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Located on the northwestern edge of downtown Dallas in Victory Park, the American Airlines Center (AAC) is home to the Dallas Mavericks as well as the Stars of the NHL, not to mention dozens of concerts and shows every year. The stadium opened in 2001 and it still appears to be brand new, making it one of the better venues to catch some NBA action.
From the outside, the stadium is quite beautiful, resembling an old train station rather than an entertainment venue. The exterior of American Airlines Center is composed of brick, limestone and granite and the signature arches give it the unique look. As you drive north on I-35E, the AAC majestically appears on your right. It could be an old airport perhaps, and with the naming rights purchased by American, the locals often refer to it as "The Hangar" because of its unique design. Interestingly, the arena lies below certain flight paths leaving DFW airport and on a clear day, you can see the American Airlines logo on the roof as you pass overhead.
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".
Food and drink options are varied and there are concessions dotting both concourses, although for the most part it is mostly typical stadium fare. For example, Bubba Burger offers hamburgers and chicken tenders, Big Dawgs is where you can find a footlong hot dog with different toppings, Edge of Texas is the Mexican stand with nachos, tacos, and churros, while Pizza Patron provides pizza slices and bread sticks. Stampede Station has Meatball Mania!, a meatball skewer with 2 marinara meatballs, 2 chili verde chicken meatballs, and 2 Thai BBQ turkey meatballs that is a good option for those on a low-carb diet.
There is a stand called Market to Go that has fresh deli sandwiches, vegetarian options and tossed salads as well as bottled beer that you can't get elsewhere in the venue. Visit here if you are tired of the usual stadium food, and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Soda and draft beer are everywhere, and there is a Slurpee stand if you need a sugar fix. Motleys Pub offers wine and Margaritas but was not very popular; the stand I saw had some teenagers watching another game on the TV behind it. Generally, prices are a bit high, but not outrageous for food at a professional sporting event.
There are a few full-service restaurants such as Pira, a Latin-themed eatery that is open to the general public from outside and boasts live flames blazing along the roofline - quite useful on a cold night. The seemingly ubiquitous Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Club (there is one in Memphis, OKC, and Houston) is another option and has two distinct sections, one a large sports bar, and the other a low-key buffet.
Between the two concourses are the suites, which have their own specialty eateries. The AAC opens the fan shops and platinum doors two hours before game time with the rest of the facility opening 30 minutes after that. I recommend arriving as early as possible to try as many of the choices as possible.
The Mavericks put on a show much like any other, with flags that spell "MAVS" being raced around the floor before the game, cheerleader performances from the Mavericks Dancers, the dark arena for the home team introductions, and the Fanometer to encourage fans to "Make Some Noise". There is one additional touch that I really liked: the Mavs ManiAACs, an all-male hip-hop dance troupe whose signature is that they are all significantly overweight (beefy for the politically correct). They sit in one corner of the end zone and are highlighted a few times a game, dancing (jiggling?) to whatever song is playing.
The scoreboards are great, particularly those behind the baskets that offer the detailed stats that you need to appreciate what is going on.
The halftime show at the game I attended was Roberto the Magnificent, a juggler who kept those who stayed in their seats entertained and was actually quite impressive. It is typical for the Mavs to have better than usual halftime entertainment.
The arena is located on the northwest edge of downtown, just a few blocks away from key tourist attractions such as the Sixth Floor Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art. There is nothing notable north of the arena however, mostly residential areas.
This location makes it perfect for a full day in the city; the morning and afternoon spent checking out the local sights before moving to the arena for that night's affair.
After the game, fans dispersed fairly quickly and there wasn't much going on in the immediate vicinity, but there are a few bars nearby with the Fan Sports Lounge and Victory Tavern both busy after the game as well as the Pira Restaurant mentioned earlier.
The Mavericks have gone from World Champions to out of the playoffs in two short seasons, and this has affected the fan base. It is hard to blame them, the team is inconsistent but at the game I went to, many of them left with the game tied and about 5 minutes to go. I do admit that the traffic on the way out can be a bit difficult but missing the outcome of a game that you spent so much time and money to see is unforgivable from a stadium traveler's perspective. This wasn't just one or two people, literally dozens of people who got up to leave. Shame!
Otherwise, I found the crowd fairly low-key. The game was a Monday affair against an Eastern Conference team with no rivalry and fans had trouble getting into the game until their team made an ultimately vain comeback. I don't want to dock too many points though because these fans have been great in the past with the reputation as being the loudest in the league and I expect that when a top rival comes to visit, the arena is quite different. It would be interesting to hear from season ticket holders or fans who attend games regularly about their experience.
There is plenty of parking around the stadium for $15. Getting in and out took a few minutes so be aware of that as the surface streets get busy. I did not find any free parking in the immediate vicinity but there is some on the other side of the highway. That's a good 10 minute walk and the area is not in the safest neighborhood, so I wouldn't recommend that. In fact, with transit available at $5 for a day pass, it might be better to leave the car elsewhere and take DART to Victory station which is just steps away from the stadium. There are free park and ride stations just two stops away so if you want to avoid the hassles, this is a better option.
The venue itself has four entrances, one on each side of the building for easy access. The north and south ends of the building feature outdoor balconies at the Platinum Level with good views of downtown. The south side that includes the AT&T Plaza, which is where various events are held and a large screen shows highlights and other videos both before and after the game and is the area close to the bars mentioned above.
The concourses are spacious and clean with shiny terrazzo floors. The two seating levels are separated by the luxury boxes and club seats. In the seating bowl, there was plenty of room and I didn't feel crowded or have to sidle past my neighbors when taking my seat.
During their championship winning season, this would have been a perfect score because the Mavericks were fun to watch and winning all the time, including that much sought-after championship to make owner Mark Cuban a happy man. These days, tickets are much easier to come by but aren't terribly overpriced as long as you avoid the club section. Upper deck seats range from $11 to $50 which is quite reasonable for what I consider to be a comfortable and reasonably close view of the action in a top-notch arena.
Additionally, the Mavs have come up with some specials which are well worth investigating. For example, the plaza special is two lower level corner tickets and two caps for $150.
As you walk around the concourse, you will notice several things worth stopping for. First there is the atrium that has a collection of model airplanes painted in the old American Airlines livery, very neat for aviation buffs. Continue along and you will find an interesting exhibit illustrating just how high Dirk Nowitzki can reach when he jumps (138") that allows you to test your vertical leap as well.
The NBA trophy is in the house and you can have your picture taken with it. I guess it is old news though as there was no lineup to do so.
There was a clearance store off to the side of one concourse that had great deals on shirts and jerseys with departed players or old styles.
Certain fans can join the High 5 Line which allows them on the floor to greet the players as they make their way out.
American has recently rebranded their image with a new logo and new livery for their aircraft and has already started making changes. It will be quite interesting to see the arena during the 2013-2014 season when the full impact of the new logo is apparent.
Overall, the AAC is an excellent venue for basketball. The stadium is extremely clean, the staff is friendly, and the surrounding area is easily worth a full day's visit. The Mavericks may be experiencing a few difficulties with their play on the court, but that means tickets are easier to acquire. With Mark Cuban as the owner, I don't think the team will be in the doldrums for long, so make your way over to Dallas when you have time and say hi to Mark - tell him Stadium Journey sent you.
The American Airlines Center (home to the Dallas Mavericks and Stars) is something of a hidden gem for North Texas sports.
Ask any sports fan in the area about their favorite venue and they'll fondly refer to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, an old-timey, traditional stadium that has been home to the Rangers since 1993.
You may have also heard about the spaceship-like structure that sits right next to the Ballpark that houses the Cowboys. That stadium isn't too shabby, either.
However, frequently lost in that mix is the American Airlines Center, completed in 2001.
The Mavericks have won at least 50 games and qualified for the playoffs in each of their nine seasons playing at the AAC, and their fans have turned it into one of the NBA's premier home-court advantages.
2501 North Houston Street
Dallas, TX 75219
2990 Olive St
Dallas, TX 75219
2200 Victory Avenue
Dallas, TX 75219
400 N Olive St
Dallas, TX 75201