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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Talons relocated from Tulsa to San Antonio in 2012, making the Alamodome their home for Arena Football League (AFL) action. The Talons draw an average sized AFL crowd (7k – 10k). The game-day experience is action packed from seats which are nearly on top of the game, to players and footballs flying into the stands, to high energy from the announcer, sports marketing team, mascot (Swoop) and dance team (Sky Dancers).
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
One of the major perks of playing in the Alamodome is access to a large variety of concession options. Though only about a quarter of the Alamodome is available for Talons games, many of the staple concession stand locations are open. If you arrive to the game with a craving, chances are that you'll satisfy it whether through classic stadium fare or one of the specialty items.
Some of the available classic fare items were hot dogs, brats, nachos, popcorn, pretzels, hamburgers, corn dogs, ice cream, and lemonade. The specialty items ranged from pizza and hot wings (Pizza Hut stand), salads, Earl Campbell sausage links, turkey/roast beef sandwiches, chicken/beef fajita nachos, specialty hot dogs, fajitas, and quesadillas.
As for beverages, the Alamodome is a Pepsi product facility (which is a plus or minus depending on your taste). Several beer options were available from your classic domestics to a few local brands (i.e. Shiner Bock). Frozen margaritas of different flavors were also available.
All of the concession options were very accessible. There was at least two of each type of stand throughout the concourse, one on each side of the main entrance. Lines were relatively short and options were plentiful. The prices were typical for a major sports facility.
I found the Alamodome to be an interesting venue for Arena Football. By interesting, I'm referring to why a sport designed to fit in a basketball arena was chosen to be played in a 65,000 seat stadium. You can't deny the perks the Alamodome brings from an historical perspective and a closer location to downtown San Antonio, but it seemed that another option, like the AT&T Center (home to the NBA's San Antonio Spurs), would be a better fit.
For San Antonio Talon games, the Alamodome is adjusted so that only about a quarter of the stadium is in use. The arena set-up utilizes the space of approximately the 35 yard line to the north end zone on a traditional football field. Instead of running the field north to south, the smaller arena field lays east to west. The western sideline straddles what would be north end zone seating and bleachers are brought in on the eastern sideline. An unappealing row of curtains hang from the Alamodome ceiling and drape behind the eastern sideline bleachers to block view of the remaining unused stadium. Though better than leaving the unused portion of the stadium visible, it remains an eyesore. Bleachers are also added in to account for the space leftover behind the arena end zones.
The Talons certainly make the best use of the venue they have. Whether it's the "in your face" style of the Arena Football League which brings players crashing into the stands, the interactive stadium announcer, the Sky Dancers dance team, or the entertaining mascot (Swoop), you won't leave a Talons' game disappointed (unless your team loses). From beginning to end, expect a high intensity, action packed arena football experience. When the game ends, the action doesn't. Players, coaches, dance team members, and the mascot meet fans on the field for post-game autographs.
There is certainly some historical significance of the Alamodome which helps to make up for the arena-fit issues. Since its opening in 1993, the Alamodome has hosted the Alamo Bowl (college football bowl game), the San Antonio Spurs (NBA basketball team from 1993-2002), men's and women's Final Fours (college basketball postseason), Big 12 Championship Games (college football), an NBA All-Star Game, and the New Orleans Saints (NFL team) for a portion of one season following Hurricane Katrina.
Though there is not much within immediate walking distance of the Alamodome, you are just a mile away from downtown San Antonio. The Riverwalk is a must-stop when visiting the Alamo City. Here you'll find bars, pubs, restaurants, plenty of people, and great landscape views. Personally, I recommend clearing out your travel schedule and making this your primary attraction.
For lunch, be sure to grab a table under a colored umbrella next to the river at Casa Rio. For a great sample of tasty Tex-Mex cuisine, you can't miss with "Deluxe Dinner" which includes a cheese enchilada, a taco, a tamale, chili con carne, and more.
If you are looking for a more upscale lunch, try a Texas favorite, Saltgrass Steakhouse, which is also on the Riverwalk. If you are looking for great margaritas, give Rita's on the River a shot. There are many other excellent options along the Riverwalk so be sure to adventure out.
If you have time for at least one historical stop, you can't forget the Alamo. You don't want to get on Davy Crockett's bad side, now do you? The visit and tour are both free, but spend a few bucks on a "You can go to Hell and I will go to Texas - Davy Crockett" t-shirt. Another option is the Tower of the Americas. Standing at 750 feet tall, the tower is a space-needle styled structure with an observation deck, fine dining restaurant, and panoramic view of downtown San Antonio.
From kickoff to game's end, expect an involved Talons' crowd. The announced attendance for the date of this review was 8,205 and most made sure the opposing team knew they were there. Crowd participation is constantly encouraged throughout the game by the stadium announcer. Unless prodded by the PA, however, the fanbase is not as active. The Talons do a great job of utilizing their mascot, Swoop, in addition to the PA to keep the fans in the game.
Just off I-37, the Alamodome is easily accessible from the interstate and also from downtown San Antonio via E Commerce and E Market Streets. Parking is plentiful and relatively cheap ($5). As you make your way to the main entrance, there are several ticket gates which keep lines short and a separate set of gates for will call tickets. You can't miss the restrooms. Expect two sets on each side of the main entrance. These restrooms are very large, clean, and they will likely be without lines for either male or female.
It's hard to say there is a bad seat in the house, but some are clearly better than others. If you want to maximize your arena football experience, seats along the field wall are where it's at. However, these seats run in the $150 range. Though you'll definitely enjoy your time in those seats with players getting flipped into your lap and souvenir footballs being tossed into the stands, I can think of many other places I'd rather spend $150 for a ticket.
The next level seating runs in the $36 range. These seats give you a great view, but lack the "in-the-game" feel of the wall seating. If you're looking to get into the game at the cheapest price possible, there are some upper corner seats available for about $11. Again, this is still a great view for football, but even further from the main attraction which is the feeling that you are right in the action.
Call me cheap, but I just don't see spending $36 for tickets to a Talons game (or any other arena football game) on a consistent basis. After you add in $5 for parking, $15-$20 per person for concessions, your investment price is getting a little high, especially if this is a family outing.
That said, the Talons are offering 2-for-1 tickets throughout the 2012 season. It is a great way to introduce the team to its new fan base, and a good chance to get a look at the product if you are a fan in the area, or someone who really enjoy Arena Football (or just desperately need a football fix in the summer).
One bonus point goes out to the sports marketing and promotion efforts. The theme for the night of this review was "Military Appreciation" and just about every Talons game has some sort of promotional theme. There are also constant competitions during the breaks from on-field races to trivia challenges.
I'll give another bonus point for Swoop, the Talons mascot. One of the most underrated aspects of a sporting event is the involvement of the team mascot. Especially for a family outing, the mascot can make or break your experience. Swoop was on the field, in the stands, standing on the wall, and shooting t-shirts from a cannon on the back of truck. He was a big part of the overall atmosphere and without him the experience wouldn't have been the same.
My final bonus point goes to the Sky Dancers. Since I'm married, I'll leave it at that.
Though the cost is a little high, you'll likely get some bang for your buck. The action of Talons football is certainly an experience. Personally, I recommend going on the cheap side for tickets and keeping it light on the concessions. You'll still get a great view, access to the field at the end of the game for autographs, and then you'll have plenty of money left over to spend on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio when the game ends.
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430 E Commerce St
San Antonio, TX 78205
502 River Walk
San Antonio, TX 78205
San Antonio, TX 78205
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