University of Phoenix Stadium – Arizona Cardinals
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The Bird Gang Flocks to Glendale
University of Phoenix Stadium, which opened its doors in August 2006, is home to the NFL’s Cardinals, as well as the Fiesta Bowl, and many other events throughout the year. It is easily the most state-of-the-art sports facility in Arizona, and arguably one of the best in the NFL and country. The total construction cost ended up being 455 million dollars for the uniquely designed stadium. It seats 63,400 for Cardinals regular season games, but can be expanded to 72,200 for playoff games, the Fiesta Bowl and other large events. It has also played host to Super Bowls XLII and XLIX, plus the 2011 BCS National Championship game (which holds the stadium’s attendance record at 78,603) and the 2016 College Football National Championship game. There are also a multitude of international soccer events held in Glendale thanks to its proximity to Mexico.
The stadium is designed to be in the shape of a barrel cactus, representative of the typical Arizona landscape. It has a retractable roof, which is much needed for the Cardinals. It also features the first fully retractable field. On non-game days, the field is moved outside of the stadium so that the natural grass can receive the sunlight it would not get if left inside.
Food & Beverage 5
University of Phoenix Stadium has many food options all along the main concourse and the upper concourse. “Red Dogs” has the most typical stadium food. Hot dogs are $5 or $6, as well as sodas. You can get a hamburger or chicken tender combo meal, which each come with chips and a small drink for $10. “Gridiron Grill” offers a lot of options for those who are looking for something a little different. They have the same items as “Red Dogs,” as well as chicken sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and fries. All of these items are between $6 and $9. UOP Stadium is a Coca-Cola serving stadium.
Other stands include: “Sportsman’s Café” (Kettlecorn), “Mr. B’s Bowtie” (Street Tacos), “Pizzaz” (Papa John’s Pizza), “Touchdown Tortillas” (Mexican), “Desert Breeze” (Specialty Drinks) and “Grande Rojo” (Chicken). You’ll find them in this order when walking from Section 136 to Section 124. Pretty much everything is priced somewhere between $5 and $9.
The upper concourse has all of the same stuff as the main concourse as far as options are concerned. If you’re sitting up top, you’ll probably want to wait on buying your food until you get to the upper concourse, as the lines tend to be shorter.
The main concourse is designed in a way that separates the permanent concession stands with the rest of the walkway. This allows for there to be smaller carts set up all around the stadium, closer to the main seating area. These offer a wide variety of treats and drinks. In addition to everything that’s found at the main concession stands, there are more Mexican stands (Salty Senorita), craft beer, dessert options, and a few other small things. Everything at these is in the same price range of $6-$12.
In the south end zone, there is a catering station set up for all fans. It’s more of a buffet-style serving, and has more high-end food. It does cost more ($12-$18), but if you’re looking for something different than your typical stadium food, this is an area you need to check out.
In the lower level of the south end zone is the Bud Light Game Zone. You can buy tickets to access this area for $40. There’s food, drinks, and even pool tables for people that are looking for an alternative to traditional tailgating. They also offer NFL Sunday Ticket, and it opens three hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, which allows you to watch the early games while waiting for the Cardinals to play in the 4 PM ET slate.
I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of the food options offered around the stadium. You can pretty much find whatever you might be in the mood for. The only food items you are allowed to bring in are one factory-sealed, non-frozen 500mL (16.9 fl. oz.) plain bottle of water, and food and beverage items for infants two years of age or younger.
The stadium itself is incredible visually, both inside and out. In the north end zone, there are the NFC West division and NFC conference championship banners. Behind those banners is a mural of Cardinal legends. The south end zone is the “Redzone,” where there are removable stands because the playing surface moves out that direction so it can get sun during the week. Most fans enter the stadium through gate 3, which is the north entrance. Just outside the stadium is the “Flight Deck,” where fans can enjoy some pregame food and drinks without having to enter the stadium. You can also win free prizes throughout the day before the game. All general entrance gates open 90 minutes before kickoff.
The logo at midfield faces the west stands, and the Cardinals bench is on the west sideline. Many visiting fans, and it is many, sit on the east side behind the visiting bench (sections 126-133).
The north end zone scoreboard and video board are very small, but the south one is much larger and easier to read and see. This makes sense because the majority of the seats in the stadium face the south end zone. Out of town scores are shown on banner scoreboards in each corner of the stadium throughout the game. Interestingly though, one of the corners is reserved for only showing fantasy stats. Good way to keep track of your fantasy team on Sunday afternoons.
The concourses are very easy to get around. There is a lot of space between the seating area and the concession stands and restrooms. Both sides of the stadium are almost identical with what they offer fans as far as amenities, but when the roof is open, the sun does shine on a huge chunk of the east side for most of the game.
There are tons of suites in University of Phoenix Stadium. The club seating areas cost anywhere between $455 and $185 depending on location. There is also a public Wifi network available in the stadium, but it can be a little spotty.
University of Phoenix Stadium was the central piece of the City of Glendale’s sports arenas project. That expansion of the city included the building of Gila River Arena and Camelback Ranch in addition to University of Phoenix Stadium. They have turned the entire Glendale chunk of the Loop 101 into a booming entertainment district. Right across the street from the stadium on the west side is Sportsman’s Park, where most of the tailgating occurs prior to and after Cardinals games. There is a stage set up for pregame concerts and entertainment, as well as tons and tons of tents set up by the fans. There’s tailgating everywhere though, not just at Sportsman’s Park.
Just north of the stadium is Westgate City Center, which offers an enormous amount of dining and shopping choices before and after the game. Some of the food choices include: Margaritaville, McFadden’s, Saddle Ranch, Hell’s Half Acre, and so much more. On game days though, it is much more difficult to get to because all of the parking lots in the area are changed from the regular free parking to pass-specific and paid lots for the game and tailgaters.
The closest general public parking lot for Cardinal games is located at the Tanger Outlet Mall, which is in between the Loop 101 and Westgate City Center. Here you’ll find even more shops and places to eat before and after the game. If you park at the outlet mall, you receive a $10 off coupon for any store, so it sort of balances out the parking cost. If you’re parking in general parking, get off the 101 at the Glendale Ave. exit, then head east of the highway. Getting off at any of the other exits only goes to reserved parking lots, and they will all turn you away.
The closest hotel is the Renaissance, which is right next to Gila River Arena on the north side of UOP Stadium. It can get a bit pricey though, so I would recommend staying somewhere along the Loop 101. Every major hotel chain has a property somewhere along the 101 on the west side of the Phoenix area.
In addition to restaurants, Westgate also offers a movie theater and an art gallery. There are also various shops. As you go farther north on the 101 from UOP Stadium, you’ll run into all kinds of golf courses, and many other things surrounding Peoria Sports Complex.
The state of Arizona is full of transplanted fans from all over the country, and this is most apparent at Cardinals games. When you go to a Cardinals game, you may think you’re actually at the visiting team’s stadium based on the jerseys you see. Sure, you’ll see a majority of red and black out there, but it’s a very slight majority. Having transplanted football fans in the Valley has resulted in a less than ideal home atmosphere for the Cards. Having the crowd split 60/40 makes for an interesting dynamic though since there is always a large group of fans cheering no matter what happens. The Cardinals do enjoy a little bit of a homefield advantage, but not a big one.
UOP Stadium is located just east of the Loop 101 Agua Fria Fwy, in between the Bethany Home and Glendale Rd. exits. There are parking lots that require passes that are off of these exits, as well as the ones just north (Northern Ave.) and south (Camelback Rd.). There are electronic signs all along the 101 clearly telling you where to get off for which color pass you have. The signs don’t tell you where to go if you don’t have a parking pass though. If you don’t have a specific parking pass, the best option is to get off at Glendale and park at the Tanger outlets. You will want to stay in the right lane when you get on to Glendale to get in this lot, even though the line is really long and slow moving. This parking lot is $10, and there are signs for it once you get on Glendale Ave. There is also a parking garage option near the Renaissance Hotel, but that costs $20. It may be worth it early in the year when it’s still hot out, but not when the weather is really nice. It’s not much closer to the stadium than the open air lot, and it’s more difficult to get out of.
The security checks are outside of the main entrance gates, but are not close to where they check the tickets. This is good for people without bags because they can skip the bag check and not be delayed by it. It’s also nice that they do the bag check this way with the NFL clear bag policy, because fans are still somewhat close to their car in case they have to go back and put stuff away. Some parking attendants all along the walk from the parking lots to the stadium also tell people if their bags will be allowed in or not.
After entering the stadium, you enter the main concourse. For fans going to the upper concourse, there are escalators and elevators on each side to take you up there, with plenty of signs pointing you in the right direction. The upper concourse does not allow access to the other side through the south end, so either use the escalator on your side or make sure to use the north end zone walkway on the upper concourse. That upper walkway also has a team shop, a DJ, and offers various concession stands for fans walking through there. There are also team shops found throughout both concourses called the “AZone.” The main team shop is located in the northeast corner of the stadium off of the main concourse near section 123.
The entire concourse is lined along the outside by either concession stands or restrooms, so you are never too far away from either one. And with the concession stands having so many cashiers, the lines for food never get too long. The bathrooms are enormous as well, and there are 50 of them. The interior design of the stadium is very fan friendly. The lower and upper concourses have field views, though they are limited. Both end zones have tons of room where you can just stand and watch the game, and many people take advantage of this.
Return on Investment 3
The Cardinals do not offer any tickets below $30, so it can be pricey to bring the family to see a game. You can find the entire pricing and seating chart here. No real in-game promotions or giveaways for fans either. You can get a free jumbo jack when you buy a large drink at Jack in the Box when the Cardinals get a sack. You can also get a free medium coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts on their mobile app after a Cardinal win. Also with food prices inside the stadium being fairly high, game day could cost a small fortune. University of Phoenix Stadium is by far the nicest and most modern venue in Arizona though, so everyone should go at least once. It’s worth it to walk around the entire stadium, inside and out, just to see all the bells and whistles.
Going to a Cardinals game is a great experience for any football fan. The tailgating has a great atmosphere to it. The retractable roof provides comfort for the fans in any weather once the game starts, and just like Diamondback games, it can be nice to escape the heat for an afternoon. The design of the stadium is definitely unique. The open concourse in the end zones is good for fans that choose to stand and watch the games. The exterior design is definitely one that people will remember…either good or bad. It also makes it very easy to find, being visible for miles and miles along the 101.
The surrounding area deserves an extra point as well. There’s always something to do before and after Cardinal games without having to get in your car to find it.
In the upper concourse of the north end zone, you can find the Cardinals Hall of Fame, which has information on all the legends that have been honored by the team. Also, on the wall of the lower concourse in the southeast corner, there’re pictures of the stadium as it was being built. In addition, each level of the stadium has its own theme of Arizona, portrayed in murals. The upper concourse is the sky, honoring the observatories throughout the state. The other levels feature the state’s rivers, mountains, canyons and deserts.
The Cardinals have a ring of honor, which features players such as Dan Dierdorf, Ernie Nevers, Aeneas Williams, and of course the late Pat Tillman. Tillman is a legend in Arizona, having played his entire football career in Sun Devil Stadium as a member of the Arizona State Sun Devils in college, and then the Cardinals in the NFL. His story is well-known to most, leaving the Cardinals to join the Army Rangers after 9/11, and then being killed in action, followed by enormous amounts of controversy and conspiracy surrounding his death. His legacy lives on at University of Phoenix Stadium, as well as the entire Phoenix area. There is a statue in his honor on the north side of the Cardinals’ stadium, and the plaza that surrounds it is named Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza. Each spring, the Pat Tillman Foundation puts on Pat’s Run, which occurs at Arizona State.
You really do have to see this place to believe it. Everything is so spacious, so modern, and so clean. It is obvious that fan comfort was a top priority after the many years the franchise spent at Sun Devil Stadium. Every sports fan should make the trip to Glendale in the coming years to see University of Phoenix Stadium. It is a truly one-of-a-kind place. A modern marvel.
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