutting edge of college football, offering suites, diverse concession options, and most importantly, comfortable seating.
The rest of the stadium still has portions remaining from when it originally opened in 1929. Back in those days, Arizona Stadium had a capacity of 7,000, but is now at 55,675.
A new artificial surface was also installed prior to the 2013 season. A ghost-lettered “Bear Down” runs in between the hashes, and adds an extra visual element that the stadium had been lacking with the old natural grass.
In total, the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility cost $72.3 million, and was paid for through private donations. It is really quite impressive from a fan’s standpoint, and as a football training facility. You can find a photo tour of the facility here.
The Arizona football tradition has never been a strong one, always being no higher than third on the popularity list behind men’s basketball and softball at the university. That battle is never-ending for the program, and makes it difficult to justify further improvements to the experience. The football team has still never been to a Rose Bowl, making them the only member of the former Pac-10 to not make a January trip to Pasadena.
Food & Beverage 4
Arizona Stadium is fairly reasonable when it comes to pricing of traditional stadium food; $3 for a hot dog, with sodas and other traditional food items ranging anywhere from 2-8 dollars. All University of Arizona facilities are currently serving Coca-Cola products. No alcohol is served stadium-wide, but is available in the suites. There are also a couple of extra food items offered in the several concourses at Arizona Stadium. Some concession stands offer barbeque sandwiches for $6, which are very big, and very tasty. Various other food carts line the concourses and walkways.
While the west concession stands seem to be the fastest and have the shortest lines, the north end zone has the most options. Outside of the traditional food, there are Sonoran Dogs, Sweet Potato Fries, as well as a Minimart and a couple of other specialty stands that you will not find anywhere else in the stadium.
The awkward thing about the new-look Arizona Stadium is the striking difference between the appearances of the north end zone and the rest of the stadium. Sure, it’s great to have this shiny new toy added to one end, but the rest of the stadium needs some help. It’s very weird to stand on the street and see this great building with all this fancy stuff on it, but then look at the main stands and see worn-down concrete that is water-stained, dilapidated, and out of place. One drawback from making the stadium a complete bowl is the view to the north has been hidden. But if you sit up high, either in the suites on the west side, or the upper deck on the east side, you can still take in the foothills surrounding Tucson, and be able to look at all of campus, downtown Tucson, and the surrounding areas.
With the stadium now a complete bowl, entering at a specific gate is not necessary anymore. Most tickets have a gate number on them, and if you’re sitting on the south end you may want to follow that guide since it is the most difficult part of the stadium to get to from the rest. Gates 1 and 2 are in the northeast corner near Cherry Garage, and the gate numbers are highest on the west side. For a complete diagram of where the gates, sections, elevators and stairways are, click here.
Since the west side press box and suites are so high, the sun is only a problem for the east side of the stands for early afternoon kick times. Most games at Arizona Stadium are played at night, which later on in the year can get very cold because the wind swirls around and makes it uncomfortable unless you have a jacket or sweater.
I would recommend not sitting on the south end of the stadium, mostly because the main video board is behind you. If you sit there, it makes it sort of awkward if you want to see the replay of the last big play, or get a good view of the score. The newer, smaller video board on the north end helps counteract this a little bit, but it can still be tough to read from far away. The north end also has much better facilities than the rest of the stadium.
The Wildcats enter the stadium through the north end zone, coming straight out of their new locker room. The Pride of Arizona Marching Band forms a tunnel after they perform their traditional pregame show to the west side. You want to make sure you always see the Pride of Arizona perform pregame, halftime, and even the after-game concert held at the Admin Building in the middle of campus.
Two hours prior to the game, the football teams walks down Cherry Ave. for “Wildcat Walk.” When this tradition first started in 2010, it was a huge deal. That’s not the case anymore. At the end of it, all the players touch the John Button Salmon statue, which is located just outside the stadium on Cherry Ave. Salmon is the reason Bear Down is the school’s rallying cry and fight song. He was the school’s quarterback, catcher, and student body president, but after the first game of the 1926 season, he suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a car accident. When coach Pop McKale (the namesake of McKale Center next door) made his last visit to the hospital before Salmon died, the quarterback gave coach this message: “Tell them, tell the team to Bear Down.” Bear Down became the official fight song in 1952, written by Jack K. Lee, and is played after every Wildcat score.
The U of A bench is on the east side, right in front of Zonazoo (the student section). Zonazoo takes up the entire lower half of the east side of the stadium. Only students can sit here, so if you are general public and want to sit on the east side you have to sit in the mezzanine or upper levels.
The seats themselves for most of the stadium are metal benches, but fans do have the option of renting seatbacks or bring in their own, as long as they are not wider than 18 inches and don’t have armrests, cup holders or block the walkway. The seats in the north end are regular seats, and are very comfortable. The very same seats are also now found in sections W11, W12 and W13 on the south end, and also in the mezzanine level of the east side. These ones have cup holders and backs, and are grey colored so they don’t get too hot in the sun.
Sands Club is found in the north end zone, which is the new group of suites available to fans. The Sands Club has private boxes with their own HD TVs, as well as a full bar and lounge area which takes up the entire top level of Lowell-Stevens Football Facility. Other suites and boxes are found at the top of the west side, but do not have quite the same amenities as the Sands Club does.
The main section for visiting fans is section 17, which is located in the southwest corner of the stadium. The visiting band also used to be here, but they have been moved to the very top of section 209, where basically no one can hear them, which is a shame. The visiting team enters through the northwest corner of the stadium, and the on-field logos face towards the west side.
Wilbur and Wilma the Wildcats are U of A’s mascots, and they are a central part of the football game experience. The Pride of Arizona marching band is obviously a huge part as well.
Prior to each home game, there is tons of tailgating along “The Mall” at U of A, which is a long grassy area that goes through the middle of campus along 3rd Street. Some tailgating also occurs in the various parking lots next to the stadium, and around McKale Center.
Campus is just a big party on game days. These are the only days that alcohol is permitted on campus. If you would rather go to a sports bar before the game, Dirtbags and Trident are both near the corner of Speedway and Campbell, and are both easily walkable to the stadium. There are also a few options along 6th St.
There is also University Boulevard, which has tons of restaurants, bars, and shops that you can enjoy before and after the game. “Uni” is probably the best place to go before a game that isn’t tailgating. I personally like No Anchovies the best, a place with great pizza and a lot of drink specials. Gentle Ben’s is another good option as well. It’s all part of Maingate Square, which is located just west of the main part of campus between Park Ave and Euclid. The night before a home game, Bear Down Fridays, which is the traditional pep rally, is held here. The band, cheerleaders, and even some coaches from the rest of athletics take part in it.
The Tucson Streetcar is the best way to get around campus and the downtown area. Although it doesn’t drop off particularly close to Arizona Stadium, the nearest stop is at the softball stadium three blocks north of the football stadium on Cherry. The Streetcar goes all the way through campus, through Maingate Square, down Fourth Avenue, and down Congress all the way to the Tucson Convention Center. That encompasses pretty much every popular bar in town, and all of the entertainment options one could ask for on a Saturday in Tucson.
For hotels, the closest to the stadium is Aloft, which is at the corner of Campbell and Speedway, walking distance from the stadium. Tucson Marriott University Park is in Maingate Square, so it is also walking distance and right next to the Streetcar.
There are very few strong fan traditions at Arizona football games, and Athletics is constantly changing things trying to find one that works. Changing things around doesn’t work so well though. With the lack of tradition comes the lack of a strong fan base at every game. Often times, the student section empties out well before the clock hits zero, and there’s not a ton of energy in the stadium throughout. Now, if it’s a close game, things will get ratcheted up from everyone, but for the most part, Arizona football fans leave something to be desired.
Arizona Stadium is located on the southeast corner of campus, near the intersection of 6th St. and Campbell Ave. There are many parking garages on campus that charge varying rates ($5-$10) depending on how close they are to the stadium. Most surface lots are restricted to specific passes, so garages are the best bet for on-campus parking. With the Streetcar around now, I’d recommend parking somewhere along it rather than trying to park close to the stadium. It is very easy to get into the stadium as long as you have a clear bag. All Arizona Wildcat events have adopted the Clear Bag Policy that was started by the NFL.
The concourses are usually not too crowded, so walking around your particular area of the stadium is easy. With the addition of the north concourse, fans can now walk around the entire stadium without any issues. The bathroom situation has also been vastly improved. Gone are the days of port-a-potties in the stadium.
The new elevators and stairwells on both corners of the north side also provide better access for everyone to the different levels of the stadium.
Cellphone service can still be a problem during games despite the school’s efforts to improve that. This makes it difficult to keep track of other games going on.
Return on Investment 3
Individual game ticket prices range anywhere from $20-$380 for regular tickets depending on the opponent, and where in the stadium you want to sit. To get a decent ticket against a Pac-12 opponent, expect to pay somewhere between 40 and 65 dollars. The north end zone seating is $55 for conference games, compared to $25 to sit in the south end zone. The value of sitting on the north side is worth it.
There are no real bad seats in Arizona Stadium, you just have to decide if you want to be high in the upper level along the sidelines, or down on the lower level with a view of the main video board or not. It all depends on your preferences. I recommend printing your tickets at home before going to the game so you don’t have to stand in line at the ticket window at McKale Center or at the new ticket offices that have been added to the stadium.
Food at the stadium isn’t outrageously priced either, helping contribute to the average return on investment Arizona football provides.
The lack of a strong football tradition shows in the stadium. There is a ring of honor for those players and coaches that are legends in the football program (Teddy Bruschi, Antoine Cason, Chuck Cecil, Lance Briggs, Chris McAlister among others). And there is also a banner for each bowl game that the Wildcats have been apart of, which is not a very impressive list compared to other Pac-12 programs. There are on-field fireworks when the team runs out before each game which is pretty cool. And after each game, the Pride of Arizona marching band does a parade through campus to the Administration building and Alumni Plaza where they do a postgame concert that is finished off by the ringing of the bell from the USS Arizona.
I attended the University of Arizona from 2007-2011, and was a member of the Pride of Arizona Drumline all four years, so Arizona Stadium is a special place to me. Every year on the first night of band camp the week before school, Professor Jay Rees would lead the band into the stadium, in the dark, and we just sit there and take it in. Take in all the history, look around at an empty stadium that the next time we’ll see it, 50,000 other people will be there as well.
Certainly the new north end zone facilities are welcome, but the rest of the stadium still needs a little bit of help. A lot of the main concourse along both sidelines still looks like a dump, and as one fan from Arizona State told me, “It’s like slapping a new bumper on a Pinto.” The new football facilities will bring in the recruits, but revamping the rest of the stadium will bring in the excitement.
The neighborhood and access have certainly improved, and the university is doing their best to make it more affordable for families to come out and support the football team. Everything about the Arizona Football experience is certainly heading in the right direction.
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