Gila River Arena – Arizona Coyotes
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A Howlin’ Good Time at Gila River
In December 2003, the Coyotes moved a few miles west from downtown Phoenix to Gila River Arena in Glendale, which was the first part of the Glendale sports facilities. Joining them in Glendale since then have been the Arizona Cardinals, as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox for Spring Training.
The Coyotes played their first game in the building, which was then called Glendale Arena, on December 27, 2003 against the Nashville Predators. The name changed to Jobing.com Arena on October 25, 2006, and then prior to the 2014-15 season, the building was renamed Gila River Arena.
The naming rights deal with the Gila River Indian Community was the first such deal with a major sporting venue by a Native American group. The Phoenix area continues to be pioneers in this area, as Salt River Fields, the Spring Training home for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, was the first major sporting venue built on Native American land.
Gila River Arena has replaced Talking Stick Resort Arena as the premier entertainment venue in the Valley of the Sun. One of the main reasons that the Coyotes needed to move out of there was because of obstructed seats at both ends of the arena, forcing fans to look up at the video board if the puck was in the end closest to them. Gila River Arena was designed so that the concourse areas would be open to the ice. That allowed for some standing room areas, especially on the upper level, and every seat having a perfect view of the ice.
The Coyotes moved to Phoenix in 1996 from Winnipeg. The franchise has struggled on the ice during its entire existence, with the first-ever division championship and playoff series wins happening in the 2011-12 season. They went on to lose to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals, but the success gained the Coyotes some fans that they hadn’t had before. With a stable ownership situation right now, the Coyotes are gaining some traction in the area that they haven’t experienced since first moving to Phoenix.
Food & Beverage 4
There is a very diverse selection of food and beverage in the arena. All of it is pretty expensive though. The main concession stands have hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, beer, soda, and more. Gila River Arena is a Pepsi venue. There’s also specialty beer stands throughout the concourse. Hot dogs are available everywhere, and cost $5.75. Things like nachos and sodas also cost right around $6. Beers are anywhere from $8-$12 depending on size and whether they’re domestic or import.
Each side of the arena has a “Blue Line Deli,” which offers a couple types of sandwiches for about $9 in addition to the typical arena food. Looking for high-quality sandwiches? Cross Cut Carvery has a couple of locations on both levels in the north end. These sandwiches are $12 apiece.
Next to Cross Cut Carvery on the north end is Turn 4 Wine. This is becoming popular at more Arizona venues. It offers wine at more affordable prices, making it perfect for sporting events. It also has a few barrel-shaped tables where fans can stand and chat during intermissions or before the game.
At center ice on both sides of the arena are open spaces that have some tables. With the concourse opened up to the ice, fans can stand and eat their food at these tables and not miss any of the game. The east side area has Bar S, offering a unique brand of meats.
Canyon Grille is located near section 109. It has several burger options, including a family meal called the “Penalty Box” for $27. This comes with fries and a few burgers. All of the burgers by themselves at this location are around $10 a pop.
On the south end of the arena behind sections 107 and 108 is the Coyotes Market, which offers salads. If you’re a vegetarian, this appears to be the only stand in the arena where you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Also in the south end, but on both levels, is the Coyote Taphouse. If the beer selections at the main concession stands aren’t your thing, the Taphouse has more varieties, and also has a bunch of hard liquor. Both locations are fully-stocked bars to satisfy those who don’t enjoy Coors Light.
Near section 102 is Sunrise Cantina, which has the Mexican food offerings in the arena, all for about $10 as well, including tacos and loaded nachos. At the Goal Line concession stand behind section 103, you’ll find a few chicken options, including wings and chicken tenders.
For pizza, Papa John’s has a couple of locations throughout the arena.
One of the more popular choices, especially among the Canadian transplants, is Tim Horton’s. The small stand the arena had was so popular that the Coyotes opened up an entire concession stand dedicated to the beloved coffee brand. You’ll find it close to section 120.
With the food prices, I would still recommend eating next door at Westgate before a Coyotes game, but if you do need to eat at the arena, there are certainly plenty of options for everyone. It’ll just cost you about $20 to get a full dinner out of the ordeal.
When you enter the arena, you notice right away that it feels a lot more open than most arenas. The concourses almost all open up to the ice, allowing fans to stand and watch the game if they so desire. The upper concourse even has a shelf for people to put their food on as they watch the action from the top of the arena. The look itself is very sleek and modern. The walls are all sand-colored, with the seats being Sedona Red. The entire setting is very easy on the eyes, and very obvious that this is the home of the Coyotes.
The entire arena is designed with fan comfort in mind. The seats all angle towards center ice, and are very comfortable, both in the lower and upper bowls. The upper bowl is a little steep, so it’s not ideal for people who can’t walk as well. It also puts more people right on top of the game action.
The upper concourse goes along the top of the arena. The main concourse is in the center of the arena, with the lower bowl being below it. There really is no bad seat; you can see everything from everywhere. The arena also has a ton of suites, 87 of them to be exact. You can host huge groups in these, most of them seat about 30 but some can hold up to 50 people.
The Coyotes logo faces the west side of the arena, with the benches being on the east side. The Coyotes attack twice towards the south end, which are sections 105-110 and 205-210.
The center scoreboard has the score, shots on goal, and penalties throughout the game. All four video boards show live game action, as well as instant replays and other features throughout the game. There are also scoreboards on the facade of each end of the arena.
As with any typical NHL game, there’s music blasting during every stoppage of play, but the sound system is really nice, which is part of Gila River Arena being one of the best concert venues in the country.
Part of the design of filling Glendale with pro sports was surrounding it with a huge entertainment district. It took a couple of years after the Coyotes moved to Glendale to get this built, but it makes game days an all-day event. This area is known as the Glendale Sports and Entertainment District, which stretches along three miles of the Loop 101 Agua Fria Fwy.
The arena is part of Westgate City Center, which offers many restaurants, stores, and a movie theatre. The restaurants that share a sidewalk with the arena include: McFadden’s, Salt Tacos y Tequila, Hell’s Half Acre, Whiskey Rose and Saddle Ranch. Walk a little farther into the shopping center and you’ll find Buffalo Wild Wings, Yard House, Cold Stone Creamery, and many other dining options.
If you feel like catching a movie before or after the game, an AMC movie theatre is located on the opposite side of Westgate from Gila River Arena. If you are planning a trip to Glendale, there are hotels right in the area, including the Renaissance Hotel, which is almost attached to the arena. There’s also an outlet mall called the Tanger Outlets, where you can find even more shopping. It is on the west side of the main Westgate parking lot. It may also be the most convenient place to park, and it is free to park there.
At the right time of year, you can combine a Coyotes game with another game nearby. Just south is University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cardinals. In October, November and December, there are times when the two teams play over the course of a weekend. There was even an instance in January 2016 where the Coyotes had an afternoon game, followed by a Cardinals playoff game that night. If you’re going to a Coyotes game in March, just two exits south along the Loop 101 is Camelback Ranch, home of Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers spring training. Or you can drive a little farther north and go to Peoria Sports Complex, which is home to the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.
Getting the fans to Glendale has been an issue, and that issue still remains for weekday games, but weekend games tend to fill up. Most of the fan base is located in the eastern portion of the Phoenix area, which makes getting to Glendale a pain for people. That is why there is talk of the Coyotes moving back to downtown Phoenix or Tempe, and sharing an arena with new NCAA Division-1 hockey team Arizona State.
The Coyotes are doing their best with the ticket packages and deals that they offer for almost every home game. It is certainly not nearly as expensive to go to a Coyote game compared to other major sports franchises.
The fans that do show up are into the game from start to finish. They still manage to fill the place with noise. Chants get started pretty easily during the game; you would never guess the amount of people from the amount of noise. Make sure to howl after every goal, and take part in the chant “He shoots, he scores, hey goalie, you suck.”
Yes, there are a lot of visiting team fans that are at the games too, but that happens with all Phoenix-area teams since a lot of people that live here are transplanted from somewhere else.
Gila River Arena is located just east of the Loop 101 Agua Fria Fwy at the Glendale exit. There is a ton of free parking all around the Glendale Sports and Entertainment District on Coyote game days. If you feel the need for premium parking, there is a valet lot just east of the arena, and a parking garage attached to the Renaissance Hotel. You may run into some $10 parking lots, but Westgate and Tanger Outlets have so many free parking lots on game days that you shouldn’t feel the need to spend money to park in a surface lot.
Most fans enter the arena through the north entrance, which is also where the ticket office and team shop are located. Security is very simple; just make sure to take everything out of your pockets because everyone goes through a metal detector as they enter. It makes the process a lot faster if you are prepared, kind of like at an airport.
Walking around the arena is very easy, even during intermissions. The concourse is very wide, and the food lines never get too long. Plenty of bathrooms keep the walking area nice and clear. Both the upper and level concourses have standing-room areas, but they don’t interfere with the ease of walking around.
Leaving the arena has gotten easier as well with the addition of on and off ramps at Maryland Ave. Getting off at Maryland requires you to be in a carpool between 3 and 7 PM, but after the game, anyone can go that way rather than using Glendale Ave.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for Coyotes games are very reasonable. You can buy an upper level ticket for a game during the week, and just move down to the lower bowl if there’s room for you (which there usually is). For most games Monday-Thursday, if you have a valid student ID you can buy “The Best Seat in the House” for just $25 (normal upper level ticket price). There are plenty of other ticket specials as well to choose from.
Hanging above the concession stands along the west concourse are various hockey jerseys; some historical and some bizarre. It’s an interesting touch, and gives you something to look at and learn about while walking the concourse or just hanging out.
At the beginning of the second intermission, “Shoot for Loot” happens, where a lucky fan can win a lot of money by burying the puck in the back of the net. If they don’t make it, the money adds on to the next game, so if a bunch of people have missed in the games before you, there’s a chance you’ll make some serious coin. You can register for it at the customer service locations around the arena. The Paw Patrol (the Coyotes cheerleaders) throw out free t-shirts during the third period as well.
The entertainment district itself is an extra point. There’s so much to do within walking distance from the arena. You could literally spend an entire day without having to drive anywhere and not get bored.
The ability to have standing room crowds is good for the club too, especially when they’re in the playoffs. And the fact that the upper concourse is designed for that is very unique and very cool.
The franchise’s only divisional championship banner hangs proudly at the north end of the arena. There are some retired numbers on the west side as well, including past legends like Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, Dale Hawerchuck, and former Coyotes coach and part owner Wayne Gretzky. Current captain Shane Doan will surely be up there one day, as he has spent his entire career with the Jets/Coyotes franchise. He’s the only player left that was a part of the team that moved in 1996.
Hockey as a sport has really found a footing in Arizona, as evidenced by ASU joining the D-1 ranks and the widely-publicized boom in youth hockey participation around the state. If the Coyotes were to move back to the central part of the Phoenix area, I think they would benefit greatly, and relocation talks would go away forever.
For now, having an arena like Gila River Arena isn’t a bad consolation prize. It’s just in the wrong city.
Food and Drink Recommendations
Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa
9495 W. Coyotes Blvd
Glendale, AZ 85305
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Phoenix-Glendale
9310 W Cabela Dr.
Glendale, AZ 85305
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